Authors: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
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This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
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Book design by Chloë Foglia
The text for this book is set in Berling.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Sáenz, Benjamin Alire.
Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe/
Benjamin Alire Sáenz.—1st ed.
Summary: Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before.
ISBN 978-1-4424-0892-0 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-1-4424-0894-4 (eBook)
[1. Coming of age—Fiction. 2. Families—Fiction.
3. Mexican-Americans—Fiction. 4. Friendship—Fiction.
5. Homosexuality—Fiction.] I. Title.
To all the boys who’ve had to learn to play by different rules
WHY DO WE SMILE? WHY DO WE LAUGH? WHY DO
we feel alone? Why are we sad and confused? Why do we read poetry? Why do we cry when we see a painting? Why is there a riot in the heart when we love? Why do we feel shame? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?
The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.
ONE SUMMER NIGHT I FELL ASLEEP, HOPING THE WORLD
would be different when I woke. In the morning, when I opened my eyes, the world was the same. I threw off the sheets and lay there as the heat poured in through my open window.
My hand reached for the dial on the radio. “Alone” was playing. Crap, “Alone,” a song by a group called Heart. Not my favorite song. Not my favorite group. Not my favorite topic. “You don’t know how long . . .”
I was fifteen.
I was bored.
I was miserable.
As far as I was concerned, the sun could have melted the blue right off the sky. Then the sky could be as miserable as I was.
The DJ was saying annoying, obvious things like, “It’s summer! It’s hot out there!” And then he put on that retro Lone Ranger tune, something he liked to play every morning because he thought it was a hip way to wake up the world. “Hi-yo, Silver!” Who hired this guy? He was killing me. I think that as we listened to the William Tell Overture, we were supposed to be imagining the Lone Ranger and
Tonto riding their horses through the desert. Maybe someone should have told that guy that we all weren’t ten-year-olds anymore. “Hi-yo, Silver!” Crap. The DJ’s voice was on the airwaves again: “Wake up, El Paso! It’s Monday, June fifteenth, 1987! 1987! Can you believe it? And a big ‘Happy Birthday’ goes out to Waylon Jennings, who’s fifty years old today!” Waylon Jennings? This was a rock station, dammit! But then he said something that hinted at the fact that he might have a brain. He told the story about how Waylon Jennings had survived the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. On that note, he put on the remake of “La Bamba” by Los Lobos.
“La Bamba.” I could cope with that.
I tapped my bare feet on the wood floor. As I nodded my head to the beat, I started wondering what had gone through Richie Valens’s head before the plane crashed into the unforgiving ground.
Hey, Buddy! The music’s over.
For the music to be over so soon. For the music to be over when it had just begun. That was really sad.
I WALKED INTO THE KITCHEN. MY MOM WAS PREPARING
lunch for a meeting with her Catholic-Church-lady friends. I poured myself a glass of orange juice.
My mom smiled at me. “Are you going to say good morning?”
“I’m thinking about it,” I said.
“Well, at least you dragged yourself out of bed.”
“I had to think about it for a long time.”
“What is it about boys and sleep?”
“We’re good at it.” That made her laugh. “Anyway, I wasn’t sleeping. I was listening to ‘La Bamba.’”
“Richie Valens,” she said, almost whispering. “So sad.”
“Just like your Patsy Cline.”
She nodded. Sometimes I caught her singing that song, “Crazy,” and I’d smile. And she’d smile. It was like we shared a secret. My mom, she had a nice voice. “Plane crashes,” my mother whispered. I think she was talking more to herself than to me.
“Maybe Richie Valens died young—but he did something. I mean,
he really did something
. Me? What have I done?”
“You have time,” she said. “There’s plenty of time.” The eternal optimist.
“Well, you have to become a person first,” I said.
She gave me a funny look.
“I know how old you are.”
“Fifteen-year-olds don’t qualify as people.”
My mom laughed. She was a high school teacher. I knew she half agreed with me.