“What in the name of Goya…?” That one phrase, from a single post more than a year ago, hooked me for good to El Guapo in DC. Along with some very fine writing. Hilarious, poignant, to the point, heartfelt–I adore this glorious Guatemalan’s stories about his neighborhood, his quest for love, his job, his family, and especially his friend Miguel. I am so glad he suggested a guest post on my site, because I was too shy to suggest it to him. That’s what phenomenal writing does to this Gal–it renders her speechless with admiration.
Gracias, El Guapo, por compartir tu historia. Los mojitos van por me cuenta. Solo dime la fecha hora y lugar!
Food Fight for One, Please
“El Guapo, look at me. No! That’s enough.”
Mi madre always made me look at her when she wanted me to stop doing something. I’m not sure what it was, but her look was often paralyzing. Given her refusal to admit that her baby was anything but perfect, my body never had the benefit of drugs for hyperactivity. Her two brown eyes were the only Ritalin I ever needed.
“Stop it, right now! Stop it!”
The dining room was full of smells that, for some reason, made the decor that included rust-cream velour drapes make a little more sense. But the background music, the metallic clangy tones and sounds, made me more nervous than I cared to be.
“Look at how Mama does it. See? You use your hands with the pancake. It’s fun! See? Do it like I do!”
Listen lady, I know that we’ve been through a lot together. The whole birth thing, that, well, that was something, let me tell you. Allowing some guy with really hairy arms tilt me back and pour water on my head, well, I didn’t care for that, but I liked the attention (but just know that guy had wandering hands). And I can’t sit here and say that I don’t appreciate your handling my soiled undergarments.
But this, no. Not this. I’m getting bigger now and I don’t care for this.
“Just do it how I do. See?”
No. What kind of back woods place did you bring me to? You want me to eat with my hands? No. I don’t get it. You’ve been ‘El Guapo please’ here and ‘El Guapo please’ there wishing for me to use these shiny things to put food in my mouth. And I’m finally getting the hang of it.
Now, now you want me to use my hands? No. Do you know what I think about that? Look over there. That meteor of multi-colored food that just landed on the other side of the room? Yeah, there’s a lot more where that came from, lady.
“El Guapo, please stop throwing food. Por favor, baby. Stop doing this.”
Did you see how far I just threw that yellow stuff? I totally hit that lady wearing the white drapes. Did you see that? Do you realize how amazing my aim is? I wasn’t even aiming for her, but I hit her dress-thing. That was absolutely incredible. Seriously, why aren’t you amazed by this? Why am I the only one who is impressed with this?
Why is the woman with the yellow stuff on her dress-thing not happy right now? What is she saying to you? What are you saying to her? Wow, that’s a lot of yelling.
Fine, look at me. I’m eating with my stupid hands. See this? Mmmmmm good. Look, see? Actually no, I don’t like this. Give me water. This is really spicy. No, there. Now, look. I threw the red stuff over there. I don’t care for this at all.
Good, I’m glad we’re going. Seriously, did you see how far I threw the red stuff? Did you see this Guatemalan arm? Priceless.
“El Guapo, nino, you, ay, you…”
Mi madre never finished that sentence, and it was many years before she even dared take her beloved son into another restaurant. It is a fact that after this incident, she never took any of us into a restaurant that didn’t offer a fork and a knife.
I was lucky to have a mother who liked eating out so much, because, through her, I fell in love with the magic of dining in restaurants. Savoring the sensuality of sharing delicious food has, to this day, never lost its appeal–and it all started with a well placed side arm of Ethiopian cuisine.