The Story of Carlos Gomez

By the time the plane had cleared the line of mountains surrounding Barquisemeto’s airport, Carlos was already well into his list for the day. Get on the plane (written and then immediately crossed off). Get off the plane. Take cab to work. Check email messages, returning any important ones. Call five clients to check if they need any supplies; do not take no for an answer from at least three. Morning constitutional. Send out order requests from the at least three who purchased supplies. Call five more clients…

And so it was for Carlos and his lists. He made a list for the day, everyday. He also, sometimes at night, always on the weekends, made long term lists. These usually included goal dates. The goal dates often changed. These lists included get married, have a child (a boy), have a second child (a girl), buy own home, take a vacation, retire…These lists, both the long-term and the day-to-day were often made in classic list form with bullet points, but he also built box matrices because it felt good to Carlos to put a big X through some goal he accomplished; even if it was just getting on the plane. Unfortunately for Carlos, he rarely got to make those big X’s. In his daily lists he maybe got through half of his goals, and those mostly in the morning, and he never made big X’s on his long term lists.

Little happened for him in his life beyond his lists. Carlos looked and acted much the way you might imagine. He was thirty-eight years old and he was getting softer and balder by the day. He was miticulous in grooming, but his style was awful and that neat, little mustache he had taken to wearing was the stuff of fodder when Carlos was not in the room. Carlos was still in sales even though he had been with his restaurant supply company for fifteen years. He took his current sales job in Caracas, leaving his job in Barquisemeto, because he thought it was a step up in the company; a step toward management. Of course, what everyone in the Caracas office knew was that these were the accounts of restaurants that were notoriously hard to deal with, were in the worst of neighborhoods, or placed orders that were barely worth the time of the account representative. Carlos still did not see this, even after four years flying back and forth between Barquisemeto and Caracas. He held out hope that with every sale he made he was one step closer to meeting every goal on his long-term lists.

Yes, Carlos was a stereotype. What was sad was that deep down he knew it. He knew he did not fit socially, at work. He knew he did not fit in his life, but he did not know how to leave it. He did not know how to change the way he looked, he did not know how to engage in proper small talk, and every joke he attempted stepped over some line of poor taste. He knew all this, but was helpless against himself. It was almost like a compulsion, his mind running on autopilot during a nosedive. And at other times it was like an out-of-body experience he could see himself doing or saying something, he could see the cringes or the laughs of those around him, but he could not make it stop. Carlos just continued on and on.

This is how it was for the two weeks I knew Carlos. On that Monday, exactly two weeks after the flight from Barquisemeto to Caracas, on December 11, 2006, Carlos was visiting a restaurant that was past due in payment for an order of napkins, straws and the plastic wrapped packs of utensils. Leaving the restaurant without money, but with a stern talking to by the owner to never come down here again, Carlos was grabbed from behind and dragged into the alley where he was stabbed three times in the back and gut by a busboy at the restaurant he had just left. The busboy took his wallet, his watch and a gold-plated cross he wore around his neck, and then went in the back door of the restaurant, returning to work. Carlos died within the hour, but was unconscious from the moment he fell to the ground. No thoughts crossed his mind in that hour. No goals. No lists made. And then I did not see Carlos any more.