the Mexicans

I worked in a restaurant with Mexicans and white guys. The Mexicans worked hard. They had wives and sweethearts back home and pictures of kids in their wallets. The young one, Roberto, always had a paperback book stuck in his back pocket. We stayed late to give him rides home so the local boys wouldn’t beat him up. We pretended we had work to do until he was finished, so it seemed convenient and natural to offer a ride. In this way, he didn’t have to show us he was afraid. Jose slept on the floor of the restaurant so he could get up early for his second job at the fish plant across the street. When he got hurt at the plant, he was Mexican so he just shit out of luck. They were quiet men who taught us Spanish, tenedores, forks, and talked about their hometowns. Jose was sending money to his father to buy a tractor. When Immigration came, they handcuffed Roberto and Jose and Luis and took them out. But the white guys were citizens, so they were fine. The white dishwasher was a junkie. He made dope deals on the phone in the kitchen and threw up in the bathroom. The white cooks got drunk and fought each other. Sometimes they didn’t show up to work and we’d walk around the neighborhood in our little waitress aprons looking in cars to find them getting stoned or we’d go in the bars, asking for them. But they were citizens. Nobody asked them if they had a right to be here.

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