Friday, May 22, 2015

A late night call.

I got a call last night, late, past my bed time.

That can mean one of two or three things. Someone's in trouble and needs me. It's a wrong number and a drunk is calling. Or it's a legitimate call from someone who doesn't know that I'm pretty much lights out by ten.

"Jorge," the crackle at the other end of the line said. "Jorge Navidad."

I didn't recognize the voice. But no one calls me Jorge Navidad anymore. Fact is, I dropped the moniker completely when I returned from Saltillo after my one season down south.

"Yeah, who's this," I growled. To tell you the truth I was in no mood to talk.

"It's Issy," the voice said. "Issy Buentello."

Isael Buentello was a catcher on the Saraperos and probably my best friend on the team. Though we didn't room together on the road (I mostly roomed with Karmen--the girl in the white dress--at least over the second half of the season) but the two of us were close. That said, I hadn't spoken to him but five times in the intervening 40 years.

Guys can do that, I think. See each other every eight years, and still be blood.

One time, the last time I saw him was probably ten years ago. He was flying to Spain for some business interest he had and he had a lay-over at JFK. I drove out there and at a little bar in Ozone Park, we bent an elbow.

"You are coming to the viejos?"

I laughed "Soy viejo."

Buentello was the kind of player every team needs. He was probably 25 when I was 17, but he played older. He was a stern and steady presence behind the plate at catcher and on the bench. He could stop a fight if a fight needed to be stopped and cut off a rag-fest before it got going. What's more, he was keen defensively and had a bat with some power.

"Estoy aun mas antiguo," he laughed. I am even older.

We shot the shit for a good 20 minutes, my wife wondering who I was talking to in my rotten doorman Spanish.

"You are seeing Karmen?" he asked me.

I snuck a look at my wife to to see if she was listening.

"No," in Spanish "Lo último que supe de Karmen fue hace veinte años." The last I heard from Karmen was 20 years ago. I let the subject drop.

We chitted and chatted for another 15 minutes, the went our ways, promising to once again bend an elbow south of the border.

I turned off the light.

And wished, wherever she was, Karmen a good night.

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