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A BRIGHTER SHADE OF BROWN, PART 3

Model: PaulieThe Boys' Night Out!
Chapter Three in the Continuing Saga of aGroup of Latino Buddies!
—By
Erick Serrato

LAST ISSUE (click here to read the last intallment), things were really starting to get complicated for our favorite boys. Frank confessed to Miguel that he was dating Javier’s no-good ex-boyfriend, while Rafa announced to Javier and Mark that he was moving in with Carlos’ ex. And while Miguel longed to see his family in Mexico again, Carlos seemed to be growing tired of spending nights at home alone with his cat, Rufina. And that’s where we pick up our story...

It was 9 p.m. on Saturday night, with a three-way phone call between Carlos, Rafa, and Javier.

“Cabronas, it’s official,” Carlos announced. “My pathetic lonely nights with Rufina are over,” he said as Rufina meowed in the background.

“Sorry, Rufie, but daddy needs some action,” he said to the cat.

“About time, mija. Where are we headed? Paris? Puerto Vallarta?” Javier applauded.

“There’s this party in Downey,” Rafa offered. “I’m supposed to meet this guy Cesar there.”

“Okay,” Carlos said. “Where’s everybody at tonight?”

“Miguel’s working,” Rafa replied.

“Mark’s babysitting,” Javier added.

“And Frank is busy...” Carlos started.

“Girl, don’t even say her name,” Javier exclaimed. “She’s dead to me.”

“Todavía con eso?” Rafa tried to reason with Javier. “True, Frank is with your ex-novio, but he’s been trying to make it up to you. You’ve been avoiding him for, like, three months. None of us have ever gone that long being mad at each other. Just call him and talk it out. Besides, mensa, that guy Julio was an asshole.”

“I know he was an asshole. That’s why I broke up with him,” Javier answered sharply.

Carlos and Rafa both rolled their eyes. The truth was pretty close to the opposite, but to correct Javier would be useless.
Javier continued, “I remember telling him he was a mess and never looking back.”

“Right, girl. So can you just get over it again? It sucks not being able to hang out with you and Francis,” Carlos pleaded. “I don’t know if you care, but they’ve been having trouble lately.”

Carlos was lying. Frank and Julio were as strong as ever. Julio was spending every other night at Frank’s apartment.

“It makes no difference to me,” Javier said. But he was lying, too—and to himself.

“Fine. Let’s just have a good time at this party,” Carlos said.

The sound of a shattering glass was heard in the background. “Ooops, guess I’m already a little buzzed. Rafa, you’re driving, right?”

Two hours later all three were in Rafa’s Escalade heading south. Once buckled in, both passengers brought CDs out of their bags—Javier held up a Madonna CD, Carlos brought out the Mariah Carey.

Rafa was unimpressed. He pulled CDs from his visor and inserted them into his disc changer: Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Jay-Z, LL Cool J and Biggie Smalls. LL’s classic “Around the Way Girl” came on the stereo. “It’s classic hip-hop.” Rafa sank into his seat and rapped along: “Perm in your hair or even a curly weave with your New Edition Bobby Brown button on your sleeve…”

Carlos fidgeted in the back seat, “I feel like I’m sitting on something.”

Javier combed his immaculate goatee in the car mirror, “I hope there’s a little something for me tonight, too.”

“You’re picky,” Rafa replied, “Guys are always coming up to you, but you always find something wrong with them. Like that fine guy that drove the lowered Monte Carlo.”

“He was married. To a woman. He probably couldn’t even spell ‘Monte Carlo.’ Like I say, a man who spends more time on his car than on his inner self is bad news.”

Javier thought about the chariot they were riding in—its polished rims, metallic paint, and tinted windows. “I didn’t mean you, Rafa. You run a body shop so its totally different.” Rafa shrugged.

“I knew I was sitting on something.” Carlos lifted his thigh and pulled out an empty tube of lubricant. “I don’t even wanna know what went on back here.”

Big Papa was rapping softly in their ears as they pulled up to the party, “Who they attracting with that line, what’s-your-name what’s-your-sign, soon as he buy that wine I just creep up from behind…”

“This is it. 3109 Bonita Terrace,” Javier announced.

Each of them stepped out of the SUV and made pre-entrance adjustments. Rafa pulled back his Raiders jersey so that it hung perfectly off his chest. Carlos tucked his polo into his khakis, Javier plucked a stray hair from his eyebrow.
The boys made their way in and scanned the living room. “I don’t see Cesar,” Rafa mumbled.

“Girl, I’ll find him,” Javier offered.

Rafa’s type was predictable. Javier searched for a shaved head, a white t-shirt, and Dickies. “That’s him, right? Over there by the fireplace.”

“You’re good, loca.”

Rafa made his way over to Cesar. “Wusssup?”

“It’s just you and me, Carla.” Javier said, his arms crossed.

“Hopefully not,” Carlos replied, scanning the living room.

With four beers already in his system, Carlos was not feeling shy about finding what he needed. A minute later he made eye contact with a clean-cut Chicano standing near the punch bowl.

“That’s my cue,” Carlos mumbled, and made his way to serve himself a cup. Within minutes, “Clean Cut Chicano” was leading Carlos upstairs. Carlos turned to Javier to wave goodbye. He grabbed a half empty Tequila bottle left on the bottom stair and made his way up.

Javier stood alone for a few minutes, then smiled at a group of old friends he recognized from his clubbing days. They immediately wrapped around him like a rebozo.

Ninety minutes later, Javier had exchanged all the gossip he could, and used his craving for a good potato chip as an excuse to escape. On his way to the kitchen, he saw Rafa on the couch, nibbling on Cesar’s lips, one hand rubbing the fuzz on his shaved head. Carlos was busy too, barely visible out on the patio in the lap of some other morenito.

Javier found the Ruffles and dug in, careful not to let anyone notice his double-dipping in the sour cream. With his potato chip deep in dip, Javier was deep in thought. Was he really over Julio? Of course he was, he told himself, thinking back to what made Julio so irresistible. Maybe it was the way he went after whatever he wanted—and usually got it. Of course, once he got what he wanted, he threw it away. And he’d gotten Frank, now, a fierce career Chicano that lots of guys were after. Frank must have been attracted to Julio’s aggressiveness, and to that sexy tattoo on the back of his neck that read “Por vida.” Yep, must have been the tattoo.

He lifted his chip for a final crunch and noticed something very familiar staring at him from the corner of the kitchen. It was a cursive tattoo reading “Por vida,” and a guy that looked exactly like Julio wrapped tightly around someone who looked nothing like Frank.

“Oh my God!” Javier thought, then carefully deliberated his options. It’s not every day that a dramatic queen is handed the perfect opportunity to be a dramatic queen.

Carlos snuck up behind Javier and hung his drunk arms over his shoulders like a preppy sweater. “I think I’m f**ked up,” he said.

There were hickies on each side of Carlos’ neck, his shirt was untucked, and there were food and alcohol stains on his pants. He smelled like Corona with a hint of Coors. “Seriously, I can hardly stand up straight.”

“Yes, I can see that, girl,” Javier thought for a minute. Then he added, “Hey, Carla. See that guy over there in the red shirt?”

Javier pointed Carlos’ limp head in Julio’s direction. “Bring him this beer.”

Javier filled his beer glass to brim and searched for a plate of food, “And this stuff right here.”

“Huh? I don’t get it. Wait, isn’t that Ju...”

“Girl, you’re seeing things—just give it to him. Go on, mija.”

Javier gave him a little nudge and Carlos, wobbling with each step, made his way to Julio’s corner of the kitchen. “Hey, man, here’s your food,” Carlos said to Julio.

The motion of Julio’s turn toward him was all Carlos needed to lose grip of the plate and the glass of Tecate. The plate flew at Julio’s chest, landing right above the third button of his guayabera. The beer made its way to Julio’s face, splashing his cheek and dripping onto his collar.

“Uh,” Carlos spoke slowly, “Sorry.”

“What the f**k!?” Julio snapped, angry as a gorilla, digging his finger deep into Carlos’ chest. Carlos stumbled back into Javier’s arms and passed out, finally done in by the night of booze and boys.

Rafa, leading a crowd into the kitchen from the living room, stood at Javier’s side, “So, I guess this means we’re leaving?”
Julio, with a tight fist at his side, stepped closer and said, “You’re such a little bitch, Javier.”

A kitchen full of escadalosas gasped. Those words were nothing new to Javier—he had heard them the entire year they were together. Long before that, those words had been thrown at him like rocks by every bully on the playground, tossed at him in the high school cafeteria like leftover pizza, and delivered like punches by his brothers and father until the day he was strong enough to fight back.

“Julio, you’re a...” Javier stopped himself, “…you’re, you’re just a mess. Still.”

Rafa slung Carlos over his shoulder and the three of them made their way out. Cesar stopped Rafa outside, long enough to stuff a napkin scribbled with his number in Carlos’ back pocket.

The Escalade slipped out of Bonita Terrace and onto the 605 Freeway. Carlos was snoring and drooling on the backseat. Madonna was now on the stereo.

Javier pulled his cell phone out of the glove box. “Rafa, you’re right, I think it is time I call Frank, and just ‘talk it out.’”
“Right,” Rafa said shaking his head and peeking in on Carlos through the rearview mirror. “That girl’s babas better not stain my seats.”

“In this truck it’s not the baba stains I worry about.”

TO BE CONTINUED NEXT ISSUE...
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