My friend Juliana says that if you want to meet Jesus you should go to a bar.
Jesus was like my grandmother’s best friend. She talked to him more than she talked to anyone else. So I figured if I wanted to learn about her then I should find him.
I waited at this little bar down the street from my apartment night after night, but it wasn’t til I went to my friends’ house to make soap and quesadillas that I actually found him.
We had all been at this girl’s shop, Rosa Pistola in Colonia Juarez. It was a little boutique that sold neo-goth streetwear, enormous sunglasses with cat ears and spikes on them, and neoprene sweatshirts with anthropomorphic marijuana leaves on them. Once a week that shop transformed into a private dance class for queens and femmes who wanted to practice perreo. A girl with curly-wavy hair and denim overalls (only one strap clasped) leads the class. The class allowed me the opportunity to feel that I had really come up from the days in marching band and dieting in high school, a chance to twerk in the mirror. And it got me an invitation to this little soap party.
After the class, a group of us walked, like, 25 minutes to this girl’s house – the sun setting, we passed a vaulted relic left by Spaniards, and a bunch of ladies in prom dresses texting on the back of a Cadillac convertible. We stopped and bought squash blossoms in a can, Oaxacan cheese and black beans, some herbs for the soap and a bunch of bottled water and coca cola. Up to the 9th floor, no elevator. Everyone was skinny but me.
We get to her house and start melting down the glycerin in these huge pots. Add food coloring. Add salt or brown sugar for exfoliation. Add scents: rosemary or maybe peppermint. Choose a mold so your soap can be shaped like a tiny pig or a flower or a vulva. I decide to make my soap blue, jasmine scented, and shaped like a flower. Don Charles is there (remember Don Charles?). He’s wearing a poncho and tenn-ees with no socks. I ask him if I should put sugar in my soap. I’m worried it will give me a yeast infection. “That soap is gonna make your pussy shine like a diamond, baby,” he says, a joint dangling from his mouth.
I’m bad at smoking weed. I never had that initiatory moment that everyone seemed to have when they were 13 and that one friend they’ve since lost touch with or who died in a car accident forced them to learn how to smoke, and they coughed and coughed and then barfed a little while their friend laughed and watched them taking deep drags on their own cigarillo. I can’t say I didn’t have a rebellious phase, but it wasn’t my love of trouble that got me there. It was my love of dick (or maybe it was my drive for casual love and transient intimacy. I hate sleeping with people I know. It’s disgusting. Sleeping with strangers allows me to fuck someone who’s never hurt me before, and who I won’t know long enough to hurt me later. Clean.).
I laugh at Don Charles’ casually dispensed RiRi poetics and then go into the kitchen to make the quesadillas.
I want to be useful and I feel confident that I am the best at incorporating squash blossoms from a can into the cheese. This feeling is based on nothing, but I am definitely the most passionate of the bunch when it comes to squash blossoms. The first time I had a squash blossom was in Oaxaca, that time I went to shunt my colonized self away from the un-infected rest of me I’m not sure even exists. Down there they put the blossoms in soup, deep fry them with batter. They’re delicate. Eating flowers in the south of Mexico – a place that reminds Mexicans of their pre-colonial past – is something, almost bold, almost poetry.
I open up the can and the squash blossoms are wet, floating in salty water. I pick out each one and carefully wring it out over the sink. Then I put it on a plate with a paper towel, letting them dry out a little. I turn the stove on, put oil and some salt on the pan. Open up the little plastic bag filled with corn tortillas. The oil starts to sizzle and I take the first tortilla put it down on the pan. I push the tortilla down with my fingers, hastening the sizzle. I open up the plastic bag with the queso Oaxaqueno in it. The cheese is like a white coiled snake inside. I grab its head and pull it out, break a piece off, begin to peel it like the string cheese my grandma used to get me sometimes when I was little. I lay the cheese on the tortilla, watch it melt a little. Now the blossoms. Another tortilla on top. Use the spatula to push it down, and get the cheese to adhere to it. Add a pinch of salt. Flip it over. I make 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 quesadillas, stack them on a plate with a towel on top to keep the moisture in, the steam keeps them warm. My grandma taught me that.
When I walk outside I notice there’s a new person. I had been so immersed in the kitchen that I hadn’t heard the door open and a new person walk in. He had long hair that was up in a man bun. His skin was dark, like a person who always walks across the street to be on the sunny side. Dark brown eyes, almost black. He had a double chin, and a beard. “What are you, some kind of Marxist?” I thought. I was annoyed that there was a new person I had to incorporate into my night.
He looks up at me. I read him as straight and that automatically puts a lemon in my mouth.
He probably wants to fuck one of these flacitas. He’s fat, but with that man bun god knows he must be a self-loathing self-righteous piece of shit hipster misogynist who can’t understand that his lack of attraction to fat women is a sign of his own internalized inferiority. Whatever. I’m just gonna eat my mufucken quesadilla as loudly and grossly as possible, not even offer to make him one, and pretend he isn’t here.
He asks everyone if they want a beer. Presuming he’s only talking to everyone but me, I don’t answer. He tries to get my attention: “Hey, you, la feminista, do you want a beer?”
“No.” I say shortly.
“Can I get you something else then?” he asks.
Oh shiiiiit. He’s like doing some other thing I don’t understand. Well, ok.
I tell him I want some bubbly water, mineragua. I know he’s gonna have to go to the bodega to get it, down the 9 flights of stairs and back up again. We’re both about 250 pounds. He’s gonna feel every one of those steps, like I did. Everything’s always a test. I’m expecting him to say no. He has registered that I am bitter and suspicious already. He’s smart enough to know that. So I wait for him to say no, but instead he stands up, puts on his shoes and says he’ll be right back.
ABOUT THE BOOK
I release a new chapter a week on Thursdays - unless I'm exceedingly overwhelmed or whatever I write is so epically terrible I'm too embarrassed to put it on the internet.