Manny is reformed, but the state of California didn’t deem him so. They didn’t feel the need to. His crimes weren’t heinous enough to warrant that sort of assessment. Though I believe he deserves some sort of recognition: a diploma, an all expenses-paid luxury cruise, a hounds tooth blazer, etc. After all he turned himself in. Sure, he was on the lamb for a year before he checked in with L.A. County, but he went in of his own accord. He went in because he had “one on the way.” He turned himself over because he was going to become a father.
That was July. He’s been a free man for a couple months now. His girlfriend, some a Boriqua from East Los is the mother of his son Evan. Yeah, the name caught me off guard too.
Today I saw Manny down at the handball courts in Venice. This is where I first met him. This is where we became friends. This is where I’ve lost to him every weekend for almost three years. Venice is a bit of a hike from Los Hundreds, but Manny likes the beach and you can usually get a court here without much of a wait.
When I casually asked Manny how his son was I expected the usual: he’s walking now, he’s talking now, he’s learning how to, etc. Instead Manny says, “Oh, I didn’t tell you? He’s gone. His crazy ass mom took him to Laughlin.”
I didn’t follow. “Why?”
“We got into it. She doesn’t like that I smoke, but it’s not like I smoke around the kids (kids plural. Manny is raising the Boriqua’s other son whose father, a Salvadoreno convict was sent back to San Salvador after committing his twenty-third felony.) It’s not like I blow kush in their faces. It’s not like I beat her ass and fuck other bitches. I go to work. I pay all the fucking bills. She lives in my house. I push the stroller. I change the Pampers. I do all that shit. Plus, I was smoking when I met her, so what’s the big deal?”
“I see.” Although I can’t imagine him pushing a stroller. “How did you just let her take Ethan though?”
“Evan, marica. She got into it with my brother then shit blew up. I can’t have that.”
“You can’t have that?”
“Hell no. So I sat them down and we had a good talk, you know? And everything was all cool, but then in the morning I woke up and she had taken my car and the kids to Laughlin.”
“That’s fucked up.”
“Hell yeah. She’s crazy.”
“Which is why she shouldn’t have Allen.”
“She’s depressed and shit–taking all kinds of pills that she gets from her mom.”
“How does her mom get them?” Inquiring minds want to know.
“That lady?” He shook his head. “I don’t know. She knows all sorts a doctors and shit.”
“So what are you gonna do?”
“And she keeps texting me ‘tell your little bitch to stop calling me.’ And I’m like what little bitch?”
“What little bitch?” I ask.
“Little bitch?” he put his hands up in the air. “I’m not thinking about that. I’m trying to see my son.”
“She’s making it up? The little bitch, thing?”
“Yeah, aint nobody calling her,” Manny says. Which only answers half of my question.
“You probably should get your kid from her.”
“And now she wants me to pay her phone bill because they don’t have metro PCS in Nevada.”
“What else are you paying for?” Dissolution law may be on my horizon.
“Pre-k. Two hundred bucks a week.”
I give him my most serious, I know nothing about your life, fatherhood or the law, but you should listen to my advice because we’re handball buddies look. “You should probably do this through the courts.”
“I got the receipts.”
“Oh,” great. He’s got receipts.
“Anyway, I told her I want to come out and see the kids and she tells me she’s not ready for that.”
“How long has it been?”
“Almost a month. And I’ve got Wednesday and Thursday off so I wanna drive out there.”
“So do it.”
“She’s got my car.”
I love Manny, but I don’t know his last name or whether he’s legally allowed to drive so I pray he won’t to ask to borrow my ’67 P1800 ES, my pride and joy that shouldn’t really be driven on the freeway or above thirty-eight MPH for that matter. “Do you want to borrow my car?”
“What?” He looks over his shoulder at the parking lot. “That blue thing? Man, I wouldn’t take a ride to Mar Vista in that thing.” He’s smiling, but probably not kidding. “I can get a car. I’ll take my brother’s. It’s mine anyway.”
I decide not to delve into the complexities of their fraternal relationship. “So what are you gonna do?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know? Manny, you’re a reformed man. You went to jail for your son. Put a roof over his head. You became the surrogate father for some convict’s kid in the name of love. There’s some Boriqua hopped up on antidepressants and opiates driving your kid in your car around the third largest city in Nevada. You’re not getting “yours.” It’s time to take it.”
“Fucking white people,” Manny snickers.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I toss up the handball. “You know I’m part Native American, right?”
“After all that fucking talking you owe me a beer.”
“Deal. Where? Although, I should mention I am petrified of your neighborhood. I follow @Emptythefuckinregister on twitter and people are always getting fucked up by where I think you live. Do you follow that account?”
Manny laughs, “That’s too bad because I was just about to ask you if you were looking for a place. Now that my girl and the kids moved out I’ve got two empty bedrooms.”
“Did they pay rent?”
“No, but my brother did until yesterday.”
“His girl had a kid so they moved into her parents’ house.”
“Think about it.”
“Where do you live again?”
“Yeah, I can’t do that. Is there even a Trader Joe’s down there?”
“Well, if you know anyone.”
“I’ll keep my ear to the ground… or my eyes peeled. Or…”
“What the fuck is you talking about?”
“I know what I’ll do. I’ll put it on my blog.”
Manny just shakes his head.
“So where we gonna get that beer?” I ask.
“Club?” Who knew? Manny likes shopping in bulk too.
“Sort of. It’s a strip club. Free to get in and they’ve got beer.”
“Sounds charming,” I say.
“You can drive.”
-The Neapolitan Mastiff