Mauricio Gonzalez-Aranda – “Suppli”

I was 29 years old, recovering from a cold, and unemployed. On my laptop screen were five tiles in a video conference. The woman speaking was going through her notes. Her glasses hung from her nose.

“In order to film at Carnegie, for that particular night, in Weill Hall, that would be,” she crunched some more numbers on her keyboard, “a total of $17,255.”

I wrote the number down, jaw clenched.

“What if I only filmed before and after the concert, for two hours instead of four?” I asked.

“You have to use the stagehands’ union for a minimum of four hours.”

“But I’m not actually using any stagehands. It’s just me and my camera.”

“It’s a contractual obligation,” she said definitively.

“Okay,” I said slowly, my eyes scanning my own room, “would it be possible to make a retroactive payment of sorts? For example—,”

“Carnegie needs the seventeen thousand dollars before the concert.”

The meeting ended shortly after. I closed my laptop, and let out a sigh. It was a Friday. I lacked professionalism, I thought. Someone else might have found a way to negotiate without ever losing their smile, and actually negotiate. My father would have lost his temper, but he would’ve weaponized it effectively, like all self-made men of his generation.

I bought a roundtrip train ticket to Boston for $367, and threw a backpack over my shoulder. The trip was not spontaneous, but as I raced down the stairs, I felt like I was running from something, like I was quitting this town.


My father was in Boston for the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics Conference that weekend. I decided to make the trip up and surprise him after the conference. I arranged to stay at my friend’s place. An ex, I should say, but Gaby and I had dated so briefly, two months in high school, that it felt childish to still call her that.

At Grand Central, the line for the train snaked its way around the main hall. The crowd was mostly made up of commuters, checked out for the weekend. Men with their ties loosened, women tying their hair up, jackets draped over shoulders. A couple of college students in their recognizable sweats were going home for the weekend. My clothes were neither collegiate nor professional. I’d just finished working, but like the college students, someone else had paid for my ticket.

I couldn’t figure out the subway system in Boston and had to take a $30 Lyft from Back Bay Station to North Brookline. The Lyft dropped me off in front of a brick and stone townhouse with a federalist doorway flanked by columns. No buzzer. I called Gaby and saw the Lyft speed off. Gaby came running down the stairs.

“Oh my god, friend, how are you!” she had taken to using ‘friend’ at some point. I had always wondered if it was a way of setting boundaries.

“Hey! Great to see you! It’s beautiful around here.”
“Thank you! Oh my god, do I smell? I was eating Five Guys.”
“You were eating five guys,” I asked, although I knew what she meant.

She snorted. “You heard me.” She opened the door and swept her arm across the space like a realtor. “This is my place!” A spacious apartment taking up the whole floor with light coming in from two directions. Pilea and philodendrons hung from every corner of the living room. A faint green cast danced on the white walls.

“Wow, this is great!”

“I’m just finishing up some work, but make yourself at home. Do you want some water or—No! Don’t go into my room, it smells like Five Guys!”

I saw a burger half-wrapped in foil. “It’s not a big deal. Gaby, this place is beautiful.” She ran to the window and cracked it open.

“Yes! I moved here during the pandemic and got a great deal for it. I am paying more than at my previous place, but you know, now that I can afford it, I wanted something more spacious,” she said, then added apologetically, “but you know, I don’t go out so much, so, it’s about priorities.”

She took my backpack from my hand and placed it on the floor up against a wall. “Sit! Relax,” she pointed at her bed. I sat on her bed, which felt too intimate. I pointed at her open laptop.

“So you’re still on the clock?”
“Ugh, yes, I just gotta finish up a few things,” and she retook her swivel chair, facing me. “Remind me again what you do? Something in healthcare, right?”

“Yeah, something like that. It’s basically consultancy within the healthcare industry,” she said, losing steam, her voice dropping comedically. “Oh wait!” She sprang from her chair, leaving it spinning, as she went to the living room and came back carrying a pamphlet. She showed it to me like a girl showing her parents what she drew in school. It was a grid of profile photos of company employees. At the top it said, distinguished staff. She was one of them.

“That’s awesome. Congrats. What’s it for?”

“Nothing,” she shrugged her shoulders, and took the pamphlet back. “I call it my diversity promo. They probably needed a Latina.” She sat back down and tossed the pamphlet. “Tell me about you! How’s your film stuff going? I keep seeing it on my feed.”

“Slow down, we’ll get to me.”

“I know, it hasn’t been five minutes, and I’ve already got you on my bed,” she said, rolling her eyes. I couldn’t tell if she was flirting.

My phone rang. I saw it was my father, who never calls. A text banner from my mom informed me that she had ruined the surprise. My father was trying to buy us tickets to see the Red Sox.

“Sorry, I think I should take this,” I said, and Gaby swiveled back to her laptop. I answered.

Mauricio, I’m outside the stadium buying tickets,” said my father in Spanish, “I’m going to pass the phone over to the guy so you can speak with him. He’s going to give you a code so you can verify the transaction and then you’ll get the tickets on your phone. Okay? Bye.” There was probably an easier way to obtain the tickets, but I knew better than to try to troubleshoot anything with my father.

Another voice with a midwestern accent took the phone, “Hello this is Jim speaking.” He spoke slowly. I imagined he was in his 50’s or 60’s.

“Hi, Jim, this is Mauricio. So you’re trying to send me a code”

I could tell that he was relieved to hear an American accent, “Yes sir, your father is trying to buy tickets. We need to give your father a code to put into the MLB app that would transfer over the tickets to him. But in order to download the MLB app, he needs to verify his email address, and your father doesn’t have his email on his phone. We were thinking that you could…” I heard a third guy confirming the plan that the three grown men had devised, “…you can call your mother to get your father’s email login, and when we download app on your father’s phone, we can input the code you get from your father’s email.”

“Would it be easier if I downloaded the app on my phone, put in your code or whatever, and confirmed that I got the tickets?”

Gaby, with her back to me, was trying not to laugh.

“Sure, we could try that, if that’s okay with you, sir,” said Jim to my father. “Oh-kay, no problem, no problem,” I could hear my father say in his heavy accent. “All right, let me know when you are ready for the code.”
Jim gave me the code, and I saw two tickets appear on the MLB app.
“All right, I got them.”
“Great, thank you for your patience, sir. I’m going to pass you back to your father.” “Mauricio, did you get them,” asked my dad urgently.
Yes, I can send them to you in a text.
You got them?
Yes, do you want me to send them to you?

No, no, don’t send me anything. I’m here right now. I’ll wait for you outside Gate E. Okay? Bye,” and he hung up. Gaby swiveled back to face me, amused.

“Okay, my dad just bought us tickets to see the Red Sox. He’s already there,” I said to Gaby, who had followed everything, “Do you want to join us or would you rather stay?”

“No, I’m good, but I’ll come with you! I want to do some shopping in the area,” she said, and then clocked out of work with a couple of clicks. She raised her hands in triumph, “Okay, I’m ready to go!”

The walk to Fenway from her place took us half an hour. The streets were peaceful in Brookline, even on a Friday night. I could see the charm of living here.

When we reached Gate E, my father was waving to us. Somehow, he had gotten past the ticket check without the ticket on my phone and was standing on the other side of the crowd control barrier. He wore an oversized blazer and a mask. My mom had told him I’d been sick, I assumed.

Do you remember Gaby,” I said as I hugged him above the barrier.
Yes, of course,” he said effusively, “it’s great to see you, you look beautiful! Would you like to join us?” Then he turned to me, “You should’ve told me she would be joining us.
I asked, but she wants to get some shopping done,” I said, feeling like I was now pushing her away, and also misrepresenting the situation, as I hadn’t insisted enough. “Would you like to join? Come on, we can get you a ticket.”

Oh, no need, I’m okay, but thank you so much. I just meant to keep Mauricio company,” Gaby said politely, her hands clasped, her arms pressed tightly to her body.

Are you sure? It’s not a problem?

Thank you, really, but I have some things I’d like to do in the area.”

All right,” my father conceded.

“Okay,” I said to Gaby in English, fabricating some privacy, “then I’ll text you after the game, maybe we can grab a drink.”

“Okay, do that,” and we said goodbye.

I went back around the barrier to go through the ticket check and rejoined my father. I put on a mask to match him.

You should’ve told me she was coming. You shouldn’t have let her walk back home alone.

Was it actually dangerous for her to walk in Boston, I wondered. Unlikely.

I got us really good seats, son.” My father was an avid baseball fan. He liked to spend Sunday afternoons watching baseball from the living room floor, never the couch. Everytime Fenway came on the TV, he’d point up from the floor and remind us that the left wall was taller because the outfield was smaller. “Right by home plate.”

As the stadium came into view, he exclaimed back at me, “Look, the wall, Mauricio, the Green Monster,” rolling his r’s, smiling behind his mask, “it’s even bigger in person!

An usher came up to us and asked to see our tickets. He took a quick look and pointed upwards at a distant section, “Oh, you guys are over there.” We found our seats two sections up. “That’s a shame,” he said, “I thought our seats would be closer. I did think they were surprisingly cheap when I bought them.

Don’t sweat it, these are great,” I said. The Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals took the field. I waved to a vendor nearby and asked for two beers. My father started rummaging through all four of his coat pockets. He looked like a watch dealer inspecting his oversized coat. “I paid already,” I informed him, waving my phone, and passed him a beer.

And you can’t take it back,” he asked, as he found a wad of bills. The vendor was already gone. He handed me the bills like contraband, “here, you take this then.” I accepted them unceremoniously. To say thank you or to refuse them would prolong the topic.

How was the conference,” I asked him.

Good. Good,” he said, and then on second thought, “the conference is a far cry from what it used to be. Before the pandemic, the conference used to last a whole week. There used to be these talks where they would bring in two of the leading experts in a field, assign them opposing opinions about how to treat a patient, and then have them debate.

It wasn’t their actual opinions,” I prompted him.
No, it was purely dialectical. Now it’s only four days. And they don’t even have those talks

anymore,” he said. He took a sip of his beer, his eyes on the game, and set it down with a sigh. “So what are the talks about now? Any good ones today?

He nodded and readjusted himself in his seat, entering a presentation mode of sorts, “There was a young man who presented about A.I. and how it can help doctors make decisions. A kid, a kid,” he said, pointing at me, “a 28-year-old kid.

Interesting, how so,” I asked.
He waved his hand back and forth, suggesting generalities.

A kid, really,” he said. He brought the beer to his lips, but then set it back down. The words were more important. “I fear a future where doctors can no longer make their own decisions. It’s like a muscle. If you stop using it.”

You lose it,” I said.

It atrophies,” he said with me. “A doctor is like an artisan, or a gem. An artisan working with a gem,” his hands in the air crafted the contours of a gem. “It’s a gem, and if you stop exercising it, you lose it,” he said, mixing metaphors. He drank from his beer, satisfied.

What was the response of the crowd to the AI?
He shrugged it off. “What can you say to that? When the whole day is about AI and they bring in a bright, young kid to talk about it, imagine what you’ll look like if you challenge it?

Have you ever challenged someone at a conference,” I asked, and I could hear myself reverting to a little kid fascinated by his dad’s exploits. He too changed. His shoulders cocked back, bracing himself for admiration.

There was another time I did say something. A young woman from The Netherlands presented a case about a woman who’d arrived at the hospital with chest pain and a set of symptoms that are common in our field. But the doctor chose not to operate on the woman. Apparently, they had done an EKG on her. The doctor who interpreted the test results was the leading EKG expert in the world. And he diagnosed her condition as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy – Tako-tsuo, Takosubo, something like that – a rare condition that develops in response to an intense emotional or physical experience.” I googled it on my phone, curious to know the spelling. The result revealed that it was also known as “broken heart syndrome.”

And I stood up,” he stated, twisting his pointed hand in the air and thrusting it like a fencer, “and I challenged her.” I assumed during a designated Q&A, but one could never be sure.

What did you ask her?

I told her,” he corrected me, “had I received that patient, I would’ve opened her up.” The words he used in Spanish were la abro, literally “I open her.” They implied a certain kind of dominion and a facility over the patient’s body. A ruthless artisan. I wondered what English words he must have used at the conference.

“La abro. All signs pointed to that, irrespective of what the leading world expert of EKG’s may say. And I could hear the approbation of those seated around me.” I pictured a bunch of gray men in white coats, cross-armed, nodding behind my father at the young woman on stage.

Did she say what happened to the patient,” I asked.

My father pursed his lips, a momentary concession, “Apparently, she was fine. They gave her medication and continued to monitor her condition.” Then he turned away from the game and at me. The intensity was unsettling, like being stared at by a driver. “But it doesn’t matter. Even if it’s 5 in the morning when they bring her to me, la abro.

If it’s 8 the morning, la abro. If it’s 12, la abro.

That’s the temperament of a surgeon. That has to be the temperament,” he said, gaveling his finger on his lap. I thought of the cross-armed doctors around him. All of them with equally aggressive temperaments. An auditorium filled with doctors looking for an excuse to operate. And another, a younger one on stage, looking for an excuse not to.

My father put down his beer and relaxed his shoulders to a slouch. “Then again, there’s a saying that says, if you operate on someone looking for pain, you’ll find pain.

He took off his mask suddenly and put an arm around my seat.

Do you remember when you all came here,” he asked me.

We came?” I asked in disbelief.

Yes, when your sister did summer school in Boston, and your mother brought you and your brother to visit her,” he said. I must have been 10 or 12. I had completely lost the memory.

Reggaeton started blasting from the stadium speakers. Transition music between the batters. My father’s face lit up. “Who would’ve thought they’d be playing Latino music in Boston,” he remarked, with pride. He began dancing in his seat. His arm behind me swayed me to the beat. I hoped I didn’t grow to forget this moment too.

When we exited the stadium, he told me to find a steakhouse for dinner tomorrow and to invite Gaby. I told him that she had plans already. She was going to a friend’s birthday. “Just invite her, maybe she’ll change her plans when she finds out what ours are.”

He hailed a taxi for the both of us and dropped me off at Gaby’s place, before asking the driver to turn back around to downtown Boston. He pinched the mask to the bridge of his nose and gave me a hug. To pay, he took off his shoe and pulled out a rolled up hundred dollar bill from below the sole.


Gaby came out of her room in pajamas and asked me how the game went. She took a seat in the living room armchair. I sat alone on the couch next to her. “Fine, Red Sox won.” I asked her if she had any trouble leaving the stadium. She said no, of course. I didn’t see a place for me to sleep. Nor any sheets on the sofa. The fact that she hadn’t established where I’d be sleeping made me question whether she was waiting to see what would happen in the next hour. The ambiguity excited me.

Gaby’s college boyfriend committed suicide during the pandemic. The two had split up by then. But I knew that no amount of rational thinking would ever stave off the intrusive thoughts that could haunt the surviving ex. It had felt insensitive, imprudent, plain stupid to mess with our stable friendship in any way. And on a more practical note, I’d been feeling sick all week and was likely still contagious. But the way the lambent light hit her cheekbones made me imagine her inviting me into her room a few moments from now.

She must have noticed the intensity of my gaze, because she suddenly looked annoyed and turned off the lamp next to her.

“What are you doing? The soft lighting looked beautiful on you.” “I hate the way my face looks when lit from above.”
“What do you mean?”

“I have these ridges on my brow that are so stupid. And my nose,” she said, tracing her face. I rolled my eyes. “No, I’m serious, this is something I’ve discovered. I can only take good photos when the lighting is straight on.”

“That’s silly.”

“I look like a Neanderthal,” she said. I laughed, brushing her comment aside, but I could see what she meant, actually. There was a slight bump to the contour of her brow. And her nose was a more square version of a button nose. I would never admit that to her. She was pouting now.

“It’s actually a huge anxiety I have when I go on dates,” she said. She was playing with the heart-leaf philodendron on her windowsill, inspecting it for signs of yellowing. “Like, I try to avoid restaurants or cafes with those fixtures above the table.”

“Are you on the apps?”

“Yes, I’m on Hinge. I don’t know, I get really nervous.” She returned to the first leaf she had fiddled with, and propped it between her fingers, diagnosing it. “The other day I was on a date with this guy, and he asked me what’s something you’re really good at. I couldn’t come up with anything, and I started crying,” she said, the corners of her mouth strained, trying to maintain her smile.

“Why was he grilling you like that,” I said, eager to take her side.

“Oh, it was fine, he was being funny about it,” she said, taking his side, shaking her head in defense of him, “I just got overwhelmed. It was also like on the third date.” She was still dating this guy, I surmised. “Even these plants,” she said, dropping the leaf in disgust, “part of the reason I got them was to be able to say that I’m a plant lady, to have some thing, you know.

Everyone’s got a thing. Everyone’s got a hobby. So I start thinking, I need to get myself a hobby too.”

I nodded, and let her continue.

“Like, at work. You know how so much of small talk revolves around the day of the week? Like, if it’s Monday, you talk about what you did on the weekend. If it’s Wednesday, you say you’re already halfway through the week. Thursday you can’t wait for Friday. Well, it’s gotten to the point that I begin to think on Sunday night how I’m going to formulate my weekend the next day.”

I took a look at the spacious apartment around me, and I pictured Gaby pacing anxiously as the weekend wound down.

“Sorry,” she said.

“No, don’t worry about it, I get it,” I said, but I realized I had zero anxieties like the ones she described. I didn’t really have too many hobbies myself. But I had never been in a situation where the quality or number of them had been on trial.

“Let me get you your air mattress,” she said, and got up. I didn’t stop her.

We rolled out the mattress. She gave me a noisy electric pump that began inflating it automatically. We both stared at the crumpled mass in silence as it began to expand.

“I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, Gaby, and I don’t want to sound condescending,” I said, and she looked at me concerned, “but I’m really proud of you.” The ambiguity had been resolved. “It sounds to me like you’ve been having a hard time, and I know that it hasn’t been easy for you since your ex passed. But you seem to be killing it, and I hope you can see that.”

She hugged me, and I put my arms around her. Her pajamas were thin. “Thank you,” she said. I could feel the blades of her back. The air mattress continued to crack and grow.


The next morning I spent 5 minutes clearing yellow mucus from my sinuses in the shower. I felt much better when I exited, and I convinced myself again that I wasn’t sick.

We grabbed breakfast a few blocks from her place. I saw a breakfast platter that called out to me, but she suggested that we grab our food to go, so we ordered egg bagels. Once outside, though, the sun was out, so we decided to eat on one of the outside tables. Immediately she spilled ketchup on her shirt.

“Ay no, Gaby,” she said in a Mexican accent, as if her clumsiness traced back to her childhood, “it’s a good thing I know myself.” She pulled out a Tide To Go foil wrapper from her purse, tore it open like a condom, pulled out a wipe, and started scrubbing on her chest. I took an interest in my sandwich below me. “Is it working,” she asked, calling my attention. She removed her hand so I could inspect the white fabric on her cleavage.

“Oh wow, it’s nearly gone.”

“Seriously, these things have saved me a million times,” still scrubbing.

“This sandwich’s delicious.”

“It’s gone, right?”

“Yup. Do you think I could walk to downtown from here?”

She threw the crumpled wrapper back in her purse. I wondered what other emergency items were in there.

“Eh, it’s a bit far. Or, do you want to come with me to this thing?” “What’s the thing?”

“My friend is rowing, I promised I’d go see him.”

“Yeah sure, I’ve got no plans until dinner.”

“I can’t really take you to the birthday,” she said, increasingly stressed out by the day’s plans. “Sure.”

“Are you fine splitting a Lyft?”

I shrugged, “I don’t mind.”

“You know, that’s a very Mauricio thing, really pronouncing your d’s at the end of words.”

“I’d never noticed,” I said, and immediately tried replaying what I’d just said. “I think it might be due to the fact that when I was learning English, one of the hardest things for me to pronounce was ‘I don’t know.’”

“I don’t know,” she repeated.

“Cause you need to pronounce it with a soft ‘d,’ and in Spanish we only have a hard ‘d’ sound.” She gave me a confused look

“Like in ‘didn’t.’ The first ‘d’ is hard and the second is soft.”


“And in ‘I don’t know,’ if you’re pronouncing it fast, like you normally would, like Idonknow, you drop the ‘t,’ but the ‘d’ also has to be a soft ‘d.’ You know, like, if you were to pronounce it fast and with a hard ‘d,’ you’d sound British.”

“Idunnow,” she tried in a British accent, then fast in an American accent, “I don’t know.”

“And if you pronounce ‘don’t’ slow and with a hard d, then it sounds really harsh, like you’re repeating yourself angrily. I. Don’t. Know. So when I finally unlocked the soft ‘d’ sound, I probably started overenunciating it at the end of words.”

“Didn’t, I don’t know, I don’t know. Don’t. Know.”

“My brother told me recently,” I remembered suddenly.

“Oh Daniel, he’s still doing debate,” she exclaimed, fondly.

I nodded, continuing my train of thought, “that his debate professor in college told him that he pronounces his t’s too wet.”

“Too wet,” she asked, as the Lyft pulled up, and we sat in the backseat.

“Yeah, apparently that’s a thing. I’m not sure what it is. I’m guessing it’s related to how much air you put into them.” I said, emulating a variety of t-sounds. “Or how much of your tongue is touching your palate. But what I thought was interesting was that the professor chose to call him out. I can’t imagine a professor ever being a dick to me.”

“Could you imagine, a teacher getting mad at Mauricio,” she said, trying to poke fun at me.

“Like, what kind of relationship must they have had for him to be so annoyed with Daniel?”

“Maybe he was just trying to coach him.”

“No, he said it was pretty mean,” I said, and I noticed both of us were furrowing our brows. I shrugged, “Anyway, maybe there’s something there, in the way my family talks.”

“Why were you such a straight edge in high school,” she asked. She was no longer joking. It was like she was trying to figure out something in her. I chose to answer seriously.

“I think I was just too busy and tired as a teenager to ever rebel. You know, I had swimming, speech and debate, community service, and I always took school seriously. Every day I was just wiped out. When I was home, I never really spoke with my family, because I was always napping. There was this sleepiness that characterized my high school life. So it wasn’t a conscious decision to behave, more so that I never had the energy to misbehave.”

“But you still could have not done any of that. You must have had a reason to try that hard.”

“Yesterday, at the baseball game, there was a moment when my dad pointed at the strike count on the board. It said two strikes, three balls, two outs. And then he turned to me and said, ‘that’s what life’s about! How do you react when you face a full count? Do you shy away or do you go for it?’ And he, like, elbowed me as he said it, like you do when you expect someone to agree with you.” I could see Gaby frowning as I recounted my father’s words.

“And I smiled back, of course, and to some extent, my father’s words inspired me. But not like they used to. Growing up, that philosophy used to really light a fire under me. And today, life out here in the real world feels so peaceful. I feel no desire to engage in battle. Even yesterday, when I had a meeting for one of my projects with a big institution, I felt a sense of injustice, not a combative one, when things didn’t go my way.”

“So how do you view the world now, like what’s taken the place of competition,” she asked.

I thought of saying the opposite, collaboration. But it felt so cheesy. Then a feeling came over me. I felt callow and in need of a nest around me. “I don’t know,” I said.

“Here we are,” said the driver.

“Are you sure we’re here,” I said to Gaby, who was one foot out the door. “We’re going to the river, right?” We were still ten minutes away from the nearest bank.

“Oh no, I put in the wrong address,” she realized, embarrassed. “Why do I always do this? See, I totally would have gotten out and not realized it until the driver was gone.”

“It’s not a big deal, we were basically going in the same direction.”

The driver corrected the destination and 10 minutes later dropped us off at the bridge on North Beacon Street. We had missed her friend’s boat.

Other boats carrying middle-aged rowers were now coming in. Gaby texted with her friend, trying to coordinate something. A beetle crawled up her arm. I took a picture of it and said nothing.

“Okay, I don’t think we’ll be able to meet up with him. I’ll see him later.” I wondered if the friend was the Hinge guy.

“I think I should probably get going to this birthday thing.”


“What are you going to do?”

“I think I’ll just head downtown and walk around until dinner.” “Okay, I’m also headed downtown,” she said, and she called a Lyft. “You’re still welcome to join us, by the way,” I said.

“Yeah, sorry, I don’t think I’ll be able to.”


We got in the Lyft.

“I really don’t want to go to this.”

“Then don’t.”

“I mean I do but. Do you ever get anxious?”

“You mean like before a birthday?”

“Yeah. Or…”

“No, not really.” I was starting to get sick with how put-together I sounded today.

“Like, if it were up to me,” she said, “I’d just spend my Saturdays at home. Watering my plants,” she said. I smiled out the window. “It just takes so much effort to get up to something every weekend. No? You don’t feel that?”

“I think it’s just a question of temperament,” I said definitively. I wanted to provide her with answers. “Like, I rarely get mad. And I also rarely am super excited. Or anxious. I’m like a tight little orb of energy.”

I became deeply aware of the driver in front of us. I turned more towards my window, looking for privacy in the corner of the car.

“I think you probably have a temperament that makes you more volatile. You’re jumping around all the time, and in my mind it makes sense that you also swing further in the other direction and experience more sadness and anxiety. And I think it can be liberating to think of yourself that way. That your temperament makes you more likely to be anxious, rather than thinking that all the anxiety you’re feeling is on you and completely avoidable if you just take care of yourself.”

“It’s nice to hear you say that,” Gaby said, much louder than me, her eyes fixed in some middle distance beyond the windshield.

“I’m surrounded by people who are just like me, and they all go to therapy,” she continued. “We meet up and we hang out and many times they share that they’re going through a depression and you hear them out and then they hear you out. But then I begin to wonder whether what I feel is even real. Much less worthy of calling it a sickness and treating it with medicine.”

“I’d never realized–”

“Not sickness, mental illness,” she corrected herself.

“I never realized,” I started again, “that being in an echo chamber that’s open about mental illnesses could still be an echo chamber.”

“Well it’s also really helpful, it helps you not be embarrassed about it, it gives you courage to share–”

“Well, yeah, that’s obvious,” I interrupted, wanting to return to the moment slipping away. She pulled out her phone and checked her texts without registering them.

“Temperaments. You seem to have it all figured out,” she said, with zero hint of malice. It stung more that way.


The Lyft dropped us off in front of Lincoln Tavern in South Boston. We said goodbye outside, agreed to text later tonight to see if we could meet up for a drink, and she went inside to join her friends. I saw from outside how she steeled herself as she made her way through the bar. When she reached her friends, her hands went up in the air effusively, injecting energy to party. The words “hi friends” made their way out to me.

I walked for a couple of hours with my backpack on one shoulder through the streets of South Boston, waiting for dinner time. Two white guys in long sleeves, puffy vests, and chinos descended a stoop across the street. They each carried balloon swords, which made me think they were day- drinking.

A few blocks down, I ran into a tacky block party organized by the Chamber of Commerce. A country band played in the distance, neighborhood associations waved sign up sheets at their booths, police officers bought ice creams. I cut through it. I wanted to reach the beach. I asked one of the dour policewomen, despite the ice cream in her hand, for directions and she pointed her cone East, down the same road I was walking.

I reached Pleasure Bay, my map informed me. I needed to pee and scanned for a public restroom. A mother dragged her two kids inside a building that looked like a public swimming pool, and I followed. It was a skating rink. I peed on the third urinal next to the two giggling kids. The mother called out to them to hurry up. My throat was sore, and my back was sweating. I filled up my water bottle in the lobby’s water fountain. I peaked into the rink through the windows on the lobby doors. All the lights inside were off.

I crossed the street and sat on the beach without taking off my shoes. My phone buzzed. An email from Carnegie following up.

Dear Mauricio,
As discussed, the estimated charges for the proposed segment shoot would be as follows….

I scanned the email and retained nothing. A shadow walked past me. It was an old man. Without breaking stride, he crossed the beach, entered the water, and submerged himself up to his mustache. Then, like a Forrest Gump figure, he pivoted and marched back where he came from, resuming his pace, shedding water with every step.


I led my father through the financial district of Boston to the steakhouse. I held the door open for him, but he took it from me and urged me to go first.

Inside, I gave my name, and the maitre d’ showed us to our table out on the terrace overlooking the harbor.

Oh, great that you picked an outside table,” he said, taking off the mask he wore through the restaurant.

“The server will be right over to warm up the table,” said the maitre d’ pointing at the patio heaters overlooking our table like basketball hoops, but a man was already doing so. A waitress soon arrived and gave us the wine list. It was an iPad. I passed it over to my father.

No, you pick,” he said, repelled by the technology. “I hate it when they give you too many options.

I took the iPad back. You could filter by grape, country, price, and other parameters.

Pick a merlot,” he added after a while. I found the filter for reds, then Merlots. “And pick one that isn’t a blend of grapes.

Look,” I said, angling the iPad towards him, “the list goes from this one that’s 78 percent Merlot, to this one, that’s 98 per–

That one,” he cut me off, avoiding the iPad. “It’s 160 dollars.
Pick that one.”

The waitress returned moments later with the sommelier.

“Hi gentlemen, unfortunately the Merlot that you picked is not available today. I have brought over our head sommelier, he’s going to take care of you.” She left immediately, busy with more tables.

“How are we doing tonight, gentlemen, I understand that you were interested in the PlumpJack, are we looking for something plummy tonight, I could recommend the Chilean wine, Baronesa P.,” he asked without taking one breath and nodding at his own question.

“Oh-kay, no problem, no problem,” said my father with enthusiasm.
“I think we might be interested in a red that has a high percentage of Merlot,” I intervened.

“I could recommend some other Merlots, such as the Rombauer, but they won’t be in the same price range as the PlumpJack, the Baronesa P. really is quite exquisite and one of my favorites.”

“Oh-kay, no problem,” father exclaimed.
“Okay, shall I bring a bottle of the Chilean,” he asked, nodding.

“Okay, but if it’s not good,” said my father, grabbing the sommelier by the arm, “we are coming for you.”

I laughed to communicate to the sommelier that it was a joke, one that might have landed in Spanish.

“We are coming for you,” my dad insisted. The sommelier laughed dutifully and left.

Are you fine with that one, it’s only 70 percent, and it’s a Cabernet,” I asked, fixated on details imparted on me.

Eh, it’s okay,” he shrugged. “In my experience, I prefer wines that don’t mix different grapes together.” A wine arrived momentarily. “This wine is good,” he confided in Spanish to me as the sommelier finished pouring me a glass. I had no palate for it, but I liked it, too.

We studied the menu, and he asked me if I wanted to get the dry-aged porterhouse for two. It was priced at $180. I agreed. When the waitress came by, he asked if she could add to the order a jalapeño on the side, sliced.

“A man who knows what he wants,” said the waitress, and disappeared.

Cranes jutted from the harbor’s horizon and created a metallic mesh that was impossible to ignore.

Imagine being one of the fuckers who operates those cranes,” he said, full of jealousy.
I wonder how they train their way up to operating one,” I said, pointing at the enormity of one, and the dangers associated with it.
They probably get paid well,” he said to himself.

Like, do they just get thrown into the deep end one day? Or do they somehow work up to it,” I asked, imagining a miniature crane, and a series of graduating cranes.

They probably work up to it, like everything in life,” he said, and the words tranquilized a nervousness in me.

The table next to us were a couple in their 60s, the man in a blazer, the woman in a black dress and a silver necklace. Two tables over, a group of six, three white couples, also in their 60’s, similarly dressed. Behind us, two Indian men in navy blue jackets and lanyards from the medical conference.

Your mother is going through a beautiful period in her life,” my father said. He was lost in his own thoughts, smiling. “For the first time, she’s allowing herself to be everything she wanted…,” he trailed off. To this day, I’m not sure what he meant by that. He stopped himself with a question. “Your friend, how’s she doing?”

I’m not sure. I think she’s battling a lot of anxieties,” I said, and I recounted some of her concerns.

Poor girl. I hope she matures soon.”
The waitress brought out a small plate with a sliced jalapaño. It looked absurd alone on the white table cloth.

I have a friend,” I said, “who started this company a couple of years ago. I’m pretty sure she’s a millionaire now, she did really well for herself. Anyway, I hadn’t seen her since college, and one day I run into her in New York, and immediately I could tell how much her experience as a CEO had changed her. Like, she was exuding a commanding presence. She immediately took control of the conversation, it was four of us, and she started asking questions, leading the conversation.” I pantomimed a traffic officer. “A few days later, she and I grabbed dinner at an Italian restaurant. The menu had these appetizers called suppli. And I have this funny story about one time I tried suppli in Italy, and I really hyped them up. She asked me what they were, and I told her, a delicious breaded ball with rice and cheese and tomato sauce. So, we ordered them.”

“What was the story,” he interrupted.

Oh, I fell in love with them when I was in Rome. And then when I went to Milan a couple of years later, I kept asking everyone where I could buy some suppli. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. It wasn’t until I was on my way back to the airport that I saw suppli displayed on a store window. I got out of the bus and ran back to the store. Turns out that in northern Italy, they’re called arancini.

Those assholes, I bet they knew all along what you meant, too,” my father said.

“Anyway, we ordered them, and when they arrived, they didn’t have tomato sauce inside. So my friend called the waitress back, and asked if they could get us some. The waitress said that it would take them 15 minutes to make it, they didn’t normally serve it as a side. My friend said that it was fine. I tried telling her it wasn’t a big deal. But no, she wanted to try them the right way. So we waited for 15 minutes until they brought us a bowl and we dipped the suppli, which were cold by then. I could imagine that her experience leading a company had really formed her into someone who knows what she wants and doesn’t settle for less. Even if it’s a bit excessive at times. It made me think about how quickly some careers, or money, make people mature.”

That doesn’t sound like maturity to me,” said my father. “That sounds like a young woman who got hurt. And now she’s overcompensating. Real maturity, to me, is different.”

I got the sense that he was putting her down for my sake. That he thought I felt inferior to her and he needed to protect me from my own anecdote.

I think that your friend here, Gaby, displays a lot more maturity. Facing your own emotions, your anxieties, and wrestling with them, is what maturing is all about. Not putting up walls, which is what your other friend is doing.

I shrugged, regretting I said anything.

I think what you did,” he said, shifting to me, a topic he felt comfortable with, “what you are doing, all those experiences that you had abroad, have made you mature immensely.” His vague allusion to my life made me wonder just how differently he interpreted my life’s events than I did. What exactly did my life sound like to my parents over those long distance calls? “That’s real growth. Even if you don’t see it.”

When I was at Penn Station, waiting in line to board the train with all the other adults, I felt like an impostor,” I began. “I saw all these people who were dressed like they were coming from work, like they worked in important places, and I felt like an impostor, because I was the only one in that crowd who hadn’t paid for my ticket. You and mom paid for it.” My father shook his head, and I sped up so he couldn’t interrupt. “From the outside, I probably looked like I fit in perfectly in the queue, just another commuter. But that’s what made it worse. The simple fact that I was broke and dependent on you two made me feel like a fraud.

And then, like a coping mechanism, I found a sense of superiority in the most contrived way imaginable. For some reason, I pictured myself being tested on my ability to have a conversation with the adults around me. I’ve lived a privileged and varied enough life that I know that in the majority of cases I can assimilate as needed. There’s always a story about suppli to share,” I said, gesturing at the jalapeños in front of me by some association. “And I decided that the majority of the people in that line weren’t as shifty. So if the person next to me challenged me in some way, let’s say that they could smell the impostor in me, I was confident that I’d be able to shut that down in some way.”

My dad was nodding, but I wasn’t sure if he was encouraging self-confidence or the combative spirit. I continued.

I heard once that the definition of someone who is upper class is one who can be comfortable at all levels of society. Now granted, we’re not upper class, what are we even, upper-middle?” He didn’t answer. “And granted, there are levels and classes that I don’t even know exist, but when I was standing at Penn Station, that’s kind of how I felt. That I could wear a suit or sweats and fit in fine. Even though I was missing the most key ingredient of any class. Money.

Son, everything we asked of you, you did immaculately. This is just another stage in life. And some stages take longer than others.”

I felt my sore throat constrict. “Part of the reason I came up this weekend,” I said, coming to a realization, “is that I wanted to say thank you. Especially for the support you and mom have given me this year.

This year, what about everything else, you piece of shit,” he joked, but I couldn’t stop to laugh now that the words were coming out.

I feel pretty healthy mentally. I’m able to enjoy life. But I live in this artificial world where money isn’t a concern. So it makes me question whether the happiness I feel is fake. That it’s rooted on a foundation that’s not mine. And the moment that foundation changes when I become self-sufficient and you don’t have to help me pay rent, I hope that I’ll still be able to enjoy life.

The image of my father dancing in his seat at Fenway Park flashed in my mind. “Son, the only–

And I also want to let you know that I don’t plan on depending on you very long. I’ve set myself a deadline for this summer. I’m working as hard as I can.

Mauricio, I don’t know anyone–
I don’t want you to think that I’m a freeloader.

Anyone,” he repeated, and he stopped until I listened, “I don’t know a single person who’s gotten to where they are without help. No one is self-made. I always had support. The people who supported me through the years changed, but there was always someone who extended their hand down to me.

The only difference between you and me,” he said, pausing to make sure he had my attention, and he did, “is that the fucker who’s been behind you this entire time has been the same one.” He pointed at himself with vigor.

I thought I had a fever. The waitress arrived with two dry-aged steaks, asparagus, and potatoes.

When I got up to use the restroom and distanced myself from the patio heaters, I felt better. I texted Gaby from the bathroom. She didn’t reply.


That night I slept in my father’s hotel room. There’d been a spare bed all along. As I lay beneath the blankets in the dark, wine sloshing in my stomach, I wondered if I could send Gaby flowers as a thank you for letting me crash at her place. The light from my phone lit up my half of the room as I searched for florists in Boston. I found a service that would deliver to her door first thing in the morning for $78. I placed the order and justified it as the same price that an Airbnb would have cost me anyway.

The next morning, my father woke me up as he rushed to catch a 7am talk at the conference. “You were coughing all night, son, are you okay, don’t forget to charge your breakfast to the room, okay, bye,” he said as he threw on his oversized coat and ran out the door. I showered, made my way down to the kitchen, stashed three apples in my backpack, and biked my way to Back Bay Station.

On the platform, I noticed a woman stretching. She alternated between a forward fold and a standing quad stretch. The light at the end of the tunnel wrapped around her white crop top and sweatpants, making her appear impossibly skinny. Then my phone buzzed. It was a text from Gaby.

Friend! I love you so much! It was so good seeing you!

I waited for a second message that would mention the flowers. For minutes, the woman on the platform stretched as people pretended not to notice her.

I reread the sentences in Gaby’s text in different combinations. The first and third together. Then the first and second only.

Then a second buzz came in. It was an email from Bloomnation.

RE: Order Error Happened

Unfortunately, there was a hiccup in the system when your purchase was made. You were not charged $78.74 for this order, nor was it submitted to the florist.

Would you like to resubmit?

A train arrived. There was movement on the platform. The woman unfurled slowly, like a timelapse of a waking plant. She grabbed her coat. I clicked yes, and a new prompt asked me to reselect the flowers. I looked up, and she was a commuter.

Mauricio González-Aranda is a Mexican-American documentary director and writer based in Brooklyn. He’s worked on various Oscar-nominated productions. His most recent project, Bar Talk Series, documented unscripted conversations by everyday New Yorkers at bars and gathered over 75k followers across social media (@bartalkseries). He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Princeton University.