Stories

The American Dream – Josh Code

I’m on the ferry to Ellis Island with a few dozen sixth graders. I’m Mr. B and I’m your substitute teacher today. When I was in the sixth grade each of these kids was just a tickle in some guy’s balls. We get there and a hot guy ties our boat to the dock. Mexican, probably, judging by the Catholic tat on his bicep – Saint Guadalupe or some shit. I don’t know, maybe it’s just his mom. Listen up, kids. You can tell each generation of Latin American immigrant by his tattoos. This guy is first-gen, he’s got the 14k Jesus piece hanging out of his shirt and he looks old enough that he might have a couple of nautical stars tatted right above his waist, one on either side of his v-taper. Maybe he’s got “legendary” inked in cursive across his lats. His black t-shirt stretches tight over his shoulders, traps bulging out. Fuck, I guess roids look better on Latin guys after all. One of the kids asks me what’s for lunch. Pay attention, I say. This is important stuff.

We’re in the museum looking at an exhibit about immigration, a bunch of names on some old faded document. It used to be a lot harder to get across the border, you know, at least before Reagan was president. Before the grandparents of señor second-gen crossed over. He’s a rare breed outside California. Usually no tattoos, maybe a small one of his birth year in roman numerals, on his thigh or pectoral. Somewhere discreet. He’s a USC frat boy, or Long Beach State if his parents are middle class. Pit vipers and Lulu shorts. He might even be cut. He might wear basketball shorts and a Dodgers cap when he comes over for the first time, on some Echo Park cholo shit. But we both know that after I come inside him he’s gonna get in his Land Rover and drive the 405 back to Manhattan Beach. The ferry takes us back to Manhattan, past the Statue of Liberty. What did you learn today? I ask and no one responds. A kid asks me: What’s your name again? Mr. B is about to be seasick. When I get off the boat I’ll feel okay. I close my eyes. In my daydream I’m balls deep in one of those fresh off the boat meatheads.

Come to Brazil — his seedy Hell’s Kitchen walkup, blackout curtains drawn. He’s completely hairless below the neck, and his meticulously groomed facial hair looks like it’s been 3-D printed onto his face. No tattoos. His English is fine, but the way he calls me “daddy” sounds a little forced and somewhere locked in another room I can hear a small dog pawing at the door, whimpering just like her owner whimpers as our skin high-fives. His phone lights up, and the screensaver is a picture of himself, shirtless. I’m in the process of becoming my higher self. I can’t ghost this guy because we both lift at the same Planet Fitness. It’s too crowded there, but I’m too broke for Equinox. Next week I’m teaching gym class.