2007-02-06: Family Matters


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Elena helps her father deal with a typical round of daily problems for the Gomez family.

Date It Happened: February 6th, 2007

Family Matters

The Gomez Apartment, Queens

The apartment is not a bad one in spite of the cramped quarters. Gleaming white walls, hardwood floors, big kitchen. Ramon simply makes the boys share a room, lets the girls have the other two, and claims the couch for himself, dressing in the bathroom and stowing his stuff in a dresser that sits in the living room or in the hall closet. The gleaming blue RTS van pulls up and out Ramon comes with a pair of shopping bags.

It seems that his daughter has just gotten home, because she's sitting outside of their apartment's old, brownstone building, Elena busily unlacing her rollerblades and yanking them off her feet. Stuffing them in her sneakers, she blinks when the familiar van manages the complete and utter miracle in NYC that is finding streetside parking at 6pm. "Papa!" she calls enthusiastically, standing up and trotting over, raising on tiptoes to plant a kiss on his cheek. "Mwah! Need any help?" She addresses him in Spanish, of course.

He wraps his arms around her tightly and hugs her. Safe for another day! "No," he replies in Spanish. "Its just the two bags, chiquita." he murmurs. "But they are for you." He has this deadpan low growl of a voice. He hands over the bags. Inside Elena will find jeans and…somewhat roomy polo shirts. And, as deadpan as only a father who strolled through a shop in search of baggier jeans and less revealing shirts for his 18 year old daughter can be, he adds, "they were on sale."

She'll take what she can get. Some of these things look comfy enough to sleep in. She's already pondering shrinking some of the bigger jeans considering….well. As modest as she already is, coming to class with a baggy butt was crossing the line. Elena grins at her dad, hugging him back before stepping away and carrying the bags. "Sorry I haven't started dinner yet, I -just- got home. I stayed behind a bit for chem lab today because I had to ask the professor a bunch of questions." She wrinkles her nose. "I just don't understand why chemistry has to look all complicated. We don't even use -numbers- anymore for calculations." She opens the door to the brownstone for him.

Relieved that she looks like she's actually going to use them — those hip huggers nearly gave him a heart attack when he first saw them — Ramon gives her one of his rare smiles. They weren't always so rare, but since Catalina died he just usually doesn't. "You don't ever have to apologize for doing what you need to do to do well in school. I'm proud of you, chiquita." The sounds of video games can be heard from the living room. Ramon splurged on this X Box for Christmas last year and has regretted it ever since. Luis, at 13, is up on his feet playing it. "Luis, where's Manny?" Ramon asks sharply.

Luis shrugs. "Dunno, hasn't come home yet."

"You're not old enough to be watching Juanita by yourself," Ramon fumes, to which Luis only shrugs.

"She's fine. She's got a cold or something. I made her drink orange juice and now she's in bed."

Ramon turns to Elena. "I'm going to plant a tracking device in him. Maybe five," he mutters. "And maybe send him to one of those places where they wash the brain, you know what I'm saying?"

"Luis, did you do your homework yet?" Elena sighs - already knowing the answer to that question. When her father inquires about Manny, she frowns. "Do you want me to look for him, Papa?" she ask, setting the bags down at the kitchen counter so she could start on dinner. She's already got some chicken defrosting, having put the package outside and on the sink. Thank goodness they didn't have any pets - like they could afford it. "I'll check on Juanita after I get some water boiling," she reassures her father. She was going to be a doctor. Colds are something she's learned how to deal with when she was young.

At Ramon's quip, she can't help but laugh. "I think he'll find a way to get out of those tracking devices. That's the thing that drives me crazy about Manny….he can be so smart when he wants to be. He just…never wants to be."

"I'm going to call Gonzalo to do it. Uncle Gonzalo is not a threat and he'll be less likely to shove him off and shout at him and go do what he wants to do." Ramon is all too worried about how his less responsible brother and Manny seem to have a tighter bond, but he can't deny the man has been helpful in getting the boy home. He sits down at the bar and nods his head. "I hope its only a cold." Both for her health and because anything worse means missing work.

"Papa, I can skip a couple of days if you are very worried," Elena says with a frown, putting a large pot on the stove to boil. She brings out a bag of potatoes out of the refrigerator, as well as some carrots and cabbage. She starts peeling the root vegetables quickly - there had been a time where she wanted to be a professional chef, but she couldn't justify the cost of going to culinary school plus the years of struggling until making good money in the profession. Practicality won out on that one. "I'll make chicken stew. That way it'd be good for 'Nita to eat it. So how was your day today?"

"It wasn't too bad. Nobody too unreasonable today." To have someone as taciturn as Ramon in what is essentially a customer service style role at times can be an interesting exercise. Customers yell, and he stares at them like they're stupid till they stop, and then he tells them in some matter of fact fashion that if they'll go get a cup of coffee, he will fix it, and if the cup of coffee doesn't take long enough then they are welcome to have two. Then he promptly gets on the computer and basically messes with it until they go away, usually scratching their heads and bewildered, which buys him just enough time to fix the blasted problem and make them happy again.

"That's good." Elena shakes her head, putting the root vegetables in, and slices the skin off the chicken breasts she'll be cutting up for the soup-stew thing she was making. "I don't understand what the hurry is sometimes. You would like to think some would have the patience to wait and have something fixed the right way so they won't have to do all of that again for a while." As always, the girl was armed with, at the very least, some manner of common sense. "Though the clinic's coordinator today was very nice. She says I have a good 'bedside' manner."

"That does not surprise me," Ramon says, pulling over a stack of mail. He tosses some of it into the trash, then grabs up a letter opener for the rest. Its almost all bills. "You're a good girl with a good anywhere manner." He looks up, frowning. "You don't have any crazy people or druggies in that clinic, do you?"

"I don't think so, but it's possible?" Elena wonders, pursing her lips in thought as she tries to remember. "They always stick me with the little kids and the elderly, probably because they're easier to handle than those who are panicking. I managed to calm down this one guy today though….he somehow got in an accident with his garbage disposal. There was blood everywhere."

"Good," Ramon says firmly. Elderly and little kids are good. "Not about the disposal," he adds, though…now he's frowning at their own disposal as if he's expecting it to somehow leap up and chop through his little girl's skin. Gnar gnar gnar! That leads him back around to the fact that he was going to call Gonzalo, and he fumbles for his cell phone to do it. That's out of charge, so he gets up and plugs it in. Then he picks up the house phone…where a recording informs him that it's temporarily disconnected until he pays the bill. He slams that down, radiating fuming annoyance. "You don't think that blood had AIDS in it do you? Did any get on you?"

She grins over at her overprotective dad. "When there's biological fluid spilling like that everywhere, I always use gloves," Elena assures him. "Just like in all the other labs I have to do for this semester." She watches her father slam down the phone with a small frown. "What's wrong?" she asks, inclining her head a little bit as she stirs in some salt, pepper, and herbs. She adds in the chicken too, plus some barley.

"Phone line's not working," Ramon intones, his eyes tight. "It'll be fixed in a day or two." Yeah. When he gets his check and can do something about the bill. Whenever the phone or the cable go out due to nonpayment Ramon always says its 'broken'. The van never runs out of gas due to the company credit card for that purpose, but if it did, he'd probably say that it 'broke down' too.

She frowns. She knows what that means, she's 18, and Uncle Gonzalo always just comes around for money. "He really needs to find a stable job, Papa. You know I do not mean to sound cruel and we will always be there for him if he needs it, but he needs to help himself too." She's also fully aware that Gonzalo doesn't -want- to find one and that honestly is the root of the problem, but saying it out loud makes her feel better.

Ramon grunts. "He never has before, I don't know what would make him do it now. Cutting him off maybe, but then I lose his help with Manny. He's selling…something door to door right now. Time shares, I don't know. Some crap nobody needs and even fewer want. But he's convinced its his big break. Maybe I should just buy him a bunch of lotto tickets. He's got more chance of making that work than some of the crap he comes up with."

She covers the pot, and she is still frowning somewhat. "That's true….and I know Manny, if you cut him off, he'll take Uncle's side and we'll never see him." Honestly, that boy. Elena shakes her head a little bit. Now that the food's getting cooked, she can relax a little, taking out a glass of orange juice from their meagerly-stocked fridge and pouring two glasses of it over ice. She sets one down in front of her father. "I miss Mama," she says absently, as if not conscious of the words coming out of her mouth until too late. "She always knew what to say to Manny for him to listen."

Ramon takes the orange juice and stares down at its general direction. Its not the juice he's staring at, but his wedding ring, still gleaming on his hand even three years later. "Me too, chiquita," he says quietly. He rubs a hand over his face, squares his shoulders, and downs that orange juice as though it were a shot of something stronger. He frowns as he pulls out one of the letters, turning it back and forth. He opens it, but whatever he sees inside makes him simply tuck it into the inner pocket of his jacket rather than finish opening it and reading it. "Since I can't find my brother I'm going to go find yours," he says, standing. "Make sure Juanita eats her soup." He knows the reminder is barely needed or warrented, but he can't stop himself from delivering it. He walks over and kisses Elena's forehead. "You have her eyes," he says.

She reaches out to hug her father, squeezing him warmly. "I know," Elena says gently, pulling back and giving him a cheerful smile. Beam. Beam. It always makes him feel a little bit better, right? "You've been telling me that since I was a baby, but I like it. It makes me think she's still alive in some way, no?" She frowns. "Be careful, it's getting dark and you know the sorts of people Manny hangs out with."

Huh. He does feel a little better. Ramon smiles at her and ruffles her hair — which he probably shouldn't with the amount of time she might well have to spend on it to make it look good — and then heads out. He doesn't take the van. The thing is a nightmare to drive when he does take it, so he only ever does for work. Anyway he's hoping Manny's somewhere in the neighborhood, even if he's hanging with the wrong sorts.

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