We called my brother Rafael “Fever” because whenever he liked something—like Godzilla or baseball or Bruce Lee—he got a “fever” for it. When we went to Puerto Rico for summer vacation he was dying to play baseball, but the local kids in the ball field down the street from Titi’s house told him, “Janqui go home.” He told them, “I’m not a Yankee. I’m a Met.”
So he would go to a corner of the field and hit rocks into the air with a small bat that Tio gave him.
I would go watch him, because all of the cartoons were in Spanish and there was nothing else to do.
“You’re standing too close,” he said one time. “I don’t want to hit you.”
“You won’t hit me.”
“You better move back,” he said.
“You won’t hit me.”
Fever swung at a rock and probably in his mind he was thinking about the rock flying in slow motion over the fence. But that’s not what happened.
He had hit me right in the face like he said he would. I think he thought he had hit my eye for a home run.
I was on the ground holding my face where it hurt.
“Oh shit,” we both said a lot. We both knew Mami was not going to be happy.
I said, “I think I can hide it.”
“But it’s swelling up,” said Fever.
“I’ll hide it till it goes away.”
We walked back to Titi’s house. Mami was there with our cousin Coquetosa and our Titi Evelyn. I walked in, going the long way around them to keep the right side of my face facing them.
My mother asked if we wanted to eat something. My brother, who was always hungry, said, “Yes.”
”I said. “I’m going to sleep.” I ran to the room where we were sleeping.
I lay down on the cot they had for me, hoping the swelling would disappear after a quick nap.
But Mami came in right away. “Quieres algo a comer?” she said, and I was proud of myself for thinking to keep the hurt side of my face against the pillow. But Mami had x-ray vision.
She kneeled down and turned my face. “OH MY GOD!” She yelled for my brother. “Rafael! What happened? Why did you do to him?!”
“Mami,” I said, “it was an accident. I was standing too close.”
She told Rafael to get a paper towel with some ice. She bent down and pointed a finger at me. “You try to hide from me. But I catch you.”
While she held the towel to my face, she asked me again if I was hungry. I said I was, and she got me a sandwich of salami with butter on white bread.
“When’s Papi coming?” I asked her.
“Soon, soon,” she said.