San Carlos

by Michael Chapey

San Carlos

No, I’m not Latino at all. I’m more of your classic run-of-the-mill European mutt. I know, a white guy named Carlos seems like a big, weird thing but there’s actually kind of a great story behind it.
See, when my dad was about our age he had this big fight with his parents and kind of tore out of the house, moved to the big city and shit. Things got pretty strained for a while and they reached this stalemate. His parents – my grandparents – understood that he was an adult and he could make his own choices, but he didn’t have any money really and so still had to use their credit cards. They didn’t know how to handle it all any better than he did, so they just left well enough alone and let him make his own mistakes and return home to get the fatted calf and all that when he was ready.
So they let him laissez-faire for a minute. Apparently he was crashing on a friend’s couch in the city and he had a phone call with them where he staked his claim and said he was going to try to figure something out and didn’t need their help. He wanted some space. They acquiesced ‘cause they didn’t know what else to do.
His friend’s place had a pool on the roof and they were floating around in it talking about life when my dad realized he had his cell phone in his pocket the whole time. Any optimism he may have had about the future in the city was fried along with the hardware in that iPhone. His friends who were there tried to calm him down, but he was basically having a panic attack. He locked himself in the bathroom where he told me he threw up a little, mostly retching and getting up that thin, orange-ish dribble you sometimes get when you have to spew with nothing in the stomach.
His friends didn’t know what to do. Like two or three other guys – about our age mind you, still kids themselves – dealing with a dude having a full-fledged nervous breakdown. He was obviously blowing this fried phone out of proportion but who were they to tell him that. They didn’t know too much about his family situation: for all they knew, things were pretty rough at home and this accident really could mean the end of the world for my dad in the familial drama sense. They had only met his parents in passing, when they’d visit my dad at college, buy his friends some dinner and grill them on their majors. They didn’t know what ol’ Gram and Grampy were capable of. They seemed like reasonable people, but like….
My dad told me this story in pieces, right? Like, filling in new details as I got older and he thought I might be better able to understand some of the stuff going on. I get it now. I can see him on the tile of that bathroom floor, crying about the metaphorical significance of his carelessness, laughing about how he was embarrassingly crying behind a bathroom door while his college friends hung out outside, probably worrying about him. I’ll bet he wondered if they thought he was suicidal. I wonder if he was suicidal. I’m sure he thought about it.
It’s crazy how the naiveté of youth can amplify shit like that. Like, it feels like the end of the world when you have to call your parents and tell them you need a couple hundred bucks to be able to function in society again. You don’t know how they’ll respond so you fear the worst. You assume they have no idea what you’re going through and are indifferent to your feelings. You assume they’re as selfish as you are and are only going to see this as letting them down.
But yeah, so there was my dad, at arguably his most vulnerable. This was before he met my mom so he didn’t have her to turn to. His rock today, he tells me. He had to rely on these friends on the other side of the door. Dudes he mostly talked to about Doctor Who and Murakami novels. One of them took point—my dad’s roommate in college and the guy with the couch.
It’s cool, he said. We put it in rice. It might start back up. And if it doesn’t just go to the Apple Store. You might have insurance. You didn’t get it that long ago, right? I feel like those things are covered for like a year.
A laugh/sob surge from my father’s vocal chords. It’s only been a couple months. I literally justgot this thing. I’m such a fucking idiot.
No you’re not, dude. Carl was just saying this happened to him last summer. Someone pushed me in with my Razr back when those were a thing. Just go to the Apple Store. They’ll help you out.
So he did. Went to the Apple Store, that is. They weren’t too different back then but I mean I’m sure you’ve seen pictures. All sleek chrome and white or whatever. Lotta glass. “Geniuses” with lanyards. Kids playing games on laptops elegantly chained to tables. You know the drill. He walked in there, still kind of hyperventilating, after a nervous drive where he almost ran a red light and crashed into oncoming traffic before he caught himself, thinking he shouldn’t be behind the wheel, instinctively reaching for his phone to put some music on through the AUX setup in his car, hell of a time finding parking, busy Sunday.
Guy helped him out soon as he walked in, sensing his nerves, How can I help you or whatever they’re taught to say in there. My dad feebly presented his phone, still essentially sopping wet (if he shook it, water would come out the headphone port).
My phone went for a little swim.
Let’s check it out. Crack it open look at some stuff on the inside. This or that said the genius it was beyond recovery. Are you covered by Apple Care?
I don’t know.
I’ll check for you.
Too long checking. Took for-fucking-ever, Dad said. That moment stretched out into years, he biting his nails, genius doing god knows what on an iPad. How could it take so long? Just a search right? Name, serial number or some such intel.
Unfortunately yada yada yada you’re fucked the world is over everything dies we had a good run didn’t we Leo-nard Bern-stein! You get it. Things blurred for daddy-o. Tunnel vision, felt like he was gonna faint. You okay, man? A human moment from the genius. A recognition. Sympathy, empathy, whichever one applies here. A hand on the shoulder to steady the swaying. Human contact. Too sweet for my dad, who at this point was having to hold back tears. That hot embarrassment of crying in public, appearing vulnerable in front of a masculine world.
Haha, I’m fine. I think. Probably. Yeah, it’s cool. That’s what I expected. I just. See, I. I don’t want to have to tell my mom. Uncomfortable laughter hahaha. Carlos reassuringly joined in.
I get it, man. Let me see what I can do. Be right back. Dad dizzy, confused, pessimistic, stables himself on a nearby desktop computer, pulls up Facebook, no one desperately trying to contact him, good. Unless they were blowing up his blown up phone.
Text from his mom floating through the ether Hey how’s everything going? lack of response seen as a middle finger, a death in a ditch, LSD trip.
What’s Carlos going to say when he gets back? What does Carlos even look like? Would my dad recognize him? He hadn’t really clocked what he looked like. Just focused on his name tag for one fleeting instant. When he came back, my dad registered. Short hair, facial scruff, thick-rimmed glasses. Gauges in his ears, tattoos but nothing too menacing. Looked like he was, at least at one point, really into Bomb the Music Industry! He had something in his hand, small white box.
Here you go, man. You should be able to restore it from iCloud. There’s a sim card in there, should pick up your number okay but if not just hit your cell provider up and they’ll fix it. Other information, lapsing in and out of Genius Explanation Mode Apple Rhetoric. My dad wide-eyed and confused again, looking down at the box, seeing a replica of his waterlogged device there on the front.
What. What do I owe you?
Magic words. Abracadabra. Don’t worry about it, dude. You’re covered. We’ll pretend you had it insured. It’s all good. I can always say I flubbed it and read something wrong. You’re good. You look like you paid the price.
Strange, right? Unheard of. But this guy Carlos was just a really good dude. Kind face.
Understanding. My dad couldn’t believe it. I could hardly believe me when he told me. Still kind of feels made up. But I mean he hasn’t given me a more plausible reason for why he named me Carlos. It certainly wasn’t after Mencia.
I mean I’m not sure whether or not some of those details are right – my dad’s sometimes prone to flights of fancy: guess it’s where I get it from – but I like to believe the essence of it’s legit. That I’m named after a stranger who helped my dad out when he was feeling low, when he needed some positive vibes from the universe, some good Samaritan dude who understood my dad’s anxiety and was able to relate to him on a human level as two guys who wish they’d have a chance to go to another BTMI! show. It could be bullshit, but I choose to accept it as truth. I think it’s made me a better person.

About the Author

Michael Chapey

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Michael Chapey has been published online at Clumsy Words and the Vestal Review. He currently lives in Los Angeles.