March 5, 2015.
It is obvious the old man with the grey moustache is doing all he possibly can to keep his eyes above the chest line. It is not an easy thing to do. The girl on the other side of his cabinet is pretty. Her dark curls fall down on her lavishly presented bosom, like a tropical waterfall into a pond. She nods vehemently while telling the tale of her family’s terrible fate. Then, all of a sudden, she breaks down in tears. He opens a drawer and gently offers her a stack of red napkins, unopened in the plastic.
The episode is interrupted for yet another commercial for “La Nuestra Belleza Latina”, New York City’s blazing beauty pageant for Hispanic women.
That’s my name. Or sort of. In a cloud of steam, three short Mexicans with thick moustaches are cutting and baking meat and avocado under the television screen. The shortest and fattest of the three brothers – Los Tres Hermanos, say it like Nat King Cole would – is waving at me. He wears a wide smile and has radiant eyes. He chuckles under a red baseball hat.
“Eight dollars please.”
There’s a taco-avocado explosion on my plate.
“Excuse me. How do you eat this?”
“We Mexican eat with gands”, he laughs, “but you Europeans with knife and fork. Over there”, he points at the side of the counter.
I take my plate into the warehouse. In the dark corner of the hall, the Hermanos’s sisters, wives, mother, father and kids are packing taco bread rolling out of a deafening machine. I sit down at a table two rows from a closed iron gate. This restaurant is a garage.
Except for a staring writer-in-observation in the left hand corner, everyone here is younger than me. Hats and coats are not taken off. A company of six at the next table. A skinny beardless boy in oversized jeans dungarees gets up and addresses his friend in a overly self-conscious and fashionably gay way. Ridiculous. His friend, wearing a black skeleton overall, crotch between his ankles hindering every step, carefully projects his answer on the ceiling before answering.
What will hipsters wear when they get older?
“So I’m like… you know, I like drugs, the things they do with your mind and your body. I once even took one of my friends to my work when I was trippin on LSD.”
“You what? Wow, that’s totally awesome.”
At the end of my table there’s a couple my age. He’s handsome – beard, black short curls, and she’s pretty – blond, tall, Dutch-like. He has tattoos all over his arms and hands. The red-green tattoo on his fist says “La Vida”. Both wear lumberjacks and the volume of their conversation is blasting.
“I know. Yeah. Like, listen to this. I was like…comin back from this really cool underground party – like…invitees only – in the morning with my best friend, we were like all high and stoned and drunk, and guess what happened?”
“…I don’t know!”
“Guess what? I passed by my job. Yeah. Really. So I went in and started talking all kinds of crazy shit to my boss. Can you imagine that?”
“Oh-my-god! That’s so amazing.”
“Yeah, I know, and my boss was like: whaaat?”
“That is so awesome.“
“Yeah, but you know, I’m like the kinda person that gets real chill when I’m on drugs.”
“That is so amazing. What kinda place was that?”
“Just some pizza parlor somewhere.”
“Awesome! That was your job?”
“Yeah, like, you know what happened then? I was like all kinda chill and my boss gave me an apron and I just started working.”
“What? You were on an LSD trip and your boss wanted you to work? That’s just so amazing!”
“Yeah. But I mean, I was also supposed to be working. It was like my shift and all that kinda shit.”
“Wow, this is such an amazing story. Wow, I am so happy you told me this. Thanks so much for sharing.”
“Yeah. I like working when I’m on drugs.”
“So you still work in that pizza parlor?”
“Yeah, but you know, I don’t give shit about pizzas. Like…I wanna do movies.”
“Wadda you wanna do in movies?”
“I don’t know, I don’t even care. I just wanna do movies. You know?”
“That’s so interesting. You are such an awesome person. I’m so thankful we met.”
If he is so awesome, what am I?
I finish rolling my cigarette and make for the door. The Mexican family is gathered in the dark now, silently dining besides the silenced machine, staring at the clientele. Outside, drizzle is eating the snow. There’s just enough space under the roof gutter. The smoke lights up in the glaring neon.
A young couple in oversized black hats, way too tight jeans and worn-out sneakers hurries through the puddles on the sidewalk.
The girl: “So I was like: you had sex with a dog. Because basically, that’s what she had.”
“Exactly”, the boy affirms with a smile.
I smile, too. It’s one of those moments of pure happiness. I’ve come to the right place.
To be continued…