In the middle of August, Oscar finally met the Capitán. Yvón had passed out again. It was super-late and he’d been following Clives in the Pathfinder, the usual routine, when a crowd of cops up ahead let Clives pass and then asked Oscar to please step out of the vehicle. These were the D.R.’s new highway police, brand-new uniforms and esprit de corps up to here. It’s not my truck, he explained, it’s hers. He pointed to sleeping Yvón. We understand. If you could please step out of the truck. It wasn’t until these two plainclothes—who we’ll call Solomon Grundy and Gorilla Grodd, for simplicity’s sake—tossed him into the back of a black Volkswagen bug that he realized something was up. Wait a minute, he said as they pulled out, where the hell are you taking me? Wait! Gorilla Grodd gave him one cold glance and that was all it took to quiet his ass down. This is fucked up, he said under his breath. I didn’t do nothing.
The Capitán was waiting for him on a noticeably unelectrified stretch of road. A skinny forty-something-year-old jabao standing near his spotless red Jeep, dressed nice in slacks and a crisply pressed white button-down, his shoes bright as scarabs. The Capitán was one of those tall, arrogant, handsome niggers that most of the planet feels inferior to. (The Capitán was also one of those very bad men who not even postmodernism can explain away.)
So you’re the New Yorker, he said with great cheer. When Oscar saw the Capitán’s close-set eyes he knew he was fucked. (He had the Eyes of Lee Van Cleef!) If it hadn’t been for the courage of his sphincter, Oscar’s lunch and his dinner and his breakfast would have whooshed straight out of him.
I didn’t do anything, Oscar quailed. Then he blurted out, I’m an American citizen.
The Capitán waved away a mosquito. I’m an American citizen, too. I was sworn in in the city of Buffalo, in the State of New York.
I bought mine in Miami, Gorilla Grodd said.
Not me, Solomon Grundy lamented. I only got my damn residency.
Please, you have to believe me, I didn’t do anything.
The Capitán smiled. Motherfucker even had First World teeth. Oscar was lucky; if he had looked like my pana Pedro, the Dominican Superman, he probably would have got shot right there. But because he was a young homely slob the Capitán punched him only a couple of times, warned him away from Yvón in no uncertain terms, and then remanded him to Messrs. Grundy and Grodd, who squeezed him back into the bug and drove out to the cane fields between Santo Domingo and Villa Mella.
Oscar was too scared to speak. He was a shook daddy. He couldn’t believe it. He was going to die. He tried to imagine Yvón at the funeral in her nearly see-through black sheath and couldn’t. Watched Santo Domingo race past and felt impossibly alone. Thought about his mother and his sister and started crying.
You need to keep it down, Grundy said, but Oscar couldn’t stop, even when he put his hands in his mouth.
At the cane fields, Messrs. Grodd and Grundy pulled Oscar out of the car, walked him into the cane, and then with their pistol butts proceeded to give him the beating to end all beatings. It was the Götterdämmerung of beatdowns, a beatdown so cruel and relentless that even Camden, the City of the Ultimate Beatdown, would have been impressed. (Yessir, nothing like getting smashed in the face with those patented Pachmayr Presentation Grips.) He shrieked, but that didn’t stop the beating; he begged, but that didn’t stop it, either; he blacked out, but that was no relief; the niggers kicked him in the nuts and perked him right up! It was like one of those nightmare 8 A.M.M.L.A. panels that you think will never, ever end. Man, Gorilla Grodd said, this kid is making me sweat. Toward the end, Oscar found himself thinking about his old dead abuela, who used to scratch his back and fry him yaniqueques; she was sitting in her rocking chair and when she saw him she snarled, What did I tell you about those putas?
The only reason he didn’t lie out in that rustling endless cane for the rest of his life was because Clives the evangelical taxista had had the guts to follow the cops on the sly, and when they broke out he turned on his headlights and pulled up to where they’d last been and found poor Oscar. Are you alive? Clives whispered. Oscar said, Blub, blub. Clives couldn’t hoist Oscar into the car alone so he drove to a nearby batey and recruited a couple of Haitian braceros to help him. This is a big one, one of the braceros joked. The only thing Oscar said the whole ride back was her name. Yvón. Broken nose, broken zygomatic arch, crushed seventh cranial nerve, three of his front teeth snapped off at the gum, concussion, alive.
That was the end of it. When Moms de León heard it was the police, she called first a doctor and then the airlines. She wasn’t no fool; she’d lived through Trujillo and the Devil Balaguer; knew that the cops hadn’t forgotten shit from those days. She put it in the simplest of terms. You stupid, worthless, no-good son of a whore are going home. No, he said, through demolished lips. He wasn’t fooling, either. When he first woke up and realized that he was still alive, he insisted on seeing Yvón. I love her, he whispered, and his mother said, Shut up, you! Just shut up!
The doctor ruled out epidural hematoma but couldn’t guarantee that Oscar didn’t have brain damage. (She was a cop’s girlfriend? Tío Rodolfo whistled. I’ll vouch for the brain damage.) Send him home right now, homegirl said, but for four whole days Oscar resisted any attempt to be packed up in a plane, which says a lot about this fat kid’s fortitude; he was eating morphine by the handful and his grill was in agony, he had an around-the-clock quadruple migraine and couldn’t see squat out of his right eye; motherfucker’s head was so swollen he looked like John Merrick, Jr., and anytime he attempted to stand, the ground whisked right out from under him. My God! he thought. So this is what it feels like to get your ass kicked. It wasn’t all bad, though; the beating granted him strange insights: he heard his tío, three rooms over, stealing money from his mother’s purse; and he realized that had he and Yvón not been serious the Capitán would probably never have fucked with him. Proof positive that he and Yvón had a relationship.
Yvón didn’t answer her cell, and the few times Oscar managed to limp to the window he saw that her Pathfinder wasn’t there. I love you, he shouted into the street. I love you! Once, he made it to her door and buzzed before his tío realized that he was gone and dragged him back inside.
And, then, on Day Three, she came. While she sat on the edge of his bed, his mother banged pots in the kitchen and said “puta” loudly enough for them to hear.
Forgive me if I don’t get up, Oscar whispered. I’m having a little trouble with my face.
She was dressed in white, like an angel, and her hair was still wet from the shower, a tumult of brownish curls. Of course the Capitán had beaten the shit out of her, too; of course she had two black eyes. (He’d also put his .44 Magnum in her vagina and asked her who she really loved.) There was nothing about her that Oscar wouldn’t have gladly kissed. She put her fingers on his hand and told him that she could never be with him again. For some reason, Oscar couldn’t see her face; it was a blur, she had retreated completely into that other plane of hers. Heard only the sorrow of her breathing. He tried to focus but all he saw was his love for her. Yvón? he croaked, but she was already gone.
Se acabó. Oscar refused to look at the ocean as they drove to the airport. It’s beautiful today, Clives remarked. On the flight over, Oscar sat between his tío and his moms. Jesus, Oscar, Rodolfo said nervously. You look like they put a shirt on a turd.