Chile with Lime and Salt
My artist friend walked straight up
to the counter lined with aguas frescas,
a spot I had never even noticed before,
and she ordered an ensalada de fruta
with cucumber slices and syrup and tajín
seasoning. Me? I wanted a hot chocolate
but all they had was Nescafé or hot water.
So I ordered a pan dulce, a classic cuerno,
which kind of looks similar to a croissant
in the way it folds into itself like a horn.
I took a big bite and my black sweatshirt
turned white from all the sugar that fell off
that sweet, soft horn. It was no use. I had to
eat the whole thing and dust myself off later.
My artist friend, meanwhile, clearly had
the nicest snack at our table, the perfect
mix of sugar and spice, the chile with lime
and salt glittering inside the syrupy cup.
The night before, I had carefully shaved off
the center of my mustache down to bare
skin, leaving two tiny tufts of dark whiskers
that looked at a distance like dirty dimples
over each corner of my mouth. I decided
that I would try a little taste of the chaos
of Chicano modernity and attempt to make
my inner Cantinflas more real, to see
how I would feel with such a distinctive
look. It did not seem to be working. A few
stares, but not one single comment all day.
My indigenous blood was not strong enough.
My European blood was not strong enough.
My mestizo blood was not strong enough.
My only strength came from the cuerno,
an announcement in a hunk of a sweet treat
that said: I was drunk on my own imaginings
and no disguise could mask this comedy.