Henry O’Mally (The white guy)
I’ve been doing this for a long time, I’d say about 15 years now. When they assigned this job to me I thought it strange, we don’t usually deal with neighborhoods like this one.
I mean, I don’t work with the richest people but I do work in better places than this. There were so many people on the street, I couldn’t bring myself to trust anyone. I felt like there were gangsters watching me from every corner, like I’d be shot in a minute. I’ve had friends from places like this before but to actually be where they came from, that was a whole different story.
I got out of my car and pretended like this was nothing, like I wasn’t worried because you know, they say that people can smell one’s fear. I did make sure to stay close to my car though and I had my finger on the alarm button the whole time, just in case.
The address we had on file was completely wrong, the office had sent my colleague weeks before, he was the one who found out that the address was wrong but he was too scared to walk around the neighborhood to try to figure it out so they sent me, as if I wouldn’t be scared of this place. But the reason they sent me was because of my Spanish, you know, high school Spanish, but it was enough to allow me to ask people about Mrs. Isabel Gonzalez, or Doña Chavela as I later found out is how most people knew her.
The only people who seemed harmless around here were the women and their children that’s why I was only asking them. Besides, it was a woman I was looking for, I figured I might get lucky and catch her.
You know what I noticed about the people around here? – which struck me as funny – was that they seemed to be as scared of me as I was of them. Nobody wanted to give me any information, I guess they thought I was the police or immigration or something.
I was about to give up when a gangster came up to me, almost instinctively my finger put pressure on my alarm button. I released it once he started talking. There was something about his voice or the tone, I don’t know, but I just knew he wasn’t harmful. It seemed more like he was bothered by the fact that I was asking his neighbors questions.
“Hey man you need something?” was the first thing he said.
“Yes, hi, I’m looking for a lady named Isabel Gonzalez,” I replied. I was smiling just so he’d know that I wasn’t the police, I was a good guy.
“What about?” he asked.
The first thing I thought was that he was being nosy to want to know why I was looking for this woman, however his body language had more of a defensive feel to it. There was something admirable about this guy whose chest and arms were full of tatooes. He was asking because he was trying to make sure that I wasn’t there to hurt Mrs. Gonzalez. I might have been wrong to do this but I didn’t see any other option so I told him everything – including my name.
“Well first of all, my name is Henry O’Mally, I said, shaking his hand. I continued, “I’m here on behalf of The Belmore Company, the reason I’m here is because Mr. Ignacio Cruz, who is now deceased, left an inheritance for his wife and children. Mrs. Isabel is the main heir, however, it seems as though we have an incorrect address for her and it is very important that we contact her as soon as possible, before the state takes claim of the property. We have been trying to contact her for the past six months but have been unsuccessful. My being here is the company’s final attempt at contacting her. Would you happen to know where I can find this woman, Mrs. Isabel Gonzalez?”
The whole time he was just staring at me as if I had no idea what I was talking about and when I finally asked him for his help all he said was, “Damn! That fool’s dead?” I see sort of a smile on his face. But he quickly erases it and his concern turns to Mrs. Gonzalez.
“So you looking for Mrs. Isabel because of some money?”
I was confused, I had a feeling he thought she owed me money so I try to clear it up for him, “Yes, I have something for her – that her late husband left for her.”
“No shit?!” he says, his comment makes me want to laugh but I remember he’s a gangster and think better of it.
I think he was mostly surprised about the inheritance than he was about the fact that Mr. Cruz was dead. I pay closer attention to him and notice he is just a teenager, not possibly more than eighteen but with a huge weight on his shoulders, as if he’s been carrying it with him from the day he was born. Suddenly my fear of him turned into a sort of respect.
“Yeah man, I can tell you where she lives but she don’t speak English so –“
“Can you translate for me?” I interrupt. “I mean, if you have time,” I say trying not to sound too demanding.
“Damn, I don’t know man, it’s not like I really understand everything you’re talking about but you’re sure it’s an inheritance she’s getting? It ain’t no money she owes right? I mean you ain’t trying to trick me or nothing just to get her to pay right?”
“No, no, no,” I say. He keeps surprising me, he’s looking out for this woman who is most likely not related to him, taking every precaution to make sure she is not getting scammed.
“Look,” I say, “her husband’s name was Ignacio Cruz, right? She has three children with him but he had not been living with them for the past five or so years. However, they never divorced which is why the inheritance was left to Doña Chavela and her children.
“Yeah poor Doña Chavela’s been having it hard . . . So you’re for reals then,” this sounded more like a statement than a question, I think I’m finally gaining his trust so I ask him again if he can translate for me.
“Alright man, but you better not come up with some crooked shit or I’ll fuckin’ bust your ass,” he tells me, I don’t know what to think.
He walks me to Mrs. Gonzalez’s apartment, he translates for me and I watch her go from surprise to tears to a smile and back to tears again. She seems to be a very nice lady, hard working. There’s something about her little apartment that makes me feel at home. I don’t know if it’s the tiny old sofas, the altar at the front of her one window or the load of laundry sitting on her bed or the smell of homemade food coming from her kitchen but I feel like I could stay here for hours and she wouldn’t mind.
I don’t usually associate my job with my feelings but when I have to tell her that the paperwork will be brought to her by her husband’s girlfriend, per Mr. Cruz’s request, I almost feel like punching my fist through the wall for her. I had found this request on his part not just strange but more than that, disrespectful. According to the file his reason for doing this was because he wanted his girlfriend to explain Mr. Cruz’s reasons for leaving Mrs. Gonzalez. I think he wanted, in a strange way, to make sure Mrs. Gonzalez forgave him for leaving. Poor lady didn’t know what to say when this gangster – whose name I had not gotten – translated this to her. I was expecting her to cry but she just sat there staring at either the window or her saints. Finally, as if defeated, she nodded her head and simply said okay.
We left not long after that. Outside, I shook hands with the gangster and finally asked his name.
“Just call me Speedy, man.”
“Okay…uh…Speedy, thanks for everything, I really appreciate it. Here’s my card,” I say, remembering I forgot to leave one for Mrs. Gonzalez. I give him two and ask him to give one to her, “if you need anything just call me, if I don’t answer you can just leave me a message and I’ll call you back.”
“Alright man, thanks,” he say, I notice his guard is down now.
“Thanks again,” I say and walk to my car feeling satisfied with myself and just as I turn the key on the ignition I notice the stereo is missing.