After being in a prison cell for two years, Hector hopes to get home and breathe easy. But he can't. His dead father's things wait for his attention, and his sister can't help with much of anything. Getting back to civilian life is always tough for ex-cons, and it's no different for Hector. Seems that he's boxed in. Again.
His mother died when he was six, just before Christmas, not long after Juliana was born. He could still remember her but it was a strain after twenty years. He could see the thick black hair she always wore in a French-twist, feel the rough cotton of her skirts. Mumaw. He remembered hours with her in the kitchen downstairs as she baked. Her brown sugar cookies were his favorite.
Dad got quiet after she died. He changed. No more Batman games.
Hector had loved the re-runs of Batman he watched on TV. After his bath at night, sometimes his father would let him wear one of his clean T-shirts. “Grown up clothes for my grown up boy.” The shirt dangled like a dress from Hector’s toddler body but it felt like a cape. The cape of a super hero, a fighter, a protector. He would hum the silly show’s theme song, run from the bed’s headboard and leap, flying into the air.
All those years, he never dropped me.
Hector opened the dresser drawers and tugged out the clothes. He stacked a half dozen piles on the bed before noticing how stained and worn the cotton shirts were, that the pants were ragged.
I can’t give these away, they look terrible.
He unfolded one faded shirt with a Lugo’s Market logo on its breast. The once-wine shirt had bleached to a sickly brown-red, like blood.
It looks so small.
But it couldn’t be. It was his father’s size, he remembered his Dad wearing it the week before ... And his father was a big guy.
Hector turned and looked in the dresser’s mirror. He held up the shirt to his own chest. The sleeves dangled just past his shoulders, the outline of his body clearly visible beyond the fabric. He could never wear it.
Dad wasn’t a big guy, I just thought he was.
Clear-headed beyond his grief, he could see his father now. A man of average height, a tad too much belly, hairline receding, hands always dirty and rough. A man who worked hard to keep things together, with too little education. A fierce economy always nipping at his heels, and two children to raise alone.
Hector pulled the shirt up to his face and breathed in. He couldn’t smell anything beyond the musty scent of the dresser drawers.
The tears came anyway.