Oscar graduates from Rutgers and moves back home. In case you were wondering, he's still a virgin. Got it? Good.
Oscar starts substitute teaching at Don Bosco high school.
It turns into a full-time job, although Oscar and our narrator don't think too much of the place.
Oscar teaches English and history, but he's not great at it.
As our narrator says, "His heart wasn't in it, and boys of all grades and dispositions s***ted on him effusively" (220.127.116.11). Sounds pretty bad.
The students at Don Bosco mock Oscar along with the other nerds, dorks, and freaks.
And while Oscar tries to comfort the school's "whipping boys," they avoid him too (18.104.22.168).
He even tries to start a sci-fi/fantasy club, but no one shows up to the meetings.
Oscar only hears the "occasional shout of Beam me! and Nanoo Nanoo! outside his door" (22.214.171.124). Nice, kids. Real nice.
He does make friends with a twenty-nine-year-old Latina co-worker at Don Bosco. Her name is Nataly. She sounds like a real piece of work.
She spent four years in a mental hospital and is an avowed Wiccan. She met her boyfriend—an EMS technician—at the mental hospital.
Nataly says that her boyfriend gets off on looking at bodies bleeding in the streets. Your guess is as good as ours.
For Oscar, this provokes some really strange sexual fantasies. Let's just say one fantasy involves a naked Nataly cooking grits. Okay then.
And then Nataly moves away. Oscar tries calling her a few times, but her weirdo boyfriend always answers.
What else is Oscar up to? Not much. He spends some time at the mall browsing comic books, role-playing games, and fantasy novels.
He doesn't hang out with Al and Miggs, who both work at the Blockbuster across town.
Apparently, his old girlfriend, Olga, is in jail for robbery.
He's simply a permanent bachelor. At least that's what he writes to Lola (who is living in NYC).
Our narrator mentions that Lola moved back to the States from Japan to be with him. This is kind of a shocker. Good for you, Yunior.
Life back at home isn't that great for Oscar either. Beli has calmed down a little, but Oscar's uncle Rudolfo is as crazy as ever.
Down and down Oscar goes into a deep depression. He sees himself falling through the air. He sees himself becoming an old, bitter dork. It's got to be the fukú.
Some days Oscar can't even get out of bed. He throws students out of class for nothing at all, and even holds a gun to his head.
In an attempt to get out of the depression duldrums, he visits Lola in New York. She takes care of him and cooks for him.
He learns that Lola was pregnant, but she aborted her child. Our narrator was cheating on her. Ugh. Not cool, Yunior.
Oscar starts planning a quartet of sci-fi/fantasy novels.
He also goes for long drives and dreams about the Mongoose.
Looking for just one more thing Oscar is depressed about? Well, we've got you covered. The sci-fi/fantasy world Oscar knew as a kid is disappearing. These days, all of the kids are into Magic cards.
So Oscar even feels abandoned by the sci-fi/fantasy world. Who'll keep him warm at night now?
Oscar Takes a Vacation
Oscar's mom decides to visit Santo Domingo, back in the DR.
After wasting three years at Don Bosco, Oscar decides to go with her. Why not? He's feeling better. He's even lost some weight.
On the bus, he talks to a girl. He doesn't get a number or a date, but at least he talks to a girl. Nice work, Oscar.
Next, our narrator gives us the dirt on Santo Domingo summers. It's as if all the Dominicans who left come back to visit for the summer. So it's, like, one giant party.
That is, unless you're poor, dark-skinned, Haitian, and so on. Then you're still probably not having any fun.
Anyway, Oscar decides to visit Santo Domingo. In the midst of all this partying, maybe, just maybe, he'll fall in love with an island girl? Let's find out.
The Condensed Notebook of a Return to a Nativeland
Oscar's mom gets all dolled up for the trip down to the DR. Oscar, on the other hand, falls asleep on the plane and drools.
The DR hits Oscar full-force: its tropical smell, air pollution, the thousands of motorbikes and cars, its peddlers, stragglers, crowded buses, and ruined buildings.
There's a new DR emerging. One with luxury cars and buses and good roads, fast-food restaurants and traffic lights.
La Inca's been doing well for herself. She moved the bakery from Baní to Santo Domingo and opened six new bakeries in the city's outer zones. Awesome work, La Inca.
Also, she looks older now. Before, she always seemed ageless. But time caught up to the old gal, we guess.
The reunion between Oscar and La Inca is touching. The reunion between La Inca, Beli, and Lola is even more touching.
Oscar can't believe how much he's forgotten about the DR. The little lizards, the roosters in the morning. So many things to not be depressed about in the DR, eh, Oscar?
His uncle Carlos even gets him drunk his first night there. What a standup guy.
To boot, Oscar has forgotten how beautiful the women are in the DR.
He seems happy. Case in point: "I'm in heaven, he [Oscar] wrote in his journal" (126.96.36.199).
Oscar's cousin Pedro sucks his teeth and tells Oscar that the DR is actually hell.
Evidence of a Brother's Past
Now our narrator describes some pictures of Oscar in the DR.
It seems like Oscar's having a bangup time. Look, there are pictures of him drinking beer. Of him at the lighthouse. Of him buying spark plugs with his cousin. Of him standing next to a donkey. Of him with Lola.
And he's smiling in all of them.
Oscar Goes Native
This chapter begins with a really, really, really long sentence. We're talking close to three pages.
In that sentence, our narrator lists all the stuff Oscar does in the DR. Take a look at the book yourself if you want to know the particulars, but we'll give you the general idea.
Oscar is adapting to the DR. Like, the real DR. And he's having a good time, even though he doesn't always fit in. Always the love addict, he dreams of meeting a Dominican girl.
Truly happy for the first time in a while, Oscar decides to spend the rest of the summer in the DR. Lola and La Inca are more or less cool with his decision. Oscar's mom is a little worried, however. She knows how dangerous the DR can be.
La Inca, truth be told, is a tiny bit worried too. She gives him a crucifix to wear. Does this have something to do with the fukú? Yikes.
Nothing seems to go well for long in this book…
Oh, and since everyone's always trying to make a project out of getting Oscar laid, his cousins try to take him to a brothel. Oscar doesn't go for it.
But he does finally meet a woman. In an awesomely ironic twist, we learn that she's a prostitute.
La Beba [The Babe]
Oscar's lovely lady friend lives two houses over from La Inca.
Here's what our narrator says about this gal, Ybón:
She was one of those golden mulatas [person of mixed race] that French-speaking Caribbeans call chabines [yellow girls], that my boys call chicas de oro [golden girls]; she had snarled, apocalyptic hair, copper eyes, and was one whiteskinned relative away from jaba [another lighter skin color]. (188.8.131.52).
Oscar thinks at first that Ybón might just be a visitor in the neighborhood. Wrong.
He often hits up the local café to take a break from writing fantasy novels.
Ybón walks up to him one day and talks to him. She knows La Inca and remembers Oscar from the photographs La Inca has shown her.
Of course, Oscar's smitten.
Here's what Oscar thinks of her:
She was...to Oscar at least, mad open, mad worldly, had the sort of intense zipper-gravity that hot middle-aged women exude effortlessly. (184.108.40.206)
One morning, Oscar runs into Ybón in front of her house. She invites him in for a drink.
Ybón talks to Oscar for a long time. She's open and frank and Oscar gets the sense that she doesn't get to talk to many people.
She's also a little guarded, though: "there was something slightly detached about her too; as though (Oscar's words now) she were some marooned alien princess who existed partially in another dimension" (220.127.116.11).
Oscar doesn't sweat the detached part. He's actually kind of fascinated by it. He's into her big-time. Yep, we can say it now. Oscar is in L-O-V-E.
But you know who's not in L-O-V-E with Ybón? Oscar's mom and grandmother. They remind Oscar that she's a puta [prostitute or whore].
He doesn't see Ybón for five days. We know he's really got the hots for her because he's nervous and unhappy for the whole five days she's out of his life.
On the first day, Oscar tells himself to stay home and not scare off Ybón.
On second day, there's a red police jeep parked at her house.
Then Ybón is gone for three more days.
When Oscar "finally" sees her, she's doing aerobics in the house. She invites him in.
A Note from Your Author
Yunior responds to possible criticisms of the character Ybón.
He admits that people might say that prostitutes like Ybón don't exist. That most prostitutes in the DR are "underage snort-addicted mess[es]" (18.104.22.168).
Yunior says that this is true.
He stresses that he could have written Ybón differently. So, why didn't he? Because Ybón is a real person.
Oscar met someone who he described as the golden-skinned Ybón, not an underage prostitute.
Yunior is only being faithful to Oscar's story.
The Girl from Saban Iglesia [Savannah Church]
This section begins with a description of a photograph. It's Ybón. She looks good, although her age—thirty-six—is starting to show.
Oscar sees a lot of Ybón.
The third time Oscar goes over to her house, she drinks Scotch and takes down her photo album.
She shows Oscar pictures of herself when she was young. Like, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen. There's usually a random middle-aged white guy next to her. A customer, Oscar assumes.
The pictures follow Ybón through Italy, Portugal, and Spain. (She traveled a lot.)
Oscar likes how Ybón looks now. As our narrator puts it: "the last bright before the fade" (22.214.171.124). That's sort of romantic, but also really sad, we think. Can't older women be really beautiful? Why do they have to "fade"?
Anyway, Oscar is really falling for Ybón. La Inca isn't too happy about the prostitute part, but his uncle is just happy that Oscar has found a woman.
Oscar and Ybón talk a lot. Here are some of the highlights:
Ybón tells Oscar about her two sons, the abortions she's had, the jail time she did in Madrid, her stint in college, and her various boyfriends.
Oscar tells Ybón about the road trips he took with his college buddies, about Lola, and about his suicide attempt.
She gets quiet when Oscar talks about his suicide attempt. She pours them drinks and makes a toast: "To life!" (126.96.36.199).
This isn't to say that Ybón doesn't relate to Oscar's depression. She gets in dark moods occasionally: "her alien-princess part pushed to the fore and she became very cold and uncommunicative" (188.8.131.52).
Luckily, Oscar is usually able to help her out of these funks by taking her to an Italian restaurant or to a movie.
On the way home—Oscar drives because Ybón usually drinks too much—Ybón sometimes even puts her head in Oscar's lap. Aw.
La Inca Speaks
La Inca tells us that Oscar didn't meet Ybón on her street; he met her at a club.
Ybón, as Recorded by Oscar
Ybón's voice takes over.
She tells Oscar that she never wanted to come back to Santo Domingo, but that she had to because she owed people money.
Once you've been beyond it, she says to him, Santo Domingo "is the smallest place in the world" (184.108.40.206).
She adds that a "a person can get used to anything. Even Santo Domingo" (220.127.116.11).
We're guessing Ybón doesn't like the DR all that much.
What Never Changes
As you probably guessed, Oscar is getting really close with Ybón.
He hasn't had sex with her. He hasn't even kissed her. (There's a longer list of things he hasn't done with her yet, but you'll have to read the book on your own for those gory details.)
But Oscar's always watching for signs that Ybón loves him.
He tells her that he wants her to come back for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ybón sighs.
She likes Oscar. That's clear. Oscar seems to be one of Ybón's few friends.
Yet, she keeps her life pretty simple. Her house is spare and she doesn't like to have too many friends. She likes to keep her life in the DR quiet and orderly.
One day, Oscar finds three condom wrappers by Ybón's bed.
Ybón makes a joke about how the guy wouldn't quit.
Of course, our boy Oscar does know that he's not Ybón's only visitor. Still, the condom wrappers make Oscar a little sad. We know that he wants to be the one leaving condom wrappers by her bed.
Oscar at the Rubicon
Ybón starts mentioning her police captain boyfriend to Oscar: the capitán. Um, girl, don't you think you should have said something about that a lot earlier?
Here's where things start to rapidly go down hill, all over again. She tells Oscar that the capitán is jealous of Oscar, and that he wants to meet him.
Ybón even tells Oscar that maybe Oscar should spend less time with her.
Most sane people would run for the hills at this point. Or at least get out of Santo Domingo.
A Third World cop boyfriend is nothing to mess with. Especially if he "wants to meet you," which is probably code for, like, shooting you in the face.
Oscar wakes up late one night at La Inca's. He knows that he's going down a bad road. That he's falling in love with a woman who has a violent boyfriend.
But that's the thing. He's falling in love with Ybón. He once saw her naked (she was drunk and she took off her clothes to get in bed), and he can't stop thinking about her.
So it's too late for Oscar. He's too far gone. He can't stop this love train now.
Two days later, Oscar's uncle is inspecting the front door.
It has a bullet hole in it—somebody shot at La Inca's house. Uh oh. We know where this is headed, don't we?
Oscar's uncle thinks somebody was out spraying bullets, but La Inca looks at Oscar knowingly.
They both know it: it was probably the capitán boyfriend.
Oscar goes to see Ybón again anyway.
Oscar Gets Beat
The title of this section says it all: here, Oscar gets "the beating to end all beatings" (18.104.22.168).
Who do you think administers said beatdown? We'll give you one guess. Yep, Ybón's boyfriend: the capitán.
Here's how it goes down. Oscar and Ybón have been out together, and Ybón has been drinking. She's drunk as a skunk.
The family taxi driver, Clives, is leading Oscar home. (Oscar doesn't know his way around Santo Domingo so he just calls Clives whenever he needs to drive Ybón home. Clives leads the way and Oscar follows in Ybón's Pathfinder.)
There are some cops up ahead. They let Clives pass, but they stop Oscar.
They ask Oscar to step out of the car.
Oscar tries to explain that it's Ybón's car. No one cares.
Ybón wakes up and says she wants a kiss from Oscar.
She must give him a real wallop of a kiss because this is how our narrator describes it: "And before he could say anything she was on him. The feel of a woman's body pressing against yours—who among us can ever forget that?" (22.214.171.124-6)
This is Oscar's first kiss, believe it or not. We're rooting for you, buddy.
But alas. The kiss ends pretty quickly because the two police grunts—our narrator calls them Solomon Grundy and Gorilla Grod—shine their flashlights in Ybón's car.
The capitán is standing behind them.
Grundy and Grod yank Oscar out of the car. Ybón is too drunk to protest.
Next, we get an interlude: a brief biography of the capitán.
The capitán was too young to take part in much of Trujillo's madness when he came to power.
So, instead, he worked for Balaguer's military police doing violent and unforgivable stuff. (Balaguer is another terrible dictator-type in the DR's history.)
Oscar looks into the capitán's eyes. They're blue and terrible, so he knows he's in trouble.
He blurts out that he didn't do anything, and that he's an American citizen.
The capitán, Grundy, and Grod all say that they're American citizens too.
Then the capitán asks Oscar if Oscar knows who he is. Oscar says yes. You're Ybón's ex.
If Oscar were handsome, the capitán probably would have killed him on the spot. But by now, we all know he's homely. So the capitán takes (some) pity on him. He punches him a couple times. (This is strange; people fall in love with "homely" people all the time, don't they? It's what's inside that counts, right?)
Don't forget that the capitán is a military-trained sadist [someone who takes pleasure in hurting other people]. So even though he only received a few punches, Oscar "felt like he had just been run over by the entire Steelers backfield circa 1977" (126.96.36.199). Ouch.
The capitán tells Oscar that if he ever touches Ybón again, he's going to kill him.
Grundy and Grod drag Oscar into their car and drive off.
They take poor Oscar to the canefields. (Question: Where did the goons take Beli? Yep, same place. This could be the end.)
Oscar is scared. So scared, in fact, that he pees in his pants.
He always imagined that he would turn into a superhero at a time like this. Of course, Oscar doesn't turn into a superhero.
So then he starts to imagine his own funeral. He thinks about how his mother and La Inca would stand before his grave.
Soon, he starts crying. Grundy tells Oscar to keep quiet. When they get to the canefield, Grundy and Grod stop the car.
They try to turn on their flashlights, but the batteries are dead. So they buy some new batteries at a gas station where Oscar thinks he sees a faceless man. Why they bother to do this when they have a hostage with them, we're not sure.
Anyway, now Grundy and Grod decide they're ready to walk Oscar into the canefield.
Oscar expects them to shoot him right then and there, but instead they strike him (hard) with the butts of their pistols.
It's a serious beating. At one point, Oscar thinks three people are beating him.
But Oscar passes out before he can figure out what's really going on. He feels like he's falling from the Route 18 bridge.
Clives to the Rescue
Luckily, Clives follows Grundy and Grod.
He waits for them to leave, and then goes looking for Oscar.
Clives can't find him, but he hears someone singing. (Your guess is as good as ours. Maybe it was the magical mongoose?)
He follows the voice to Oscar. He's nearly dead.
Oscar is also too big for Clives to carry back to the car. So Clives recruits some Haitian fieldworkers, and, together, they carry him back to Clives's taxi.
Although he promised to drive the Haitians back to their camp, Clives takes off for the hospital. Good choice, given that Oscar is, like, dying in his car.
Still, the Haitians throw rocks at Clives's taxi.
Close Encounters of the Caribbean Kind
Oscar has a dream in which he chats with a mongoose.
The mongoose asks Oscar what he wants: "More or less?" (188.8.131.52) We're not sure what this refers to. Life? Love? The DR?
In any case, Oscar realizes he wants more.
But he is swept back into the darkness.
Dead or Alive
Here's the damage: "[b]roken nose, shattered zygomatic arch, crushed seventh cranial nerve, three of his teeth snapped off at the gum, concussion" (184.108.40.206).
At least Oscar is alive. For now.
La Inca and Oscar's mom pray for him. No one mentions the similarities between Oscar's beating and his mom's. No one except us, that is.
Briefing for a Descent into Hell
Oscar is out cold for three days.
He has a series of fantastic dreams, but he can't remember any of them.
He does remember, however, "the image of an Aslan-like figure with golden eyes who kept trying to speak to him" (220.127.116.11). Is this the Mongoose?
Later, Oscar does remember one of his dreams. In the dream, an old man is holding up a book for Oscar to read. The book is blank.
He wakes up.
As soon as Oscar's doctors give her the go-ahead, Oscar's mom buys a plane ticket for him. He's going home to Paterson.
She also lets Oscar have it for being so stupid, even though he's recovering from a serious beating and all: "You, stupid worthless no-good hijo-de-la-gran-puta [son-of-a-big-prostitute], you are going home" (18.104.22.168).
Of course, Oscar doesn't want to go home. He's a hopeless romantic whose every thought is still consumed by Ybón.
His doctor isn't able to rule out permanent brain damage. Keep this in mind, because Oscar makes another bad decision later in the book.
First, Oscar resists any attempts to put him on a plane. Which is impressive, since he's in a great deal of pain and on tons of morphine.
Weirdly, since he now knows what it's like to get a beatdown, he swears he'll never write another fight scene.
Oscar realizes, though, that the police capitán wouldn't have bothered to put such a hurting on him if the police captain didn't feel threatened by him.
He concludes that he and Ybón must have had a relationship. It must have been going somewhere, you know?
It also dawns on Oscar that the story about the family curse might be true.
He even says the word: fukú.
Oscar pages Ybón. No answer. He yells "I love you!" in the street. He even goes over to Ybón's and rings the doorbell. But his uncle drags him back home.
After three days, Ybón shows up.
While she sits on Oscar's bed, Oscar's mom bangs pots in the kitchen and says "puta" [prostitute] loud enough for everyone to hear.
Dressed in white, she has two black eyes because the capitán beat her.
The capitán also put his gun up her vagina and asked her "who she really loved" (22.214.171.124). The capitán is obviously totally and completely evil.
Ybón tells Oscar that she and the capitán are getting married, before she gets up and leaves.
Oscar's mom, grandmother, and uncle all tell him that it's time to go. They drive him to the airport, and then Oscar's mom and uncle fly with him back to Paterson.
The fam meets Lola at the airport. She cries when she sees him.
Our trusty (or not so trusty) narrator calls Oscar, and gives Oscar a hard time about almost getting himself killed. Jeez, can someone give this guy a break?
Oscar tells Yunior that he finally kissed a girl, and Yunior comes to see Oscar a few days later.
When he does, Oscar writes out a word for Yunior: fukú.
A woman says, "Travel light," and she extends her arms to embrace her house, perhaps the whole world (126.96.36.199).
We think this is Ybón, since she once told Oscar to travel light.
This is a mysterious little section.
Back home now, Oscar recuperates in bed. His mother won't even look at him, she's so mad.
Oscar knows he loves Ybón. A lot.
He knows he should just run back to her, but he has bad dreams about the canefield.
And in those dreams, Lola and his mom call out to him, but he runs away from them.
With little else to do with his copious amounts of downtime, Oscar watches the movie Virus for the thousandth time and reads Lord of the Rings for like the millionth time.
Six weeks after the colossal beatdown, Oscar dreams about the canefield again.