By Francisco Delgado
The year everyone was saying “I Love You, Man” because of a Bud Light commercial, I went the extra step and bought a shirt with the slogan across my heart. My teachers would immediately launch into the dialogue each time they saw me wearing it. Or saw me.
I was a quiet kid, guarded. The shirt distracted everyone from everything I didn’t want them to notice: my thick, knotted hair, my caramel-colored glasses cracked at the bridge. My skin the color of dirt.
The shirt spoke for me, ready with a catchphrase guaranteed to bring a smile. All I had to do was nod when someone spoke to me.
I wore the shirt every week.
That is, until a classmate pointed out, “Dude. You wear that shirt every day.”
I would have explained the difference between a day and a week, but that would have involved talking, and like I said, I was a quiet kid, busy daydreaming about a world that only reached me through the television and always dropped me off back where I was.
A hometown where I was seen clearest in rear-view mirrors and on security cameras. A school with classmates who seemed to have new clothes each week.
For a while, people kept yelling at me, “I love you, man!” and I started to believe them. I started saying it back, saying it first. I kept saying it long after I outgrew the shirt and tried on others.
Francisco Delgado is a proud Chamorro and, through his maternal grandmother, a member of the Tonawanda Band of Seneca. He lives with his wife and their son in Queens, New York, where he goes on long, meandering walks, takes pictures, and records his thoughts in a notebook. His creative work has recently appeared in Newtown Literary, Queensbound, and Lost Balloon. He is an Assistant Professor of English at BMCC (CUNY).