Writers on Kennedy
What we think about when we think about JFK
'A Box of War Souvenirs'
That late morning in class as our teacher, weeping, told us our president had been shot and we should all go home, under the influence of the baddest boy anywhere around, my buddy Jimmy, big, dangerous, and hairy as a man, I first smiled, stupid, as he did, since we were getting out so early. But when, a few seconds later, I looked over at Nancy Gonzalez, who I had the worst crush on, who I wished was pining for me too, who was smart, who was upset, she glared back at me like I was the ugliest turd on this earth. I was jolted by the shame that she was right.
At home I curled up, pillow and blanket, as close as I could to our knobless old TV set like I was flu sick and watched the news, waking to sleeping. I lived there. I only went out twice a day, in the morning for the Los Angeles Times, in the afternoon for the Examiner. The lone residue of my father in our home was a box of war souvenirs, one a newspaper with a giant headline about victory over Japan. The week was my addition. The only other outdoors I saw was deep inside that used console, in blurry black & white, burning through my eyes, worlds, I began, away from my streets.
Dagoberto Gilb's most recent book is Before the End, After the Beginning. His earlier books include The Magic of Blood (1993), The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuña (1994), Woodcuts of Women (2001), Gritos (2003), and The Flowers (2008).