Mr. Big Shot Quiroz looked like the Mexican version of Donald Trump; he had on a black suit and a red tie, a cellphone on his ear at all times, yelling at someone on the other end, and a suited-up trophy wife with a heavy accent sat happily right next to him. But of course, this guy had black hair (or was it a wig?) and didn’t speak a word in English.
It was hot outside. Hollister Ave looked lonely, except for a couple of white men standing right outside the 7-Eleven. They looked just like the men I’d seen last year when I came to Altamirano’s for the first time. Juan Carlos parked right behind a recent-model, black Thunderbird, and stared at its rear-end the same way you look at a woman’s ass.
I can’t say I blame him.
“That car belongs to Mr. Quiroz,” he said. The look of happiness on his face was like the one I make right after I ejaculate.
I couldn’t help assuming I knew what his next sentence would be. “Let me guess, if I sign up with you, I’m gonna have a car like that?” I know I was cynical about it, perhaps a bit of an asshole, too. But I think it’s good to be an asshole sometimes, especially when you’ve heard the lyrics of a song so many times you end up having nightmares about it.
Yep, if you’re not careful, The American Dream can turn into an Anglo Nightmare.
Juan Carlos was beginning to hate my attitude. “So you have heard about this before?” he asked before we stepped out of the car. His upper lip was trembling under his black mustache.
Did I make him angry?
“I’ve heard about this before, yes, but that doesn’t mean I know everything. What else did you think I came for?”
We both glanced at Mr. Quiroz and his wife. They were sitting down at the table I sat at the first time I came here. They waved at us. We waved back.
He said to me, “well, I’m glad you at least don’t think you know everything.”
I smile sarcastically. “Let’s go. I think they’re waiting for us.”
Felizardo Quiroz and his wife stood up when we approached them. He shook my hand just like Juan Carlos had done it earlier. His wife –whose name I could never memorize- also shook my hand while I inadvertently looked at her cleavage.
Pardon me. I’m a man. What did you expect? Perfection?
“So very nice to finally meet you!” he said while pulling out a couple of chairs for Juan Carlos and me. I looked into the restaurant and saw Margarita swimming through a sea of hungry customers. I had a feeling that was not what she wanted to do at that moment.
There was a notepad on the table, next to a couple of coffee mugs. There were doodles on the notepad. I’m sure it all meant something for them. I had no idea what it meant at the time.
“So, Margarita told you about the business, is that correct, champion?” Quiroz asked, resting his back on the chair and running his hand through the tie in the process.
Champion? I thought. The last time I checked, people who jumped borders illegally aren’t exactly described as champions.
“Yes,” I said, “Margarita also talked about a partner, someone who would come from Oregon to talk to me about the business.”
“That’d be me!” the wife uttered, with her right hand going up at once, just like an eager student in a classroom.
“Great!” I said, yet my stoic facial expression didn’t match my words. “She said you would tell me about Amway in more detail.”
Like a fart, her eagerness faded in the wind. “Um,” she began, talking and smiling at the same time. “Well, that is why I brought my beloved husband along. I’m sure he will explain the business way better than I!”
Her smile was as fake as a three-dollar bill with Reagan in the front.
I frowned. I don’t like self-inflicting sexism. “What are you talking about? Margarita said you were the expert.”
Uneasiness and discomfort were in the air. I felt like I was wasting my time. I told them what I thought. I told them it was immature to have Margarita talk about a business she wasn’t ready to talk about, have a stranger go pick up another stranger to meet yet another group of strangers, and finally realize they are all a bunch of sexists in suits.
She wanted to say something, but he cut in while she was struggling to talk. “Champion, she is an expert too, but she learned everything from me.”
You call me ‘champion’ one more time, and I will have your balls on a platter, you hear me!
Of course, he didn’t hear me. I was just thinking that. “Ok. Then you’re like God in this example, aren’t you?”
He smiled. “Yes.”
“All right, Lord. Show me the way.”
And he did show me the way. The next day, at Staples, I was talking to Roberto about it. In a nutshell, all multilevel marketing companies have one simple characteristic: sign up many people in the business and start making a percentage off of them. Easier said than done, of course. That’s what the doodles in the notepad indicated. And then it hit me, back when I was in Mexico (I might’ve been around fifteen years old, I guess), I sat through a Herbalife business presentation.
It was the same shit but a different asshole.
However, I was intrigued by it. In Mexico, I couldn’t do Herbalife because my mother was against all sorts of business opportunities and was a firm believer in working for The Man and dying old without accomplishing anything worth it. Well, that’s pretty much how 98% of human beings think anyway.
But this time was different. I was twenty-two years old and was living on my own. I honestly hate working for The Man and don’t think there is anything wrong with getting ahead in life. “They even invited me to a business meeting,” I told Roberto.
Roberto was listening to me while putting new price tags all over the store. He was smiling now and then as if everything I said brought back memories from his antediluvian and prehistoric past.
“What’s so funny?” I asked, swathed by curiosity.
“I did Amway a long time ago,” he said. “It’s not a good business opportunity anymore.”
“And why is that?”
The good thing about Roberto was that he always had a good explanation for everything. “Amway has been around for about fifty years. Hence they made business all around the world already. What does that tell you?”
I thought about it for two seconds. “That a lot of people are doing it?”
His eyes shone with delight, like a happy professor who is glad not to have crappy students. “Exactly! Which means it is saturated right now. Making a decent living from Amway is not as easy as it was, say, thirty years ago.”
I thought about it while putting away boxes of glue on the shelves. “So, when were you in Amway?”
“Back in the eighties. I was not a spring chicken like you, but I had ambitions.”
“So you’re saying Amway has been saturated since the eighties?”
He nodded while putting a bunch of old tags into a red trash container under his cart. “But,” he said, “I’m not saying it is impossible. I’m just thinking you’d be better off signing up with a business that hasn’t been around that long.”
“Looks like everything in life is that way, isn’t it?”
“Meaning you’re better off having sex with a virgin than some other woman who had been around for a long time.”
He smiled, but I could tell he didn’t like what I just said. “Do you always think about sex?”
“Yeah, pretty much. I also think about God. A lot. Isn’t that weird? Since I am not religious.”
“Ok, start thinking about other things.”
“I will,” I said, but then asked, “Do you think about God?”
“No. I’m an atheist,” he said, but before I could ask him anything else, he continued talking about Amway. “Are you thinking about going to this meeting?”
He shrugged. “If you want to. There is nothing wrong with trying, right?”
And so I went to the meeting the next week.