Summary: Interlude

The January after his disastrous visit to Santo Domingo, Oscar visited Yunior in Washington Heights. Yunior’s relationship with Lola was disintegrating at the time because he continued to cheat on her. They now lived in separate apartments.

Oscar seemed distracted, and his face still bore the marks of his attack. He had also lost a lot of weight. He told Yunior he’d spent much of his recovery time writing, but he planned to return to work at Don Bosco soon. He also hoped to move out of Paterson. He had a line on an apartment in Brooklyn, but he needed money for a security deposit. Yunior agreed to give him the money.

Oscar stayed a while and spoke with Yunior about Lola. Oscar insisted that Lola loved Yunior, but he wanted to know why Yunior kept cheating on her. “If I knew that, it wouldn’t be a problem,” Yunior responded. Oscar suggested that Yunior try to find out.

Summary: Chapter 7

Oscar didn’t use the money Yunior gave him for an apartment. Instead, he bought a flight back to Santo Domingo. When he arrived, he called Clives to pick him up at the airport and take him to Ybón’s house. He waited for seven hours before Ybón came home. Surprised at his sudden appearance, she told Oscar that he needed to leave immediately. Oscar explained how much he loved her and that all he wanted was to spend a week alone with her somewhere. Ybón, who was now married to the Capitán, lived in fear of the man and begged Oscar to leave the island. He refused and then went and let himself into his grandmother’s house. La Inca found him there when she returned from work at the bakery.

Oscar divided his time between writing his novels, researching his family’s history, and pursuing Ybón. He went to the Riverside, a club where she danced. She ignored him and wrote him notes begging him to leave before he got hurt. Oscar’s family tried to convince him to leave as well. La Inca exerted all her powers of persuasion but to no avail. Beli, Lola, and Yunior flew down to demand that he return home, but he refused them too. They all felt that Oscar had changed: “He had gotten some power of his own.”

One evening, Oscar ran into the Capitán at the Riverside. Oscar stared the Capitán in the eyes then left in a hurry. Some nights later, when Clives was driving Oscar home from the Riverside, the Capitán’s henchman commandeered the taxi at a red light. They drove back to the cane field, and on the way, Oscar imagined his whole family, including his dead grandparents, getting on a bus with “the Mongoose” as the driver and “the Man Without a Face” as the ticket collector. When the car arrived at its destination, Oscar sent telepathic messages of love to his family and to all his former crushes. In the novel’s final footnote, Yunior glosses Oscar’s telepathy with a quote from The Watcher, a character from a comic called The Fantastic Four: “No matter how far you travel . . . to whatever reaches of this limitless universe . . . you will never be . . . ALONE!”

The Capitán’s henchmen walked Oscar into the cane field and shot him.

Analysis: Part III, Interlude & Chapter 7

When Oscar critiqued Yunior’s failure to reflect on his problematic treatment of women, he did so out of concern for a man he considered his friend. Oscar criticized Yunior once before in Chapter 4. At the time, Yunior felt upset that Jenni Muñoz had rejected him, and he called her a “bitch.” In a brief moment of confidence and self-possession, Oscar rebuked Yunior. Whereas this rebuke had more to do with defending Jenni than reforming Yunior, the scene in Yunior’s Washington Heights apartment re-emphasizes the need for Yunior to examine his treatment of women. As Oscar subtly implies, this will also require Yunior to develop a deeper understanding of his own sexuality. Oscar’s advice in this scene reinforces the novel’s overall critique of Dominican standards of masculinity as it implies that though Yunior is traditionally successful with women, he is also unable to maintain a loving relationship. However, it also demonstrates a latent tenderness in Oscar’s friendship with Yunior. In expressing concern for Yunior and his relationship with Lola, Oscar showed that he really cared about Yunior’s well-being. Oscar’s kindness clearly brought something of value to Yunior’s life as evidenced by the fact that he chose to write an entire book devoted to Oscar.

Considering Oscar’s long history as a shy and introverted youth, his sudden expression of confidence in the pursuit of Ybón demonstrated a newfound source of power. In a way, Oscar’s apparently reckless pursuit of Ybón recalls his previous crushes. Oscar proved himself unable to shake his affection for either Ana Obregón or Jenni Muñoz even after any chance of romantic involvement had disintegrated. Oscar’s pursuit of Ybón especially recalls that of Ana since both women dated abusive men at the time Oscar made his advances. Yet something was different about Oscar’s desire for Ybón. Oscar went to more extraordinary lengths to court her than he had ever gone before. Not only did he pack up his life in New Jersey, lie to his friend to get money, then secretly fly back to Santo Domingo with a single goal in mind, he also defied every member of his family, stared down a formidable enemy, and showed courage in the face of death. Oscar clearly tapped into some new source of power, one that provided him with the confidence to approach a range of difficult and even dangerous circumstances. However, as Yunior reflects, the precise source of this new power remained ambiguous.

In the novel’s final footnote, Yunior uses a quotation from a comic book to send Oscar a telepathic message through time and space. The footnote comes immediately after Yunior has described how Oscar, knowing he was about to die, quietly sent telepathic messages to everyone he’d loved. Of course, the reader should understand this description as an act of speculation on Yunior’s part. There’s no way he could know what Oscar was really thinking in the final moments of his life. Even so, Yunior imagines that Oscar might have sent ephemeral messages of love through the ether. He then immediately appends a footnote that quotes a character from The Fantastic Four called the Watcher who calls out, “You will never be . . . ALONE!” Yunior has repeatedly referred to himself as “your humble watcher.” With this connection in mind, it seems possible that Yunior imagines himself as the Watcher, calling out these words to Oscar wherever he might be. It is even possible that Yunior invented the idea of Oscar sending telepathic messages for the sole purpose of sending his own and expressing love for a friend whose loss he still grieves.