Written by Ryan Gattis
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All Involved, 2015
I haven’t slept since the riot began. I can’t get Ernesto Vera’s body out of my head. It’s like it’s burned in me, permanently, on my brain. His name, the look on his face—I can’t shake them, and I’ve seen more death than most people ever should. Part of that I asked for, I know. It’s my job. But part of it is my neighborhood too. Ernesto’s, though, it was different. It was personal. He didn’t even recognize me when I was there trying to help him, but even beat-up as he was, I recognized him. I knew we went to Lynwood High together, that we even hung out a little freshman year and he was kind. We kissed some in the band room, but it never became anything. He never knew it because I never told him, but he was the first boy I ever did that with. Years later, I saw him sometimes at the Tacos Al Unico truck or the stand on Atlantic and Rosecrans, and he’d always give my abuela one more taco than we ordered, extra onion because that’s how my grandma liked it and he always remembered. That was Ernesto, I guess. He remembered the small things. A while later I heard from my cousin Termite that Ernesto had to pay for those extra tacos out of his wages. He never said anything to us about that. He never complained. I guess that was Ernesto too.
© 2015 Ryan Gattis; New York: HarperCollins