Ricky the Pilot
“Charly’s wife just gave birth to a mongoloid.”
That word made my world stop. Words like that freeze your gaze while you fear looking at where it came from in shame.
“You know, a mongoloid. Like, not right in the cabeza. All mongoloidy looking. Come on, you know what I’m talking about.”
The thing is, he doesn’t realize what he’s saying is absolutely horrible. That’s a word that I don’t hear thrown around as much in the States, but down south is used with frequency. The term “Politically Correct” hasn’t really made its appearance in Latin America. At least not compared to DC.
Miguel, I’m not sure if it’s right to use that word. It’s better to say “disabled.”
“Ok…. Like they know the difference.”
My good amigo is not a bad person, but just ignorant at times.
Miguel, it’s not really a matter of them knowing the difference. It’s more about giving them the respect as a human being.
“El Guapo, I remember you always making fun of your mom’s friend when we were kids. Come on.”
Miguel was right. When I was a child I was exposed to an adult who was mentally disabled. He was my madre’s godmother’s daughter’s son (follow this?).
When I was about 6 years old I would accompany mi madre to visit her godmother.
“El Guapo, Ricky is special. He is grown man, but he thinks like he is 4 years old. You’re going to have to play with him, but just be patient.”
Ricky was well over 6 feet tall and a big guy. The first time I met him he was wearing a pilot’s hat, a white polo shirt, and green shorts. Mi mother would go visit her godmother while I was left to play with Ricky.
“I bet you don’t have a pilot’s hat.”
“I didn’t think you did. The pilot gave it to me when I was in a big airplane. I knew you didn’t have one, but I wanted to make sure.”
I don’t want a pilot’s hat.
“Yes you do. You’re jealous. Want to put it on? Too bad. You can’t. It’s mine, so don’t even ask.”
Patience. I learned about patience with my interactions with Ricky. As a six-year old kid, this was hard. I was looking at a man, a grown man, who was treating me like an idiot.
Si, your hat is great. I’m very jealous. Want to go outside and play with GI Joes?
So, we would go out to the back yard and play with his HUGE collection of GI Joes.
“You can’t have this one. This one is mine. You can have that one.”
This one doesn’t have legs. I don’t want this one.
“LOOK! THIS IS MY HOUSE AND YOU HAVE TO PLAY WITH MY RULES OR I’LL TELL.”
Fine. He’ll just walk with his arms and do amazing acrobatic moves. See?
I would act like the broken soldier could run with his arms and do amazing flips into the air while we played war.
“Give me that! That’s my soldier and I want to play with him!”
No! I want the amazing soldier. You didn’t let me have the good ones, so let me play with this.
At this point Ricky stood up and towered over me. I stood my ground clutching the broken toy soldier behind my back and glared at him. He violently pushed me down.
It’s a humbling experience to be pushed down to the ground with such a force that it gives you a head ache. Tears welled up in my eyes with anger as I stood up and threw the toy down the yard.
Fine, it’s yours. Have it.
At this point Ricky grabbed me by the hair and hammer tossed me to the side while he started to scream bloody murder. Mi madre and his mother ran outside to see what was going on. Ricky ran into his mother’s arms and told them that I was throwing his toys.
I stood there soiled with the dirt from the floor and a look of complete anger.
My mother rushed over to me and whispered loudly for me to behave myself.
I was six and getting thrown around by a man my father’s age. It was a humbling experience and one that would repeat itself many times.
Every time I went to visit, I was reminded of how I didn’t have a pilot’s hat. Every time I went to visit, I had my ass was kicked. Every time I went to visit, I was forced to play with faulty toys that were eventually taken away from me when I found a way to have fun.
This went on for years. I never told mi madre. Although I say today that it is important for everyone to get their ass kicked at least once in their life, it is much different when you are getting pounded by a 6 foot tall grown man in a pilot’s hat and green shorts.
One day, when I was maybe 10 and no longer interested in playing with GI Joes, Miguel and I were over watching TV. I don’t remember what it was that I said, but Ricky grabbed me by the arm and threw me against the wall with such force that I lost consciousness.
When I came to, Ricky was cowering in the corner of the room and Miguel was shaking me awake. For a split second I had forgotten where I was, but when I saw Miguel laughing at me when I opened my eyes I realized the ridiculousness of the situation. I never really asked what it was that Miguel did to the simple giant, but Ricky never laid a hand on me again.
When we were walking home, Miguel reached into his back pocket and put on a pilot’s hat. We innocently laughed for a good ten minutes about what Miguel had just done and went home to play soccer.
Two week later I went back to Ricky’s house and I brought his hat. The look on his face when I walked over with the pilot’s hat is one that I will forever remember. He grabbed the hat and gave me a bear hug.
“El Guapo gracias! You are my best friend. Thank you very much for bringing back my hat! I’m sorry that I threw you against the wall. We’re still friends right?”
Si, Ricky. We are still friends.
Over the years I grew and Ricky didn’t. I would play with him when we went to visit, but after my madre’s godmother passed away the visits grew less and less frequent. Even as a young child I realized the beauty of a person without the mind of an adult. Ricky would always enjoy playing with his GI Joes and wear his pilot’s hat. Like we all do, I became disinterested in these things are started to care about things that were more “important.”
Miguel, sometimes I wish I still had the mind of a child. It wouldn’t be so bad.