Robert Lopez


I used to call him Roy-boy, not for any other reason than I liked the sound of it, those two monosyllabic words up against each other and rhyming like a boxer's one-two punch, a jab and a cross, coming down square on the chin, and there were rumors he liked men and I never wanted to confuse him because I didn't like men or at least I didn't like them the way Roy-boy was rumored to like them, but I also wanted him in my corner because he worked the back of the house and I needed him to do things for me, get things, fix things, assemble things, so I never minded if Roy-boy thought I liked him and all in all he seemed like a good guy to me and I didn't care about the rumors, and even when people asked what I thought about Roy-boy I'd say I don't think anything, and they'd ask why I called him Roy-boy because everyone either called him Roy or Chico, even his older brother Jorge, who got him the job and was more or less in charge of the back of the house, and I'd tell them how I liked the sound of it, the one-two punch, and I don't think they ever believed me, I think they thought there was more to it than that but I didn't care because I liked Elizabeth who worked in the front of the house with me, and she knew the truth of it all or she would have known it if I ever got her alone, which never happened and I still don't know why because it was clear she liked me too but then something spooked her and you can never tell with women, which is something you'd hear from the back of the house all the time, even Roy-boy, who I liked best out of all of them because he'd always have a smile on his face whenever you went back there to ask him to fix or assemble something, not like the rest of them, Jorge and the others, who would curse you in Spanish and call you maricon if you asked them to do anything, they'd even throw things at you but you couldn't really blame them because it was awful to work in the back of the house, that rotten stale stench getting into your body and coming out of your pores to soak into your clothes, the heat bouncing off the walls day and night and there was nowhere to hide from it except maybe the walk-in and you couldn't last long in there anyway no matter how hot it was, and so you'd stumble out into the heat and you would hate yourself and every one of your co-workers, especially the guys in the back of the house and every time you went back there you had to hold your breath and try not to let those bastards get to you, like how they'd harass all the women from the front of the house, including Elizabeth, who was their favorite because of the tight skirts and sweaters, and they'd drop utensils on the floor so she'd have to bend over to pick them up and they'd all hoot and holler and then everyone would laugh and laugh, including Elizabeth, who was a good sport even with those pendejos which was one of the reasons I always liked her, and to this day I don't know what might've spooked her, except to say that one night when we closed together and had a couple of drinks in the bar after work I asked her a question or two and she answered by saying I can't answer a question like that, it's too personal and we don't know each other that well and then I may've made a suggestion or two of how we could get to know each other better and I think I remember her avoiding my suggestions by asking if it was true what they said about Chico and I said I didn't know and more than that I didn't care and what you have to remember is this was a long time ago and for someone not to care about that sort of thing was considered suspicious by a lot of people back then, including Elizabeth, who despite being a good sport was just like the rest of them in most respects, even though she would smile at me and bat her eyes and feel my muscles and she'd ask me how I kept in such shape so I'd tell her that I'd turned my mother's basement into a gym and I'd work out every night for at least two hours and she'd smile again and bat again and so I thought maybe this could happen but the upshot was nothing ever happened, nothing at all, not with Elizabeth in the front of the house nor with Roy-boy in the back of it and I can't remember who stopped working there first, if it was Elizabeth who went on to marry one of the regulars, a guy like any other who'd come into the place to see Elizabeth and stick around to bother her while she was working and everyone liked him more or less, even me as he was pleasant enough, although I could see him for what he was and called him out on it once and there was something of a dustup, we had to take it outside, and I was ready to drop that motherfucker with the lightning quick one-two combination I'd been practicing on the heavy bag in my mother's basement, before Roy-boy and the others broke it up, everyone said it wasn't worth it and cooler heads should prevail and I was nothing if not cool back then so nothing happened on this occasion either, which was a shame because I would've loved dropping that motherfucker but by then I decided this was Elizabeth's problem and if this is what she wanted it was vaya con huevos for her, they deserve each other and so everyone went back inside and Elizabeth wound up quitting maybe two weeks later and then Roy-boy flat out disappeared, he stopped showing up for work one day and Jorge, his brother, would never say whatever happened to him or where he went or even if he was dead or alive and I tried asking a couple of times but I didn't want it to seem like I cared that much because I didn't really, I just liked saying his name out loud and he's the only Roy I've ever known and I'm not sure if I were to meet another Roy if I'd call that one Roy-boy, too, I guess it would depend if that guy would seem like a Roy-boy, which Roy-boy always did, if that makes sense, and yes, it's true, I did like it that Roy-boy would have a smile on his face whenever you asked him to do something for you, unlike the rest of those pendejos from the back of the house, his brother Jorge included, who I can't understand why he wouldn't talk about his brother or tell us whatever became of him but I like to think that Roy-boy is still around somewhere, that he's working in the back of a better house and the people there haven't heard the rumors about him, whether they're true or not.