words by me

hasta la raíz

– Yeah but you’re not that type of Mexican! You always love pretending like you are
– I-I didn’t…
– Here we go again

She always did this. We have been friends for half our lives but sometimes it felt like the first interaction with someone you know you won’t be seeing again.

I moved here when I was fifteen. I met her that year between third and fourth period. We were the only two Mexicans that spoke Spanish in the entire school - that was odd. I let her cheat in US history.

– I’m just saying, I didn’t knew any of this until this year
– “Know”
– Yes
– No, pendejo. “Know”, se dice didn’t know. If you use “did” you don’t say shit in past tense.

I’ve never used the “did combo” wrong since.

She was from here like the rest and that was the reason I was so surprised she spoke Spanish. She didn’t just speak Spanish; she knew Spanish. She would even write the acentos - that’s how you know if someone knows Spanish.

– Gringos never write accents because they’re not used to decorated words.
– Decorated?
– Yeah! English is so plain. letter letter letter. güacala. ¡En español decoramos nuestras letras hasta en el mismo nombre! Español, ñe, e-ñe. Gringos could never.
– You do realize Spanish is a colonizer language, right? I didn’t know you loved your colonizers that much.

She was always a fucking step ahead of me which is why I was so thrown off by today’s conversation. We hadn’t seen each other in about a year. She lives in the east coast now working for some fancy bio lab testing fungi on oranges. You can tell someones making a lot of money by how specific their job is. Testing fungi on oranges? She was making bank, no doubt in my mind.

We met at Lolita’s like we used to after school in high school.

– I’m just saying burritos aren’t this big in Mexico
– Dude, she’s Mexican! From Mexico!
– Ok but she lives here and sells food here in this white ass town

“Bro, you’re kidding, right? You live here!”, she laughed. “It’s different”, I sighed. Was it? Soon, I will have lived a larger share of my life in this place than I did in Mexico. At one point I must be more American than Mexican, no? Like, mathematically.

– Just because you like pretending you’re from the streets doesn’t mean everyone else has to to be a “real” Mexican.
– I what?
– You heard me
– I’m not pretending to be anything, what you mean?

I didn’t say I was “from the streets”, I said I was poor and that the news aren’t too wrong about certain aspects of my city. People get killed everywhere, though. I don’t think that makes us special.

– You love talking about how dangerous it was growing up over there. We get it, you’re tough.
– What the fuck? I’m not. You know I’m not.
– That’s why it’s so weird that you pretend to be this street dude
– What the fuck are you talking about, foo? That doesn’t even make sense.
– You know that story? About Marcelino?

I grew up on the same block with Marcelino back home. We were inseparable. Two summers after I came to the US I was home visiting and I heard he had joined an organization. He would invite me to hang out with him at fancy restaurants and strip clubs. I would tell him I wasn’t trying to get my head chopped off so I would have to pass on his generous offers. “Conmigo no te va a pasar nada no seas marica, puto!” was his usual response. The texts always read aggressive but I knew he was laughing as he typed it.

– How is that me pretending to be anything? I shouldn’t even have told you. This is why I don’t tell people shit. They never understand.
– I don’t understand?
– Don’t try to switch this on me, foo. You’re the one calling me a pretender
– A pretender?
– You know what I mean. I wasn’t tryna show off or, you know, presumir nada when I told you about Marcelino.

I really wasn’t. Marcelino had recovered my car after it was stolen outside my aunt’s house last summer. It was a coincidence he texted me to invite me to the strip club that afternoon.

“No puedo we me acabar de robar el carro jajaja”
“Dónde verga”
“Aca con mi tía wey. Literal llevaba aquí media hora nomás”
“No hay pedo ahorita se arregla”

Half an hour later I was driving to the strip club in my car. I really had no excuse now. I don’t know what happened and I didn’t want to but it can’t have been good for the people that took my car in the first place.

– It sounds like you really like sharing that side of you
– To you! ‘cause you’re my friend?!
– Damn, look at you all agitated

I was. She was laughing.

– I am who I am. I grew up where I grew up and I take those experiences with me on everything I do. Just like everyone else.
– Ok, pues.

She was smirking and took a bite of this giant American ass Lolita’s burrito. She knows how much it bugs me when people associate my city with cartels and violence. As if people didn’t get murdered here for dumb shit too. I only told her about Marcelino because the experience was so surreal. I guess that’s what being Mexico is, if I’m being honest. Surrealism. That would explain why we’re all so different; Mexicans.

Marcelino’s story was a sad story. After that happened I knew I couldn’t hang out with him. Like, forreals. I didn’t know then but that was the last time I would see him alive. Three weeks from, I would be eating another Lolita’s burrito when I would receive a WhatsApp from my mom telling me they found Marcelino dead. She wouldn’t tell me what happened but Chino would send me the Facebook post with the pictures of body hanging off a bridge in el periférico with the a sign stapled to his chest signed by another cartel.

Lolita’s burritos aren’t even good. They’re just the least bad around here. I don’t mean to compare everything to how it was growing up in Mexico but everyone here loves to talk about how authentic they are. The food they eat. The music they listen to. Ugh, the music. My classmates’ parents left Mexico in the 90s so that’s all they knew. This is before streaming so I should consider myself lucky they know Julieta Venegas and Maná even if they believe those are the only two big artists Mexico produced in 20 years. I don’t bring up Mexico. They all do.

– You don’t understand because you’re not from Mexico. That’s not something to show off. That’s just something that happened. These things happen all the time.
– Yeah but you’re not that type of Mexican! You always love pretending like you are
– I-I didn’t…
– Here we go again

hasta la raíz - spotify