Barba Home, October 2, 10:45 a.m.
Making haste, Rafael Barba grabbed his scarf and wool coat, looking in the mirror to make sure he was at least presentable.
"Raffi!" His wife, Alisia, came into the room. "Please be back before supper. We have to plan your 50th birthday."
"I know," he said. "I can't imagine I'll be there long."
"I know I said this already," she murmured. "You don't have to go. You're forcing yourself to go."
"We all know things. But we don't really." Rafael slipped on his coat and rung the scarf around his neck. "Maybe I want to see him. Maybe we aren't friends, but we are acquaintances. I should see him and I think maybe I want to"
Aghast, Alisia blurted out, "And he was sexually aroused by a 15-year-old girl."
"Alisia, we've been over this. I go, I see him, we get on with our lives. Give Kaitlyn a kiss for me."
"Give me a kiss." Rafael leaned over to kiss his wife on the cheek.
"I love you."
"I love you."
Rikers Island, 11:40 a.m.
Rafael waited in the chair for Alex Muñoz to finally arrive, slightly slouching to blend in. He wondered how his old friend has changed, being in prison for 7 years. It would play out two ways: He would be broken or he would be the same and therefore the visit would not need to take longer than a long toilet excretion.
His mouth fell open as a skinnier Alex came, his hands chained in front of him, his face down and his head of hair likely growing out from a shave. He plunked down on the chair, and Rafael never stopped looking at him.
But when Alex looked at him, he looked straight away another direction, past Rafael.
"I got nothing to say to you."
"I know." The silence was somewhat comfortable, Rafael thought, though he could not think of a reason as to why. "But I think we should talk."
Now Alex looked at him. "After 7 years, Raffi?"
"Yeah." More silence.
"You came 2 days after Yelina. You planned this visit, didn't you."
"I called the prison. They told me her usual schedule and I went a few days after." Alex shifted in his seat and gave Rafael a look, as if he were challenging him, Rafael thought.
"You try to make a move on her while I was in prison?"
"You kidding? Of course not. I got married 2 years ago. I met her in 2018." He paused. "I guess I don't get a congrats from my oldest friend."
"Do I need to refresh you on what you did to me in 2013? You–"
"Let's get one thing straight, Alex. I gave you every chance to at least salvage your life. Your--your ego screwed it up. I could not do anything because my office was making me stay on the case. You knew it was professional. 7 years, and you still don't realize--"
"7 years and you still don't realize you could have just walked away. Gone with another job, company, something so you wouldn't screw me over."
"You sent your genitals to a teenager. A girl that had only been on this earth for 15 years. That's younger than my stepdaughter. If me or Eddie had done that, you would not have let that go. You're the one in jail, Alex. Not me." Alex seemed to shrink back a bit.
"Nice weight loss, by the way." Alex didn't respond. "It was professional, Alex. The work that I do and the life that I live are two separate things. I'm sorry you can't see that."
"That's what you want to think, compadre. You think you got it all figured out. You think you can compartamentalize. You're wrong, Raffi. It's all personal. Life is a game of personal. So I admit, I sexted with a 15 year old. And I liked it. So what. You were my friend. No matter what, you were supposed to help me in any way you could. No matter. What.
Rafael looked at Alex for a bit, who was slightly heaving from the tension. He considered leaving, disgusted by Alex's loaded admission. He put his hands on the table to hoist himself up, but he never arose.
"Has Eddie been in here to visit you?" Alex was now avoiding Rafael's eyes again.
"Couple times 5 to 7 years ago and then he stopped. I think him and Yelina had an affair."
"Eddie and Yelina?"
"Timeline fits. She said she had an affair. Of course I forgave her, me being in her 24 hours a day. She told me about it a few months after Eddie stopped visiting. Even though he screwed my wife, rather have him here than you."
"I would, too, so I could kick the crap out of him." A small smile played on Raffi's face. "You're due out in about a year, aren't you. Hit me up. I'll treat you to drinks." Now Rafael got up from the chair and slung his winterwear on. "Just don't do anything stupid to be in here longer than you have to."
"Why are you treating me to drinks? After everything we said."
"Because no matter what, we are always going to be those boys from the barrio. You screwed up, and I am your friend. In your words, I learned how to compartamentalize." He tightened his scarf somewhat and gave his old friend a nod.
"See you." And Rafael walked away.
"I'll see you when I get out." Rafael smiled as he exited the visitor's lounge and knew he would keep his word to Alisia that when he would arrive back home, he would return to life as he knew it.