Blue Boy

Louis Bourgeois

He was strange like most of my father’s friends; he was short and fattish, and his hair dark and greasy.  He was an auto parts manager or something like that. He was stupid, sort of, and miserably sane.  His greatest plunge into debauchery was eating a dozen of his wife’s chocolate éclairs at one sitting.  Brother Gomez was his name, I guess he was someone’s brother but I never found out whose.  I’d only seen him once or twice before, talking with my father for hours it seemed, about cars, and car engines. They’d get nostalgic together talking about different models of cars from the 1950s and 60s.  I had no interest in automobiles or automobile parts, but it was certainly better hanging out with them than it was going to school and listening to those teachers going on and on about subjects I cared even less about than the automobile world, etc.

Brother Gomez was the only person I’d ever known who caught squirrels with rat traps.  His backyard was an arbor of century old oak trees, so thick that no grass grew at all on the ground because so little light could get through the thick hanging gray moss.  He would set a trap at the foot of each tree.  He’d bait them with peanut butter, which I thought was particularly odd for some reason.  I was used to shooting squirrels with shotguns and I thought catching squirrels with traps was a sissy thing to do.  He sold the dead squirrels to the black families that lived at the end of his road in a small community of shotgun houses lined up side by side.  I’m not sure what he had against the squirrels in his back yard so as to kill them in such a gruesome way as rat traps, where they died in slow, agonizing contortions brought on by snapped backbones or cracked skulls.  Why didn’t he just shoot them from his back porch with a pellet rifle or with a .22 rifle?

Behind the oak trees of Brother Gomez’s yard, was a small wooden two-room house with a screened in front porch and no back door.  This was where Brother Gomez’s son lived, his name was Charles.  I’d only seen him once, and he died not long after.  He had some kind of heart or blood disease that gave his skin a bluish aspect, nearly as blue as someone with mercury poisoning.  He was not expected to live as long as he did, but I met him when I was sixteen and he was thirty-three years old.  The three of us walked through the grassless and darkened backyard with the seemingly obligatory concrete statue of the Virgin Mary placed in the middle of the yard, and paid Charles a visit toward the end of a long early September day just on the outskirts of the Old Town District of Slidell, Louisiana.  There’s not too much to say about Charles except that he had wild curly black hair and he wore thick black framed glasses so that he looked like something between a hippy and a scholar—but you could tell simply by being around him for a few minutes that his only education was this life-long disease—I got the feeling that he was probably illiterate but he wasn’t just an out and out moron either, like his father seemed to me.  He spoke clearly, but in low tones as if he was afraid that speaking too loudly might blow his heart to bits and pieces.

I don’t remember the details of his little house, but I remember the way it felt. It felt like immobility, as if it was stuck in time, but not in any particular generation, like a home stuck in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s. It was just static, and when we left I was extremely depressed because I knew he was going to be dead soon, the three of us could feel it, and when Charles died, the Coroner’s Office was going to drive his body to Honaker Funeral Home and then Honaker Funeral Home was going to drive his body in a laced coffin in a decked-out late model hearse and ultimately Charles’ body was going to be lowered into the fertile bug-infested top soil near the beautifully polluted canal in Slidell Cemetery.  Perhaps some women would cry and some would chant inane and repetitious lamentations from the Douay Bible and that would be the end of it.  He wrote no poetry, painted no canvasses; he left behind no recorded music. How could he? He was simply trying to stay alive in a body that wasn’t meant to live, a timid heart that had held out much longer than was expected. One stroke of the pen might have ruptured his heart on the spot.  He had to live quietly and in great fear of movement to keep alive at all, and if you ask me, that is the worse fate that can befall anyone.

He died a few months after my visit and all happened as I expected.  The cold, wet, Slidell soil was shoveled onto his white wooden coffin.  And that was it; the polluted canal water rushes by everyday where his bones still lay, unless the worms have been working overtime on his formaldehyde body and there’s merely an outline of being, an outline of dust.  But my point in writing this is that I want the world to know that:
                                                 Charles Seymour Gomez

did exist on this earth for a little while.  Perhaps he didn’t have any reason for existing at all, except to fill up one small moment in my life when I was a teenager, so that I might learn something about existence, so that I might remember it one day.
I call him the Blue Boy because he made me feel strange and nostalgic for something I still can’t understand; where he is now, he will always be and it’s better that way.
1986