Chapter 26

I feel like I’ve been introduced to everyone in Mexico. They seem to marvel at me, like I’m one of the seven wonders of the world. Some spoke kindly, some sympathetically, some were really happy, grabbing my hand and hugging me at the same time.  I heard Primo and Tia And Tio so many times I can’t remember what means what right now. Man, am I related to every single person here? Nobody brought a date that I noticed. I used to laugh when the employees would all call each other primo like it was some joke, or familiar expression or something. Maybe they weren’t kidding after all.

I better grab some food while I still have the chance. Gotta get me some guacamole and maybe try some of that red salsa everyone seems to be eating. I hope it’s hot. I love hot sauce. I use two packets of Fire sauce on every taco and burrito I eat at work.

I grab a  big blue tortilla chip and dip it into the red salsa. “Mmmmm.” perfect. “This is great. Nice and hot. Me gusto mucho.”  Yes, white guys can eat hot stuff too. Here I’ll show you how we do it up north. I’ll just fill this big chip with salsa, and pop it into my mouth whole. “Mmmmmmm.”

“Yaaay! Bravo! Pancho!” Everyone is cheering and I get some pats on the back. I guess I am now one of them. It feels like I passed a test.

Oh well, it’s only for one night. I need some more Sangria. “No, no cervesa, gracias. Yo prefer-o Sangria.” Beer—Ugh! Don’t remind me. I get the willies just thinking about it.

Primo Jose walks up and points to a small bowl of some orange, salsa looking stuff. “You like?”

I’ve never seen orange salsa before, but then again, I’ve never seen blue and red tortilla chips either. “Looks good.”  I scoop out some of the orange salsa with a tortilla chip and put the whole thing inside my mouth. See?

“Holy- ssssslllllppppppp!!!! ptuaw, ptuaw Aaaaaahhhh,” my mouth is literally on fire. ”Aaaahhhhhhhh. Sangria, Beer, yeah, anything, just gimme that. Oh my god, that’s so hot!” Everyone is laughing. Cough! What the hell is in that? Sneeze! “Awwww,” it’s even hotter when it comes out my nose “Aahhhhhhhhhh shit! Mother of . . . I try to breathe just through my mouth. Breathing through my nose is like snorting napalm. Yeah another beer. “Ahhhh.” Cold liquid cools it down a bit,  but when I stop drinking, my mouth flames up again. I grab another beer. “Ooooooow. You son of a . . .”

I chug the beer in seconds, then grab Jose by the shirt, but he doesn’t move. “Wow, you’re stronger than you look.” He grabs me by my shirt and we go down together. “How do you like this, primo?”  I get him in a headlock. “Yeah, sucker . . . Owww Owww Owww.” My ear feels like it’s about to be ripped off.

I let go of Jose and jump up, “okay Grandma, we’ll stop, we’ll stop!” Yeah, get him by the ear too, it was Jose’s fault. Damn that hurts. Almost makes me forget about the flaming marshmallows that are stuck to the inside of my mouth. “Okay, Okay, we won’t do it again.” Yeah, we’re dirty again. “Sorry.”

Dust is flying in the slight breeze. Everyone except Grandma is laughing, but her eyes . . .  I think she may just like dispensing justice. She says something about important and don’t get dirty. Is there some kind of ceremony for these types of parties?

Aunt Josie appears with a tall glass of milk. “No gracias Tia Josie. No quiero leche.” I need another beer, my mouth is still extremely hot.

“Si, si, es necesario. You need it.”

“Yes, drink,” Jose says.

“For sure I’m not going to drink it if you tell me to Jose.”

“Milk make the hot go.”

“Oh, really?” I don’t know whether to believe him or not. My mouth is still flaming hot and my eyes are still watering. “Okay. Thanks Tia Josie. Gracias.”

I take a cautious sip, but I don’t taste a thing. I don’t know how many beers I used to put out the fire. Hey, I didn’t even taste those beers. Maybe that’s the secret of drinking beer: eat something really, really, hot and fry your taste buds. I bet even tequila would taste okay right now, although I’m not about to test that theory.  “What was in that stuff anyway—acid?” They both look at me, and then at each other, like they both are waiting for the other one to tell me. “What the heck was it?”

“Habanero,” says Herminio.

“Habanero?” Everyone is nodding. I think I’ve heard of that.

“Much hot,” Jose says.

“You fricking got that right. Caliente!” Oh, great Uncle Carlos and his buddies were laughing so hard, they have mud stains on their cheeks.

Jose looks like he’s taking a bow. You’ll get yours buddy, just you wait.

It looks like one of my aunts or cousins is going to eat some Habanero. That’s not even half of what I had. She eats the chip, and smiles. She seems to like it. Now the men are laughing again, and holding their sides. I get it. A girl can handle habanero, but not the white kid. Yeah, thanks for that.

Herminio hands me and Jose another beer, and they raise them above their heads for a toast. “Cheers.”

“Salud,” they say together.

Habanero. I’ll have to see if we have any of that back home. Not a bad party trick as long as you’re not the one eating it.


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