José was my best friend at school freshman year. He was Puerto Rican, NOT Mexican—a fact he corrected me on only once, but I’m sure he’s had to continuously inform people of if he always wants them to know. Our baseball coach freshman year called José “Paco,” which was of course fodder for the rest of us, but was likely just the result of an old man trying to remember everyone’s name and somehow thinking everyone from Mexico was named Paco. José even wore this huge gold chain around his neck that said “José” right on it, and which the umpires would make him remove when he pitched. I pitched a little that year, too, but mostly I played second, or third, or sometimes first. I remember that gold chain as my inspiration for buying my own after my mom had bought me a cheap hollow one from Kohl’s. I went to a gold shop down on Lisbon where the guy told me all the chains were new, which seemed kind of odd when I saw a large gold pendant that said “José” on it (along with the fact that none of the chains came in any packaging). Two-hundred dollars later, I had myself a nice thick chain with an eagle pendant and a card that guaranteed me a loan from the establishment if I ever needed it.

 

 

After freshman year, I didn’t talk to José quite as much. I remember one time senior year when José brought up an observation I had made in confidence to him in order to rip on me a little (that if Matinah Simms wasn’t dating Terrence Malone I’d be going out with her). We were never on bad terms, just not the best friends we had once been.

 

Years later, I was playing baseball down at Simmons field in the County Open Baseball League, and José’s Milwaukee Police team was our opponent. I remember sliding in to home plate and scoring a run, but it wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the chain was gone. I returned that night with a flashlight and the next morning to find nothing. I left a note for anyone who might have found it to return it to me for a reward, but I suppose there’s poetry in it’s return to that place on Lisbon by some lucky kid so someone else could buy a new chain to try to be a little more like one of his friends.

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