book, story, volume six

Entrepreneur

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I knew something was wrong before we left. Eduardo and I were planning a Vegas getaway. Alex would remain at home. I told him before I left, “I don’t know what you are up to… but you are up to something, and I will find out!” At one time, I had trusted Alex to stay home, do the chores, and take care of the dog. I still wanted to trust him, but I couldn’t. This weekend away was important to me. I made it all right knowing that his Tío Oscar and his cousins were next door.

It was winter in Vegas and our first time away as a couple. But that Saturday night in our hotel room, I don’t know if I was dreaming or what, but suddenly I sat up and realized that something else was stolen.

A week before, looking for a particular ring to wear, I discovered that it and other pieces were was missing. That “something else” happened to be two pairs of earrings; a pair my sister had given me one Christmas. That was my epiphany in Vegas. I asked Alex about the jewelry. He had a couple of lady friends over, and accused them of taking the rings.

“How dare they!” he said.

“What were they doing in my room?”

“We were just hanging out.”

“Hanging out! You guys were probably getting high!”

Now in that room in Las Vegas, I realized that two pairs of earrings were also gone.

This had been our interaction of late. Me accusing Alex of getting high. Him denying it. After I discovered the ring was missing, we played the part and went to one of the girl’s houses. The mom actually let us in and Alex sat next to me pretending to be concerned for this young lady who was up to no good and who probably stole my jewelry. I wanted to believe him and thought I would get it back. It didn’t happen, and I can only suspect who stole it and pawned it for cash. I was under the impression it was for the pot that Alex smoked on occasion, but recently I noticed erratic behavior. Paranoia. Staying up all night. Sleeping during the day. He had never taken anything from me without my permission. So when I noticed the twenty-dollar bill missing from my wallet, I called him out on it. He admitted taking it, promising it would never happen again. And then the jewelry incident. I suspected he was using meth. That may be when he became, in his own words, “entrepreneurial.”

Alex was always an intelligent young man. My only son. Son of a teacher. Up until ninth grade he was a great student. High school came with disappointment; his and mine. He tried out for football and was never played. He played saxophone in middle school but didn’t want to play in the high school band. It was band or football and then it became neither. He had too much time on his hands. He got social. New friends. New activities. He started smoking weed.

Alex did high school the way Alex did high school. He aced his exams, but most teachers wanted to see homework. He didn’t do it. He did well if he liked the teacher. If he didn’t like the teacher, he gave him/her a hard time. He was voted “Class Clown” in the yearbook with a lot of units short of graduating. The summer before his senior year, I asked him if he wanted to get his GED, he said, “No.” He said he wanted to make up the credits. It didn’t happen. After the school year ended, I dragged him to the adult center. He took the GED exam and passed.

He took to learning the guitar and started playing in a punk metal band. I called it his “angry-young-man music.” All I wanted was for him to be happy. I was happy that he was expressing himself in a positive way, or so I thought. His meth use increased. He went to rehab and enrolled at Citrus College.

My promise to him was that as long as he was enrolled as a full-time student, he wouldn’t have to work. But as soon as his units dropped, he would need to get a job. That was a promise my parents made to me; go to school or get a job. I thought I was providing him the same opportunity under different circumstances.

I kept my promise. He began taking music classes, but withdrawing from meth left him prone to anxiety attacks; music and his guitar kept him sane.

Arriving home from Vegas the next night, we found the front door unlocked. The house was a mess. It felt cold, as if the doors and windows had been left open all night. Alex wasn’t there. I looked around like a dog sniffing out its territory. I started looking for something — unsure of what it was. I went to my jewelry box. Everything seemed in order. I went to Alex’s room; everything looked the same. I looked in the closet and started lifting things out of the way – that’s when I discovered it. I had never seen this quantity. It was about 18 inches long and 12 inches wide, sealed in plastic. Marijuana. I pulled the package out and heard Alex come through the door.

“Is this what you have been up to? Is this how you’ve been earning money?”

He was surprised that I found it.

“Well, you wanted me to get a job.”

“A real job!”

“I am!”

“You need to return it! I don’t want it here!”

“I can’t return it! I have to pay for it.”

“How much?”

“$2,500.”

“Well, how the hell are you gonna do that?”

“Mom, I can’t return it. I gotta give them the money. If I don’t sell it they’re gonna come after me.”

This was new to me. I was shocked but not too surprised. Too many headlights in the driveway at night. Too many of his walks out the door. Too many phone calls. I simply chose not to see it.

I managed to borrow the money, and I gave it to Alex. He swore he would pay me back. I drove him to a house not too far from ours. I parked the car around the corner in the shadows of a large tree. He got out and I waited. It was late, and the whole time I was praying like a mother prays, making deals with God: “Lord, keep my son safe and out of harm’s way.” In the rearview mirror, I finally saw him coming around the corner. I breathed a sigh of relief. He got in the car, and we drove home. I think He heard my prayers that night.

Alex ended up giving the weed to one of his friends to sell. At this point, I didn’t care what happened to it. I just wanted it gone. Even though he swore he would pay me back, he didn’t. Maybe I was reckless with money. It didn’t matter. I was relieved that it was over. The money was never the point, though maybe that was a mistake. I didn’t hold him accountable.

I wanted to be the Super Single Mom. I wanted to prove that I could raise my son on my own. I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to put my foot down. I was inconsistent. I now believe there comes a time when a child needs that tough love, and I couldn’t give that to him.

Eduardo and I are still together, celebrating nine years of marriage. Wedded bliss it is not, but we continue to work together and support one another in being a family, enjoying life, and making the most of the gifts given us.

Alex battles addiction, but his days as an entrepreneur are long over. He continues to compose, perform and play his guitar. At 28, he will graduate in June with a Bachelor of Arts in Music with an emphasis in education from Cal Poly Pomona. He’s going to teach music to high school students.

Filed under: book, story, volume six

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Lena Solis-Aguilera

Lena Solis-Aguilera is a Catholic Chicana middle school teacher from Whittier. Her interests include reading, writing, dancing, Karaoke and sharing her faith. She lives two blocks from where she was raised with her husband, son and two dogs, Karlitos and Sadie.