When I was a kid, I grew up with a variety of people in my family. The ones who kept to themselves and behaved were biologically related to me. The others, the ones who wound up in jail or had to go on welfare, they are related to my father’s wife, and not are not technically related to me. At least, not biologically.
In my father’s house, the ones who skipped school, mouthed off, and generally acted like jerks where the ones who got all the attention. They got to see to the movie that they wanted or got the presents they asked for. As for me, at my father’s house, I would often get the leftovers. I might have gotten good grades and behaved in school , but I rarely got any attention for it. To some in my family, it might have seemed like I was only part of the scenery. Like I was an extra in a movie where they were the stars, and I had no feelings of my own.
In my story “One of Many” in my book Destined for Greatness and Other Stories, I wanted to give a voice to the character least likely to be heard: Pedro. He’s almost completely forgettable in my first novel, Fragile Creatures, (even I, as the author, almost forgot about him) because he’s not particularly loud or obnoxious or sneaky or intelligent. None of his qualities make him memorable, except for the fact that he appears to have none. It is almost if he does not have any personality whatsoever.
But the thing is, Pedro is still a person. And while he may not push his way into the front of the line to get attention, he still has feelings. In the story, we find that Pedro tries to make friends with one of the seminarians he really likes, named Quico. When Quico chooses to spend time with another student instead of Pedro, Pedro becomes hurt. And when Quico leaves the seminary with that other student for good, Pedro is devastated. It affects him for much of the rest of his life.
Still, in my first novel, this is not obvious to the readers because Pedro is not a main character. In a way, he forms part of the scenery in Fragile Creatures. He’s forgettable and, more often than not, we don’t realize that a person like this has a story, too. I can relate to a protagonist like this because in many ways I am a lot like this character. I’ve lived that kind of life. And, let me tell you from first-hand experience, it’s not fun.
I wanted to give him a story because in the end I wanted to give him a voice. This is because, ultimately, he has a voice. He has wants, just like everyone else. Just because you don’t hear it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have one. Just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.And when he does not get what he wants, he is heartbroken, just like everyone else. No, actually it can feel worse. This is because when an extrovert is hurt, he shares it with everyone else. This can sometimes lessen the pain. But when an introvert is hurt, you never really know it. And he doesn’t get to share his pain. In a way, it makes the situation much more difficult. It becomes more devastating.
The main reason why I wrote about Pedro was to remind readers that even wallflowers get the blues. Even people who blend in with the walls and chairs and day-to-day activities have feelings, although they may not seem like it. On the bus or at work, he’s the one who’s always around , who spills coffee on himself and has to wear the stain the rest of the day. He’s the guy in the cubicle across from yours, working diligently but is never promoted. He’s your neighbor you never hear because to make a ruckus you have to have more than one person in the apartment, and he finds it difficult making friends with others. He’s the man in line at the grocery store buying tuna and bread because there’s no point in making a big dinner if you’re the only one who’s going to eat it. He’s the guy still waiting for his coffee when you’ve already finished yours. Still waiting for what he wanted, even before anyone knew that he wanted anything at all.
- Juan Rulfo: Pedro Páramo (1955) A Classic of Mexican Literature (beautyisasleepingcat.wordpress.com)