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The first time I wore a suit was at the age of two, when breathing, sleeping, eating and pooping were the only things I needed to worry about. My mother was getting me all suited up for my Confirmation, which is the Catholic way of saying, “Well, you were born in a Catholic household, so you’re officially fucked. Deal with it!” Thankfully, I gave Catholicism the middle finger at a young age and decided to live a rather philosophical way of life, where saints and miracles were not at the center, but values and life lessons.

I was naked, thinking about the past, as I looked at myself in a tall mirror inside the bathroom in the apartment where I lived. I still had my stuff in the box but started sleeping in the living room. It was a lot more comfortable. I was getting ready for the meeting I was invited to. But I didn’t have a suit.


I owned a pair of decent-looking pants that I had forgotten behind the drawer like an old porn magazine from a different era. I also had a white, long-sleeved shirt I’d never used before and a pair of shoes I’d used when I worked at Super Cuca’s. I’d grabbed them and taken them with me into the bathroom. The lack of a belt would make me look like an idiot who was trying to look cool.

My hair was slightly longer in the back. Water dripped from the tips of the curls like a leak from a faucet. I cleaned the excess water with a towel and tossed it over the shower curtain. I stuck two fingers into a dollar hair gel container I’d bought at K-mart. I rubbed the clear, sticky substance with the palms of my hands and ran them through my hair afterward. I was starting to lose more hair at the front, which made my forehead look wider.


Getting dressed, I also noticed something that I had intentionally forgotten. While working at Super Cuca’s, I had this brilliant idea to pierce my left earlobe, something you only do when you are young and foolish. I wore an earring for about a week. Later I realized that wasn’t me and took it off and threw it in the trash; being screwed in the ear wasn’t such a memorable thing.

The only jacket I had was the old Dickie’s I used regularly. I didn’t want to wear that. I walked out of the bathroom, headed for the box, and retrieved a blue sports jacket I had in my drawer. I took it to the bathroom, put it on, and was hesitant about it, too.

But it was the only decent jacket I had.

“Alright,” I said out loud. Nobody was in the house, and that allowed me to talk to myself at ease. I like to talk to myself. That’s the only way I know someone is listening. “You’ve got to wear this. You’ve got nothing else. Who are you trying to impress, anyway?”

Good point.

I looked at the time on my phone. Margarita and Juan Carlos said they’d come and pick me up and take me to Ventura, the closest city to the south.

And they did. Half an hour later, I was surrounded by people in suits.

Imagine the small conference room, the one you see at your local five-star hotel, right next to the clerk’s desk (or receptionist, whatever), where a bigger group of strangers get together and call each other ‘campeon’ and talk about money and the promise of a better life. Everyone speaks with superlatives and charged-up adjectives such as wonderful, fantastic, phenomenal, and stupendous.

And I can’t help but wonder if they really mean what they say. They think they do.

I inched in, walking between Margarita and Juan Carlos, and because of the way I dressed, I looked like a pedophile that a couple of detectives are dragging in to interrogate. There is an arrangement of colorful banners attached to the walls, featuring everything from motivational quotes by Tony Robbins to names of products the company distributes. Most of the people had in their hands that one energy drink can I’d seen the second time Margarita talked to me about the business.

Of course, everything is written in Spanish.

Among the crowd, I can see two or three people who look just like me, and they are probably asking themselves the same question: What am I doing here?

“Campeon!” someone yelled. It was Felizardo Quiroz. He hurried toward me, forcing himself out of a group of people that looked like hungry zombies, about to eat up the poor man if he didn’t make a run for his life. His wife was right next to him, as usual, and a shorter man with dark brown skin who looked like a grown child stood right behind the woman. He had a permanent smile on his face. It looked unreal. Most men were wearing a red tie. Smiley Man wasn’t the exception.

When Felizardo was near me, he hugged and shook my companion’s hands first. He then looked at me, dollar signs rolling in his eyes, imagining I was like a harbinger of good fortune and probably a better car. “I’m so glad you came,” he rejoiced.

I looked back briefly. I had one foot closer to the exit and could run away if I wanted to. I decided to wait, for I needed that ride back home. “I’m glad you invited me,” I said. A smirk that threatened to become a smile was about to lift the corners of my mouth.

“I want to introduce you to the man of the hour!” he marveled, taking a step to the left, closer to the wife, and allowing me to be face to face with Smiley Man.

Yes, he was still smiling. Can you imagine how tired his facial muscles were?

He took a step closer. It was all too military-like, which made me think I would get a medal just for showing up. Smiley Man shook my hand. His handshake was definitely more impressive than his size –was it 5 feet? I Can’t remember- and my bones cracked a little under his grip. “Campeon, I’m also very excited you decided to join us,” he dictated, which made his voice and general demeanor even more captivating.

Someone made a mistake in heaven when they were creating this man. Some of the parts didn’t match at all. “Thank you.” It was all I could say.

Right after Smiley Man cracked my bones, he said his name was Hugo and that he was from Guatemala and was about to tell the world that he was now a Diamante, which means he was now making more bucks than the rest of the people in that room. Exciting, I thought. After that, he told me what I already heard from Margarita, Juan Carlos, and Quiroz: “Amway is the best multilevel marketing company out there, Campeon. You will never regret joining us and start making the journey toward your new life!”

Wow, this man is good.

There was a small stage right in front of us. I didn’t see it before because of the number of people that had gathered there. There was also a typical brown lectern with a microphone and a gavel on top.

What is this? Judge Judy? I thought.

Another short man in a red tie appeared behind Hugo and told him that it was time to start. Short Man also had that smile on his face and energy drink in his right hand. Hugo excused himself and walked toward the stage. A short (everyone was shorter than me, it seemed) and attractive woman hugged Hugo and gave him a tender kiss on his left cheek before he made his way over the small, wooden staircase.

As Margarita walked me toward my seat, Short Man inadvertently spilled his drink while tripping on the staircase; he was inches away from splashing Hugo with the urine-like liquid. Then, the apologies came as Short Man retrieved a white handkerchief from his pocket and began to clean the floor with it. Although he caused a minor contretemps, Hugo didn’t seem angry about it.

After that, Hugo hit the lectern with the gavel, and the clash of the wooden object made everyone’s chatter disappear.

The hoi polloi was ready to learn how to become royalty.

“Campeones y campeonas,” he started, which made me wonder why they all felt the need to call people that. A prostitute doesn’t become a virgin if you tell her to dress up like a nun. That just doesn’t happen. I suck at many things, just like Picasso and John Doe.

Call me a cynic, but I really felt like I was wasting my time here. I looked around. Margarita and Juan Carlos had that smile on their faces, the one you see on TV when a famous Anybody is getting a Grammy. Why can’t I smile like them? Trust me, I really wanted to, but it wasn’t that easy.

I was barely paying attention to Hugo’s speech.

“But if I have to thank someone for my success,” he said while looking at the crowd. The woman who kissed him earlier was looking at him with what looked like a combination of love and lust. “That someone is my wife! The woman I love!”

Someone is getting laid tonight. Not me, unfortunately.

Everyone stood up at once, clapping their hands so fervently you could see sparks coming off their palms. Then, other people chanted the already-irritating word ‘Campeona’ as the woman made her way onto the stage, moving her hips like Shakira.

I was ready to leave. I didn’t care if I didn’t get that ride back home. But as soon as this woman opened her mouth, something she said made me change my mind.

“Don’t do it for you. Do it for the kids you don’t have,” she said. That is one of those phrases you hear, are unable to grasp, but it grasps you, holding your attention so tight your briefs get stuck to the seat, and you’re helpless, can’t move, can’t walk away. You have to stay and listen.

It turned out the lady was a gifted raconteuse. She told her story in a way that left her audience, even me, with a clear grasp of what she was talking about. I’ve always talked about wanting to be successful at something. I knew that for an undereducated person like me, born in poverty, working like an ass at two jobs was the closest thing to The American Dream.

But that wasn’t enough. Not for me. Not for the people in that room. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe a prostitute dressed up as a nun will not make her a virgin, but it will definitely make her a campeona.

Anybody can change.

When the woman finished talking, the ovations covered the room one more time. You could see joy dilating her pupils.

Margarita looked at me. “What do you think?” she inquired, the smile on her face growing at the anticipation of my answer.

The cynical part of me wanted to give her a pessimistic answer. But I couldn’t do that. “I think it was great,” I said. The smirk on my face was sincere.

“Are you ready to sign up?” she asked. Everyone was walking out of the room, even Juan Carlos, but Margarita stayed there, looking at me, waiting for my answer. Quiroz came, standing right next to her. She told him what we were talking about.

“What did you like the most about this meeting, campeon?” he asked.

“I liked the part when she said that we should do it for the kids we don’t have,” I said. ” To me, that means I should work on my future even harder now that I’m single because once I have kids, things can be more difficult.”

He thought about it. “Do you think that’s true?”

I smirked, “It’s common sense. Think about it. Condoms are cheaper than diapers, am I wrong?”

They had to laugh at that.

“So,” Quiroz said, picking up on the last question Margarita asked. “Are you ready?”

A brief moment of silence.

“I don’t have money,” I said.

“But you have two jobs. How is that possible?” Margarita asked.

“I’m horrible with money. I guess I should work on that.”

“Give us a second,” Quiroz said, gently grabbing Margarita by the shoulder and pulling her aside while I stood there, in the middle of the now-empty room.

It was true I didn’t have money. I wasn’t making that up. But I was also hesitant. I still thought of writing as an outlet to get out of poverty one day. I had already decided I wanted to start writing fiction in English as soon as I was ready. That was why at that moment, I thought I was wasting my time by being here, instead of reading a book and writing down words to put on my binder to study them.

But this business opportunity didn’t seem like a bad idea. I was afraid I was going to make a mistake by ignoring the possibility. “But Roberto said it wasn’t such a good business opportunity anymore. Remember?” An annoying voice inside my head said.

Quiroz and Margarita came back. “I’m going to lend you the money, campeon!” he said. His tone of voice was authoritative and to the point, letting me know there was no room for argument or discussion. “Pay me back as soon as you can!”

I didn’t know if that was a good idea, even though it sounded awesome. The amount of money they charged for joining the company wasn’t a lot, but for someone like me, it sounded like I would have to tighten my belt a bit if I wanted to come up with the payment.

As soon as I could.

“What do you say?” Margarita insisted. Joy was dilating her pupils as well.

I was still afraid I was going to make a mistake.

“I’m in,” I said. Later, I learned that I was never going to be done making mistakes.


Photo by Tumisu.

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