Martina Amate Perez


Five days had passed, sixty were left to go at Dragados Construction.

I still sometimes never knew what I was doing. I tried to pretend that the eight copper pipes I had to take up to the fourteenth floor weren’t weighing me down. Fideo laughed at my grunting and chest heaving like his bony self could do any better. I was also constantly tapping the bridge of my nose, making sure I hadn’t forgotten my Kleenguard safety goggles. No goggles meant debris and any other floating particles would sneak into your eyes and cause an infection. As a bonus, everyone would call you an idiot. My first day, I made the mistake of passing by some welders working on eighteen-inch steel pipes without wearing my goggles. Oso shouted at me from behind his helmet saying, FOR THE LAST TIME PENDEJO, DON’T TAKE OFF YOUR GOGGLES. That was the first time he had ever spoken to me. An old guy next to him with a scruffy face and spiky hair was shaking his head. That was Pasto, a sixty-seven-year-old Uruguayan welder who was quiet most days. Oso was never in a good mood. He had permanent frown lines branded onto his forehead. But I was only there for the summer, saving up before going away for college upstate. So I shut my mouth and took everything in with a big sigh. I didn’t want trouble and I usually avoided confrontation anyway. The thought of having to throw a punch at someone was dreadful to me. I couldn’t imagine a situation where I’d ever care that much. Plus, if I were to have ever entertained a fight, I definitely would’ve gotten my ass beat. If not by my opponent then by Mami who would’ve asked, Is this how you repay your mother? Do you hate me that much? in an exaggerated tone that she learned from her telenovelas. Laying low and minding my own business, I had found, was a fool-proof life policy.

The rest of the guys at Dragados definitely didn’t follow that policy. In this crew, they would do and say anything to get a reaction out of you for pure enjoyment purposes. Enano would smack your ass, unprovoked––his way of saying good morning. This had earned him a punch or two from the machista type like Oso who didn’t like being treated by men the way he treated women. Cinco, another one of our junior mechanics, wouldn’t let me live down the fact that I had never had a girlfriend, although that didn’t mean much coming from someone who’d had four divorces. I stuck to wearing neon orange vests instead of neon yellow because according to Jorky, it was slightly less embarrassing. I also learned pretty quickly that being scared of heights was not something you share with a group of construction plumbers. Sometimes I’d have to descend down all twenty stories of our building wearing a harness. Big Boy Mission, they called it. My throat went dry and my legs tingled (not in a good way) when the leg loops of the harness belt were tightened around my thighs but I tried not to break a sweat and be obvious about it. I often caught myself accidentally grinning when Fideo called Enano my love. I knew it was only a joke between the two of them and they were somewhat happily married to their respective wives, but I had never had a friend refer to me as their love and it seemed that, joke or not, it would probably feel pretty nice.

Everyone called me Danny, which is my name. My real name. I didn’t know anyone else’s. By then, I knew everyone’s preferences for breakfast and lunch but I didn’t know anyone’s real name. From what I could tell, if you didn’t have a nickname poking fun at your looks, personality, voice, or life traumas, you hadn’t really made it in. They didn’t give nicknames to those they were still trying to figure out, to those they hadn’t fully accepted yet. So naturally, I was an outlier. Not just because of my pending nickname but also my being the only one without 10k in credit card debt and at least one child. I was also among the few with a U.S. passport. Fideo was Fideo because he was shaped like a noodle and moved like one too, never saying ‘excuse me’ when he passed behind you but always managing to squeeze his way through anyway. Jorky was like a yapping Yorkie; we could never shut him up. Enano was barely five feet tall while Oso towered over everyone. The list went on. And I wasn’t on it. I was just Danny, which was perfectly fine. I had never been crazy about nicknames, especially when they were cruel and offensive. Yet, another part of me quite liked the idea of being called anything other than my boring name. Mami calling me el amor de mi vida was a mouthful so that didn’t count.

That month’s worksite was on 72nd and Park which meant spying on rich folks through the windows during lunch breaks. The funniest ones were those that stopped to chat at a corner and their entire conversation was just them nodding their heads at each other like hula dashboard dolls. Jorky loved imitating this incessant nodding whenever Milk came around and started lecturing us about taking exact measurements for pipe installments, to not get lazy with our math because we couldn’t even be a centimeter off. We all had to resist looking at Jorky or we sealed our lips tightly so that smiles didn’t form and laughter didn’t spill out. Milk was the Boss––the foreman in charge of ensuring that no one got into a silly accident or used the wrong materials and if they did, that his boss didn’t find out. We called him Milk (though never to his face) because he was as pasty as a white guy can get. When the City Inspector would come around, he turned into Casper.

Lunch was pretty intense most days. No different than a high school cafeteria, everyone naturally broke apart into smaller cliques with more gossiping, name-calling, flirting, and fights than actual eating. There was a noticeable self-segregation that occurred. The minority whites––Polish immigrants mostly with a few Italians tossed in there––stuck to one side of the site. Everyone would march to the lockers to grab their lunch bags as soon as 12:15 came around. HORA DE COMER CHICOS, Jorky would always remind us, even though no one ever forgot when lunchtime began. Our site was the loudest that time of day. The intermingling of voices with shuffling feet and clanking utensils swept over the piles of debris and abandoned machinery to create an equally chaotic and buzzy atmosphere. I only had ten minutes to eat during my first lunch break but that was my own fault. I spent the first fifteen minutes going up and down the stairs, walking back and forth on each floor, contemplating who I could sit with. For being so indecisive, I just wound up eating alone my entire first week. My second week, though, I decided I’d put on a braver face and force myself to eat with at least one co-worker. I had a Big Boy job so I couldn’t act like a two-year-old anymore. My options still stressed me out. The guys playing Chin Chon at a roundtable? The guys flipping through Civic Test for Naturalization flash cards? The guys sitting on crates whose stares made me want to shit myself? It was probably best that I avoid groups so I landed on Pasto with his spiky hair that sprouted out of his head like weeds. It seemed that at his age, he simply didn’t bother to comb or gel it anymore, letting it stand like it did as a child. I found him eating a tuna sandwich alone, perched at the top of the main staircase. I invited myself to sit next to him because no one likes seeing old people eat by themselves. I shot him a quick grin and started stuffing my face with the lentil stew Mami had packed into my thermos that morning. Neither of us said anything for the entire duration of lunch. The only noise that came out of our mouths was from our sloppy chewing. It was funny. Our chewing was nearly in sync. But it wasn’t awkward at all. It was peaceful. My mind wasn’t racing trying to process conversational cues. Pasto topped his meal off with a cup of coffee. I wasn’t sure who else would pair tuna with coffee but it seemed to work well for him. When he finished with his food, Pasto grabbed a toothpick from his pocket and went at it.


Some of the guys would go out for drinks after work on Fridays. I remember the first time they invited me. Their go-to spot was the rooftop of a dance studio owned by Enano’s sister. As soon as I arrived, there was already a rectangular folding table set up with seven metal folding chairs to match and the guys seemed to know exactly where their places were. Oso was at the head of the table; Fideo and Enano sat next to each other; Cinco sat to Enano’s left and Jorky sat to Fideo’s right. I sat last, choosing the chair opposite Oso. They told me that was Pasto’s seat and I would have to pull an extra chair for myself. I realized I’d been a last-minute invitation but as soon as Oso dropped four packs of beers onto the table, I didn’t give it another thought. I started counting the bottles and wondered if we were meant to finish them all that night. Pasto arrived shortly after and filled the empty seat next to me. They didn’t believe me when I said that I had never drunk alcohol before. That I was eighteen was irrelevant to them. At eighteen, many of them were moving across the world with a kid on the way. Yo by eighteen, I was drinking a beer every night, Cinco announced to the group. We can tell, Fideo replied, slapping his belly. Jorky passed me my first Heineken. I made the mistake of downing a large first gulp, unaware it was going to burn and tickle my throat all the way down. I forced myself to finish the bottle because I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I didn’t. Someone passed me a second bottle and then a third and then a fourth. Maybe they passed me a fifth. I let out a couple of burps and some of the guys laughed so I forced a few more out, trying to make each one better than the last. A solo competition. Enano and Fideo were sharing a tiny bottle of tequila they just happened to have on hand. Once he shook the last few drops onto his tongue, Enano gave Fideo an exaggerated peck on the cheek. Ojito, Fideo said in response, pulling down his waterline to make his eyeball bulge.

Danny, hace un brindis, Cinco shouted halfway through the night. He wanted me to make a toast. Danny, Danny, Danny, Danny. They started chanting my name, banging on the table. I started smiling like an idiot in love. I was left with no other choice but to say a few words. I finished what was left in the bottle I was gripping, then something in me told me I should stand on my chair. So I did. Um, hi everyone, is the brilliant way I choose to start my speech. Habla en Español boludooooo. They wanted me to say it in Spanish. No te hagas el canchero. But I wasn’t sure I was coherent enough for that. I wasn’t the most confident speaking Spanish any other day, anyway. I blamed Mami who let me start responding to her in English around age ten. Bueno. I will try. Digo, voy a tratar. Em. Primero, gracias por invitarme. I paused. I was desperately trying to form the sentences in my head and have them somehow come out of my mouth. My foot started tapping on my chair. I looked down, suddenly unable to concentrate on anything else and forgetting that I was mid-speech. My foot just kept tapping and tapping. It was having a fit, really. Next thing I knew, I was collapsed on the cool ground. My foot must’ve slipped. Jorky started slow-clapping and the rest of the gang erupted into laughter for the fifth time that night. I felt someone grab me from the shoulder, pulling me up and placing me back on my feet. It was Pasto. My legs were still a bit wobbly as I tried to stand up straight so Pasto sat me down in a corner. He placed the coffee he’d been drinking all night into my hands. It was barely room temperature and definitely had no sugar but I drank all that was left of it anyway, no questions asked. Pasto plopped himself next to me, groaning a bit as he went down like he hadn’t sat down in ages. You okay? Pasto asked, only as a courtesy because I’m sure he already knew the answer. I was dizzy and craving something sweet. But I wasn’t going to say all that. You don’t drink? I questioned back, shaking the now empty cup of coffee he had given me. No, Pasto said firmly, making it clear he wouldn’t elaborate further. I respected that. Cinco was still chugging his beer like it was water. I’d never seen anyone clutch onto a bottle that tightly since my dad. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he too was clutching onto a bottle in some cramped studio apartment that very second. Pasto eventually got up off the ground, grunting on his way up as his bones tried to remember their previous placements. Long, cold shower tonight, OK? And sleep on your back. He seemed to know what he was talking about. I said a nonverbal thanks with a half smile.

I stalled for two hours in the Brook Ave train station before walking home that night, chomping on honey roasted cashews and gulping Gatorade. I wasn’t ready for Mami to eat me alive. The steaminess of the station meant the entire back of my T-shirt was drenched in sweat. I could feel the cloth sticking to my body. I hoped the guys would forget all about my fall by Monday and bring me along for drinks the next week anyway. If so, I’d have to stick to drinking coffee and chewing on ice with Pasto. It was late so the beeping of the train cart doors opening and closing echoed. From one particularly packed cart came out a noisy group of maybe six guys, a friend group, huddled together like their life depended on it. They stopped outside the turnstiles to rummage through their exclusively Nike backpacks. One returned a miniature speaker to another. A pair that was off to the side exchanged water bottles. They were probably fifteen or sixteen but definitely no older than seventeen. Something about the way they laughed with each other. It had an airy light quality to it, totally distinct from the laughs at our rooftop table that were about four octaves deeper. If I hadn’t fallen off that chair and if I had gotten the chance to finish my speech, I would’ve told the crew that I loved having them as friends, as buddies, who I could see every day even if most of them were old enough to be my dad. I would’ve told them that Eric, who lived upstairs on the third floor, didn’t really count because our moms had known each other since we were babies and I couldn’t laugh with him the way I laughed with them and he was rarely around. I just called him Eric and he just called me Danny.


Jorky told me that if I wanted to up my pay but not up my work, I should complete the F60 certification online and become a fire guard––the guy who just stands there and watches the welders, making sure they don’t start any fires. Once I got the certificate, I spent most of my days by Pasto’s side, watching him work his magic. He handled the blowtorch with finesse. It would’ve probably slipped out of my hands in less than five seconds. The clanking of hammers against pipes and the buzzing of power drills––also Cinco’s out-of-tune whistling––made for muffled, indiscernible background noise that was once deafening (especially during my first few days) but had become indifferent to me. Something about the hissing of Pasto’s blowtorch and the oozing of the melting metal was incredibly relaxing to witness. I once closed my eyes and pretended I was sitting in front of a fireplace. I’d never had a fireplace but I imagined that’s how it would be like. Even if it was eighty-six degrees, the crackling of the metal felt like the crackling of burning oak, the flying sparks like flickering flames. My eyes still closed, I felt Pasto’s palm on my stomach. He was telling me to move back. I had gotten too close and I could’ve gotten hurt. He made sure I didn’t. I’m not sure what face I made in response but I think he thought I felt scolded––which I hadn’t––because he started softly singing “De Música Ligera” by Soda Stereo to break the silence. He looked surprised when I joined in, humming the melody. I was surprised myself. The lyrics came from a nearly buried corner of my memory. The song would blast in the car from the 106.7 Lite FM radio station during the few times my dad still bothered to pick me up from school. By a few times I mean whenever it was convenient for him and whenever Mami pretended she needed to go to the Post Office at four in the afternoon so that they wouldn’t run into one another. Through laughter, Pasto said to the rest of the welders, Ahhh mira vos, este Yanqui, impressed with my cultured self. Yanqui. Part of me wondered if I had finally earned myself a nickname.

Pasto lifted up his helmet, took off his gloves, and sighed. Ten-minute break, Yanqui. Estoy sudando como un loco. Ya huelo a chivo. I glanced at the armpit stains on his shirt. Then I checked my own, crossing my arms once realizing there was barely any sweat there. I slumped onto the floor, following Pasto’s lead. He stretched out his legs in front of him and his toes cracked one by one. I could see his toes pressing against the vamp of his scuffed boots. Having to wear boots and thick socks to avoid blisters in this heat was probably the worst part of the job. You tired? Pasto asked me, like all I’d done that day wasn’t just stand there and watch him.  I’m OK, I responded, maybe too quickly. He didn’t seem to believe me as he grinned and said, You’re still getting used to standing all day. He wasn’t wrong. How many weeks left for you? I lifted my right hand, exposing five fingers. He only nodded in response. I couldn’t tell if he thought this was too long or too short of a period. He reached for the coffee cup that he had deserted that morning on a stool next to us. When he drank, it was like he was chewing on the coffee, his lips pushed out and moved side to side, embracing every last drop. You like it here? he asked me in between sips. It’s hard work but fun, you know, with the pibes, with the guys. Milk isn’t too bad either. Pasto turned his head to his right. No. I mean here. He gestured with his chin to the window next to us, through which there was a fuzzy view of the skyline and a slightly better view of the tiny rich folks below holding their Just Salad takeout bags. Oh. It’s not too bad. Downtown’s pretty nice. I’m leaving soon anyway. Gonna be in Albany in the fall. For college. Then he asked, How far? I responded, Like three hours driving, with traffic. To which he said, Good. I liked that Pasto didn’t force me to speak Spanish with him. I knew he would’ve preferred it and I knew he probably hated being unable to perfectly translate his thoughts when speaking with me. I could tell when there was ever anything I said that he didn’t understand because he’d just nod and look to the side, like he was calculating my words in his head still.

What will you study? I rubbed my thumbs together. I honestly hadn’t given that much thought. I’d always give a random answer whenever someone asked. I was saving my biweekly checks, I was waking up way earlier than should be legal in the summertime, and I was going to college because it was just what I had to do. It was what Mami needed me to do. College was the automatic next step; I wasn’t meant to question it. Just another routine I’d have to get used to like all the other routines before it. And I was fine with that. But that meant that beyond how to pay for it and whether I’d survive without Mami’s cooking, college only occasionally crossed my mind those days. I hadn’t exactly mapped out what I’d even do once I got there. Bueno, think about it. You’re not gonna be here forever. Don’t want to get stuck cutting pipes for twenty-four years like me. Pasto said this with a chuckle but there was an emptiness to it. His grin exposed the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes even more. Twenty-four years. If I stuck with Dragados for twenty-four years, I’d eventually be the king of the pack. The one giving out nicknames. The one cracking the jokes. Who knew what twenty-four years could make out of me? But it’s been alright, no? I asked. Pasto sighed. Eh. Doesn’t matter. Soon, I’ll be going away too. Like you. You’re leaving Dragados? I asked, breaking eye contact with him and looking anywhere else. My distant lunch bag seemed to do the trick. Going back home. To Uruguay. Not much left for me here, he said, shrugging. A list of follow-up questions started floating inside my head. But only one came out. And what’s over there? A stupid question (it’s his home, Danny) that could’ve sounded rude but Pasto smiled like if this were his favorite question to answer. Like if he had a prepped response. Mi nieto. Grandson, he translated though I didn’t need the translation. My oldest son never came here so I’ve never met little Santi. Tiene casi siete años, he said, levitating his hand in the air to represent the height of a seven-year-old. I’d never been to Uruguay, only next door to it. Mami sent me the summer after seventh grade to Tucúman to stay with Abuela because ya sos muy gringo, she complained, and I needed to meet the family I didn’t have in the States. It was too pricey for them all to visit us. Mami barely coughed up the pennies for my ticket and she had to do what she dreaded most––ask my dad for help. She cried leaving me at the airport. And she cried the night before my flight too. She probably thought I couldn’t hear her from my room. She was crying not just because her baby was leaving her for a whole month or because he would be on a fourteen-hour plane ride all by himself (minus the stranger escort lady who legally had to accompany me). I think it was also because my U.S. passport and her expired tourist visa from ten years prior meant I was going to get the big family reunion that was supposed to be for her, the reunion she could only dream of having. WhatsApp calls would have to be enough for her. So I couldn’t bash Pasto’s eagerness to leave––no, to go back––even if I wanted to.

Loud clanking started up behind us so I turned and saw Enano and Fideo having a sword fight with two copper pipes, the skinny kind. They were having a blast. Pasto caught me staring. Esos locos. He shook his head and rubbed his forehead. Ves? See? You gotta do better than playing with pipes. OK? These guys are okay but listen, that’s what happens when you get too comfortable con todo esto. I felt weirdly defensive over these forty-year-old men who used pipes as their toys. But I also trusted Pasto, even if I doubted myself and how I could forge this magical future he imagined for me.

At the end of that day, I said chau, Pasto and slipped in see you tomorrow but I tried not to sound excited or anything. When Pasto squinted at me in response, I could tell I’d failed at that. Rafa, he told me, jutting out his chin and crossing his arms, like he was anticipating a reaction to this information. Rafa. Was it short for Rafael? Was he entrusting me with an intimate abbreviation of his government name, reserved only for loved ones? Did any of the other guys call him that in private? Danny, I responded back, like it was my first time telling him my real name too. Despite a fifty-year age gap, we had come to understand each other at some odd intersection. The youngest and oldest of the pack, we both awkwardly fit into the routine of things at Dragados. But there was something comforting about that for me.


I started hating the weekends. I’d be stuck alone in my shoebox of a room while Mami cleaned the apartment building next door all Saturday morning and afternoon. I’d try playing catch with the wall, bouncing some random tennis ball that I’d had since the second grade until the back and forth started to make my head spin. I’d check up on Mami every couple of hours, bringing her more bottles of water and wrapped sandwiches de miga. Ya casi termino mi vida, knowing she wouldn’t be done any time soon and still had four more floors to go. I always offered to help, even though she had never taught me how to use a mop and would die before letting me use one. She liked believing she could do it all, and all by herself. No, no. Descansa. Or go see what Eric’s up to. I’d nod, knowing I wouldn’t, knowing Eric was probably out playing baseball or with his girlfriend, knowing Mami thought we were the best of friends and knowing she’d be happier if I kept it that way, if I didn’t break the news that her son didn’t wish to be with his next-door neighbor but instead his co-workers. Especially Pasto. See, I wasn’t necessarily starting to look forward to the work week but I missed having something to do, something more to see. I started to miss how the guys pantsed each other like middle schoolers. I started to miss Pasto’s chewing and his gentle sighs.


For Enano’s birthday, they were all going to Jefferson Park on E 111th St. to play soccer after work. During lunch, I had mentioned that I used to play there with my team, Islas Malvinas, and so they invited me to tag along. I conveniently forgot to add the detail that I only ever played in elementary school; I asked Mami to let me quit after my eleventh birthday because our coach never spoke to us, only shouted. Technically, I was still a decent player so I hoped that that would be enough. The guys took these games very seriously like they were holding out hope that a couple premier league international scouts would stumble onto our field whose neighbor was a kiddy sprinkler park. Fideo being Fideo, though, was graceful with the ball, making passes in between our legs and sneaking behind you to take possession of the ball before you could even register his presence. With about three minutes remaining in our second match, I somehow scored the tie-breaking goal. My team tackled me like we had just won the World Cup. All their weight nearly crushed me but I wasn’t going to complain. Pasto––though he couldn’t contribute much during the game because of his bad knee––tousled my hair and said, Bien ahí, Yanqui. The guys heard him and started chanting: Vamos, vamos, Yanqui, Yanqui. Vamos, vamos, Yanqui, Yanqui. Enano even did a little dance routine to it. When the chanting fizzled out, Fideo said: El Yanqui ahora se cree el Messi. That was the first time my nickname came out of their mouths instead of just Pasto’s and it didn’t sound quite right. I think a part of me had gotten comfortable with the idea of only Pasto ever calling me that. A part of me saw it as something just between Pasto and me. It being shared with the group changed its shape, made it feel regular.


I returned to work on Monday at 6:30 in the morning like usual but Pasto wasn’t there next to me, clocking in his arrival. I went to the locker room at lunchtime, hoping to see him grabbing his tuna on rye, hoping that he had just been taking extra-long bathroom breaks all morning. But there was no sign of him. I asked around if Pasto told anyone he was going to be out that day. This was met with mumbled I dunno’s and shrugs. No one knew and no one cared to know, it seemed. I had forgotten about his whole leaving-to-Uruguay thing. More like purposefully forgotten. I had tried shoving it into a lonely corner of my mind, next to all the other nuggets of things I preferred not to think about. Silly me had half hoped he wouldn’t go through with it; the other half hoped that if he did, it wouldn’t have been this soon.

The rest of the week rushed by but the individual days were sluggish. I didn’t register any comments directed my way. I broke the point of three pencils while trying to mark a wall for an installment. Everyone continued to eat their microwaved meals, debating whose wife is the worst cook and scratching their asses. Fideo laughing while throwing almonds at Enano’s face. Cinco clearing his tools out of the way before Milk came to check in on us. Oso wiping the back of his neck with a rag he picked up from the floor. Everyone shouting out directives to one another, asking this one to pass him that wrench right over there and that one asking this one how much longer until lunch. All of it was suddenly very loud. It was no longer background noise. I could hear every single shout, insult, question, smashing of a hammer, drilling of a nail, ignition of a torch, shrill laugh. Oso’s booming voice. Enano’s cackling. I could hear it all and it cracked my ears.


A week after Pasto had gone, I was eating a turkey BLT, alone at a roundtable, when I overheard Fideo making some stupid joke about how Pasto’s heart probably gave out on the train and that it was about time. Everyone around him laughed. I never before noticed how croaky and lame Fideo’s voice was. I could’ve scooted my chair away from the table and stood up, trying to be a Big Man and not just a Big Boy but they would’ve laughed in my face. I could’ve started shouting at him but my voice would’ve cracked five different ways. I could’ve just let the insults gush out of me, not prepping any of my words but the meanest thing I probably would’ve come up with was calling him an idiot. And that wasn’t quite enough. If I had tried saying anything in Spanish, my words would’ve come out even more slurred. And I rarely ever raised my voice so if I did, my whole body would have trembled and that would’ve only added fuel to their laughter. So it was better that I kept my mouth shut.

On my train ride home that day, I stuck my headphones far enough into my ear drums so that the intercom announcements wouldn’t bother me. I mumbled the lyrics to “De Musica Ligera,” probably looking crazy to the people seated across from me. I couldn’t care. At least Pasto left me with his name. Rafa had worked at Dragados for more than two decades and he knew these guys for at least ten years. They called him Pasto and they invited him to their games and they offered him their beer so that from one day to the next they could forget all about him. Pasto, Enano, Oso, Jorky, Cinco, Fideo. These names weren’t special. Sure, they might have been signs of some loose camaraderie. But really, they were a way of ensuring that no one ever really knew the other. So that no one gave a shit when you went home on the weekends, when you transferred to a new site, when you switched companies, when you retired, when you moved on. You weren’t leaving behind anyone or anything but a silly name. I had forgotten what Dragados was. A workplace, a job and just that. A summer fling, a daytime affair. I had thought a nickname would be my ticket into the group, into the cool kids table. But I realized there was no cool kids table, at least not one I wanted to be a part of or one where I’d ever actually belong. I was stupid to think this place, these guys were special. The only special person there had gone.

And then fifty days had passed and only ten were left to go at Dragados Construction.

Ten more days before the end of tin-foil-wrapped breakfast sandwiches from Mami in the morning. Ten more days of listening to the guys rant about why you should never believe a woman when she says that she loves you. Ten more days of debris tickling the inside of my nostrils. Ten days I spent imagining Pasto drinking coffee out of a ceramic mug, instead of a blue and white paper cup, at a table with flowers at the center, surrounded by his brothers or maybe sisters and probably his childhood best friends and definitely his grandson so that he wouldn’t become only a memory in my head.

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Martina Amate Perez is an Argentinian-American from New York City. She is currently a senior at Yale University studying ethnic studies. Her work has been featured in The Yale Globalist, Free Spirit, and You Might Need to Hear This.