I have been thinking a lot about this, and it is kind of a tough question when I get down to it. Who has been the greatest influence in my life? I am not talking about family or significant others. Not my parents or siblings, their influence is very obvious and while I certainly don’t want to discount that, I am looking for something outside of that. But a person who has had a big impact on my life and where it is now. I know the answer to this, and I have known for a long time. It is time I share it with everyone because this influence has been gone physically from my life for just about a year now, but he is still here with me, every day.
I met my friend Marco back in about 1999 or so. We were co-workers at TrimB’s , the restaurant I worked at for many years. Marco was the first Mexican person I ever got to know personally, and that friendship grew and became something a little bigger than life in a lot of ways. We were horrible influences on each other, that is what made us get along so well. We had quite a little circle of personalities that we ran with. He had a lot of friends that moved here too, and his brothers and mom too. He invited me to parties with all of them, and even though I had no idea what was going on half the time, they fed me fantastic food, drank with me, and swept me up into their “Mexican Mafia” as we liked to call it, and Marco was the Don. He was the center of all of it. It was a great role for him.
Marco would “teach” me Spanish. What that means is I would ask him how you said something in Spanish, he would tell me, and I would not get it right but we laughed!! It’s how he got the nickname Papi and I became Mami, a name I still get called all these years later. Back then the phrase “who’s your daddy” was a thing, so he told me how to say it in Spanish, and all that really stuck was Papi. So I called him Papi, and he started calling me Mami. There are people I have worked with over the years who do not know my name, just call me Mami.
Papi was a big personality. He always had a huge smile. We made outrageous plans for our retirement. We were going to stockpile cases and cases of booze, and move to Mexico and live on the beach, open a bar, but the main thing is we would be jagged all the time. It makes me sad that is just never going to happen.
We lost him this week last year. It is a long story, that nobody really knows all the details of, really. A lot of miscommunication, too much alcohol, and although his heart was huge, it wasn’t healthy enough to get him back home to all of us. He died in Florida, and this past year without him has sucked in so many ways. His family was just devastated, as you would imagine. Hispanics are family first, always. And they were all together all the time, and he was the centerpiece. I was with his mom at work when we got the call about him, and I literally could feel her heart breaking as I hugged her and tried to get her to calm down. I do not know what actually happened, it was all such a blur, but that loss was truly a tangible thing. The air went out of the room that day. He and I may not have been blood family, but he was my brother in every way.
I owe a lot to Papi, and his family. They embraced me because Papi loved me like family. We acted like brother and sister a lot. He would randomly text me “You Suck Mami” at any time. “Papi’s a pussy” was my standard greeting for him. People would look at us, but that was our way of saying “I Love You Buddy.” It’s been a tough year, not hearing how much I suck. You would be amazed at how much you miss something like that. I have my job because of Marco, and I have the life I do now because of that. I knew deep down he would never grow to be an old man. You cannot live the way he did and reach old age. He ate extravagantly, he drank to excess often. There was no moderation for him. But that is what he wanted. He probably knew we would never see that beach in Mexico, but that never stopped him from dreaming it up and giving that dream to me.
Papi I miss you, every single day. I am trying my best to not suck too much, but you know how that is going. I am also trying to look out for your family, and your mom especially. I know she needs a little more than a lot of people can give. It is sometimes a struggle, but she started calling me Carol Sanchez, so I know you are helping her along. She is a mess right now, with the anniversary in a couple of days. I will give her a big hug for you. The rest of us are making the best we can of the void you left. Nobody can fill that kind of chasm, only you. I am sure you are still a pussy, I cannot fathom a situation that could change that. Thank you for being my friend for 20 years or so. Too much tequila, for sure, but the influence on my life carries with me every day. It is more than I have space for on this blog or in my heart. I carry you, and the shitty Spanish you tried to teach me, with me at all times. Me gusta tu culo, Papi.