Mr. Santos lay in the heat not cursing his son’s name. He wasn’t that kind of man. But he did wonder why his son had not yet brought home the two fans. Cooking dinner had been a broiling ordeal, and the discomfort he felt in preparing his food had carried over into affecting the meal itself. With no appetite to speak of, he’d put most of his food in the fridge.
Even if Rollie were going out in the evening, he usually came home for dinner. Santos had hoped for the fans to come home with him.
Where’s my son? he wondered.
Ever since his wife had run off with whomever or to wherever, he had never really been sure, Santos had become even closer with his son than he had before. Always a loving father, he’d tried as best as the family budget would allow to provide Rollie with whatever was possible. There were always birthday and Christmas presents; he’d made sure of that. Even if his wife objected, he still tried to provide things for Rollie, things his own parents had been unable to give to him and his brothers and sisters.
It wasn’t that at his age Rollie needed to report home. That restriction had ended back in his teen years, but Santos appreciated how close he and his son were, given what he knew of Rollie’s friends’ relationships with their own parents, and how it sometimes seemed as if Rollie went out of his way to be kind to him.
So he was worried. It was 10:00 pm.
Under normal circumstances he would have toughed it out in the heat, finally fallen asleep, hopefully, in a mess of sweatiness. But because he was worried, he got out of bed and walked outside on the second floor landing.
That the S was missing on the Follies street banner was even more obvious with the sign lit up.
Santos saw Berna sitting at the bottom of the stairs smoking a cigarette. Santos knew that she had feelings for his son, and he stood there for a moment wondering if she might be waiting for Rollie too. Always waiting for him.
“Eh Berna,” he called down, “hot uh tonight.”
Berna turned and looked up. “Ay, Mr. Santos. So bad the nights like tonight.”
“Tell me about it,” he said. “This gotta be da hottest night of da year.”
“Ay.” She blew a long stream of smoke. “You like one beer, Mr. Santos? I can get you one cold one.”
“Nah nah, no need. In da end would make me sweat more. But thanks, yeah.”
Berna picked up her beer, lifted it in the air to toast him, and took a deep swallow.
Santos thought about how Berna and Rollie had been such good friends in elementary school. They’d both gone to Royal. Berna’s grandmother had always walked the two children to and from school when they were very young, so the two had spent a good deal of time together.
After school they’d run around the neighborhood, often pursuing their favorite pastime of exploring Nu’uanu Stream, just two blocks Ewa of their apartment building. As they grew older, they would walk together unchaperoned by Mrs. Williams, but that lasted only for a few years, before Rollie started spending more time with boys from Central Intermediate School.
Santos could see how over the years Berna had become attached to his son, but he could also see that Rollie had no interest in Berna. The only time she saw Rollie anymore was when he went to Sheena’s Barbershop, where Berna worked, to have her cut his hair.
In fact Rollie spent so much time with his friends as the years went by that he seemed to have no time for girls whatsoever. Sometimes Santos wondered if his son never dated girls because he was gay. He didn’t seem gay to the old man, and neither did his friends. But if he were gay, what the hell. Let him be gay. He was a good-hearted kid, and even if he ended up a drag queen headliner at The Glades down on Hotel Street or at Yappies in Kapahulu, so be it.
Just let him always be a good man, Santos prayed.
He asked, “Eh Berna, you saw Rollie today?”
“Ay. He came out of the Follies this afternoon with that guy, I think his name Benny. I guess maybe they went up to check out what’s with the cops an all. I don’t know. They went that way at least.”
“He nevah bring me da fans I was telling you about. I could have used them tonight for sure.”
“Ay, for sure, Mr. Santos. But you know him. If he said he will bring them, he will bring them.”
The wail of an ambulance approached. Mr. Santos watched for it, saw <snip>