‘Boyfriend’ by Junot Díaz

Boyfriend by Junot Díaz, 1996

The magic trick:

Using a narratorial gimmick to demonstrate the protagonist’s uncertain spot within and without his world

It almost seems like a joke. The narrator likes to listen to the woman who lives in the apartment below his, and he tells us, the reader, all about what he hears. It’s a funny kind of way into getting a story. But it’s also relevant to this story. This is apartment living, and our narrator occupies a strange place in this space. He certainly understands this world. He’s breaking down the particulars for us very well when it comes to interpreting the sights and sounds. But he’s also a guy who isn’t truly part of this world. He’s telling us about things through the stray sounds that drift up into his bathroom, after all. And that’s quite a trick on Díaz’s part.

The selection:

After one of their showers, Boyfriend never came back. No phone calls, no nothing. She called a lot of her friends, ones she hadn’t spoken to in the longest. I survived through my boys; I didn’t have to call out for help. It was easy for them to say, Forget her sellout ass. That’s not the sort of woman you need. Look at how light you are – no doubt she was already shopping for the lightest.

Girlfriend spent her time crying, either in the bathroom or in front of the TV. I spent my time listening and calling around for a job. Or smoking or drinking. A bottle of rum and two sixes of Presidente a week.

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