Everyone called him Hildago and he never corrected anyone. Years later, I discovered that his surname was actually Hidalgo, which is derived from the Spanish hijo de algo meaning someone with wealth.
I first met Hildago when I had my paper route. Later, when I was promoted to branch captain (Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?), I was his boss. He was Mexican, but he didn’t speak Spanish. Now that I think of it, he only kind of looked Mexican.
Hildago is one of those persons who I often meet when I least expect to. I knew him as a paper boy. Then I didn’t seem him for years until I went to Tilden Technical High School. We were in an English class together where the teacher really didn’t teach anything and we talked the whole period or read comic books in class. That’s when I learned his real name. He was the one kid my mother told me to avoid. She just didn’t like him, for whatever reason I never found out. The more she tried to break up our friendship, the closer we got.
When we moved out of Back of the Yards to Marquette Park, I didn’t see Hildago for a couple of years. Once I started working and got a car, I started visiting him again. I guess he was a bad influence on me, but he made life much more fun. Because of him, I met my first wife Linda who was his cousin. When we were nineteen, Illinois lowered the drinking age to nineteen, so we used to drink wine and/or Southern Comfort together. I went to my first concert with him and two other friends. We used to go to discos together a lot. I can now see why mother was against our friendship. He really was a bad influence on me.
Hildago was quite unusual in that he made a lousy first impression, but he was very well liked by many people in the neighborhood. He was socially inept, but he always managed to impress people who needed to be impressed despite his various faux pas. When we were young men, he no longer looked Mexican. I mean, he had black hair, brown eyes, and perpetually tanned skinned, but he looked Filipino! Whenever we went out, a lot of Filipinas were attracted to him. He dated quite a few. I remember he dated one nurse whose husband was back in the Phillipines. She was saving up enough money to go back to the Phillipines, but she was lonely here in Chicago. So she dated my friend.
He eventually married a Filipina and when they had a daughter, they asked me to be the godfather. At first, I tried to turn down this great honor because I didn’t think I could fulfill the responsibilities of being a godfather. He told me that I would just have to show up for a few birthday parties and Christmas parties and then I could disappear. He insisted and then his wife insisted, so I agreed.
Then, they introduced me to the godmother with the hopes of starting a serious relationship between us. Well, the godmother was a Filipina named Lalin. We talked on the phone a few times before the baptism. Since she had just come from the Phillipines, she didn’t speak English that well. We eventually spoke Spanish since she had studied it more than English. We seemed to get along fine. We never actually dated, though. After the baptism we never talked again. Hildago kept asking me what happened between us, but I told him that there wasn’t much chemistry between us. I was probably more interested in her than she was in me.
I lost track of Hildago again. Later, I invited him to my son’s birthday party and he came with his daughter, my god-daughter, whom I had not seen since she was very little. Then I didn’t see him again for years. But then I saw him at a K-Mart by my house. Just when I never expected to see him again. He told me it was my god-daughter’s eighteenth birthday, so he invited me to her party. I went and my god-daughter was happy to see me. Now that I think of it, I haven’t seen her since. But I warned Hildago in the first place that I wouldn’t be a good godfather.