The Parties, 1993
Elizabeth Acevedo


tio hector loves the parties.
the ones that start after 10 pm and last
until la madrugada—tio is a man made
for dawn, shiny shirts, and dance shoes.

sometimes mami lets you go to parties
with tio and his sons. dresses you
in hoop skirts and bows and reminds you to act right.
you usually throw a tantrum around 2 am—

either flustered by the stream of strangers
pinching your cheek, or hungry,
craving sleep and tired of hide-and-seek;
you never last as late as the other kids.

tio hector always gets annoyed. his accent slurring
he tells you to stop being a baby, grow up, eli.
you don’t cry when you hide underneath the coats
on the hostess’s bed. you are quiet when tio

comes in and kisses a woman not his wife,
dances her softly around the room.
you barely breathe when you hear noises
you’ve only heard when papi watches late night tv.

and when tio finds you under his fur
and carries you to his brown chevrolet
he doesn’t say a word. and when everyone else
in the car dozes, you don’t tell how close
tio hector drove to the guardrails.

 

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