I think 2007 wasn’t a bad year after all. I know I’d been fired, but there were other events (good and bad) that made the year interesting. Yes, even the bad had something positive in it. It’d been a year since I started going to school and had more coherent conversations with people. However, I noticed something interesting: if I knew the person I was talking to spoke Spanish, I’d find myself unable to focus and somehow gravitate toward my Mother Tongue.
That happened when I met Carla on the bus, for example.
Pinche guevon! I’d call myself, which roughly translates to ‘fucking, lazy schmuck.’
I made a mental note to force myself and stop doing this.
One thing that was still fresh in my mind was the short conversation I’d had with Margarita Palma about her business. I thought about it as I was inside my wooden box, watching a movie on the desktop computer. It was a week after the last time I’d seen her.
Saturday, February 10th, to be more precise.
I took her business card out of my wallet. She said to call her when I was ready. I’m definitely not ready, but I still wanted to know what she had to offer.
I put the card back in the wallet and turned off the computer. Then I put on a pair of black Timberland Boots I’d bought at K-Mart and walked out of the box. The day was clear, a bit chilly. What was it? The last days of winter? I’m pretty bad when it comes to memorizing the seasons.
Instead of calling, I thought, I’m gonna go and see if she is at work right now.
I took the bus this time, didn’t feel like riding my bicycle. Even if I dislike riding the bus, doing it for free made everything somehow better. Once I was in Goleta, I pulled the red cable, and the chime let the driver know someone had requested him to make a stop. When he stopped, the bus emitted that familiar puff I was beginning to hear even in my dreams.
I’d sat right in front of the back, automatic door. It opened after the driver pulled over. I stepped out quickly, waved the driver goodbye, and found myself once again across the street from the 7-Eleven, which was open for business this time. I didn’t see cars coming, so I decided to jaywalk. I like to break the small laws.
Altamirano’s Restaurant was packed this time. It was 1:30 in the afternoon. I walked in and scanned the place; people of all sizes and colors were enjoying Mexican food and listening to mariachi out of a jukebox at a far corner. I didn’t see that last time I was here, maybe because I sat outside.
The smell of the food and the music made me a bit melancholic. Yes, it happens once in a while.
A blonde waitress was wearing blue jeans and a white polo shirt. She talked in Spanish with a group of Mexican, bearded men who could not stop staring at her breasts. They were good breasts. I had to agree.
Margarita was on the other side of the counter, yelling at the cook, “Te dije que no le pusieras cebolla!” she said, complaining because the cook had put onions on something.
She was pissed.
I came closer and sat at the bar. “Didn’t know you spoke Spanish,” I said, wondering why I felt like I always made stupid comments, unknowingly.
She turned her neck quickly. I almost imagined it would go all the way back, like that girl from The Exorcist movie. Her anger dissipated for a moment. “Neither did I,” she said, and a brief smile lifted the corners of her mouth. She took two plates with rice, beans, and mole to one of her tables.
“Ahorita vienes por el otro!” the cook yelled, telling her to come right back and get the last plate.
She looked at me and said, “I’ll be right back.”
I nodded, thinking about the mental note I’d made earlier. Fuck it, I thought. I guess we can talk in Spanish once in a while.
Well, the fact was, I never had another English conversation with her again.
About twenty minutes later, I was already enjoying a plate of mole with a side of rice and beans; now that I remember, I didn’t use to eat beans with mole when I lived in Mexico. I also had a glass of coke on my left and warm tortillas on my right.
Margarita took a quick break, talking weather broadcast, politics, and general celebrity gossip with the other waitress. Later, I learned she was from Durango, Mexico, but forgot what her name was. I think it was Cecilia, but I’m not sure. From a small fridge, Margarita grabbed what looked like an energy drink. It was yellow, the size and shape of a Red Bull.
“What’s that?” I had to ask.
Her eyes flickered. “This is from my business, the one I told you about.”
The other waitress walked away after a customer requested her services.
I took a sip of my coke, and the refreshing bubbles made my nose tickle. “Yeah, that’s actually why I came,” I said.
“Have you found a job?”
I shook my head.
“You’ve been a week without work?”
“Yes, but I have to start looking. Money is beginning to fade.”
She took another drink from the fridge and put it next to my coke. This one was silver and had two orange letters in the middle: an ‘X’ and an ‘S.’
“Energy drinks?” I asked.
“Yes. They are way better than the other ones.”
“Everyone says that,” skepticism all over my face.
“This one has vitamins. The other ones don’t.”
“Then your business is selling energy drinks?”
“No, I sell everything.”
That was vague.
“What do you mean ‘everything’?” I asked. “Like Amazon?”
She sighed. “Did you see the back of the card I gave you?”
I didn’t. I took the card out and saw it. “Amway,” I read, my mind already searching for a memory, something that might announce I’d seen this noun before.
“Rings any bells?” she wondered.
“It’s a company that had been around for about fifty years. There are many people like me. We are called Independent Business Owners.”
Still searching for memories in my head, I did come across something. “Multilevel Marketing?”
Her eyes flickered again. “Yes! Have you done it before?”
“No, but I remember a Jehovah Witness who used to visit my mom back in the day, trying to change her religion and hoping to sign her up on Herbalife,” I said. “And Herbalife is similar to Amway, right?”
She wanted to say no. I could almost see the one-syllable word coming out as her tongue touched her palate, and the sound threatened to come from the back of her throat. “More or less,” she finally said. “But Amway is better.”
I had to smile at that. “Yeah, whatever we do, it’s always better than the rest.”
“I could show you the business plan.”
“Ok,” I said.
“I’m going to have to call my partner and set up a meeting. She has a lot more experience and can tell you more about the business.”
I frowned. “Just give me an example.”
She looked nervous. It was as if I asked her to have sex with me on the bar, next to the tortillas and rice I didn’t eat. She didn’t look confident anymore, and I had the feeling she appeared confident before because she was trying to change her body language.
We all do that once in a while.
She dared to be vulnerable. “I haven’t been doing this for a long time,” she said. “I just signed up recently.”
“That doesn’t sound like recently to me,” I said, smiling.
“I feel like, if I tell you, you aren’t going to like it,” she said. “That’s why I want you to listen to someone who knows how to explain the business the right way.”
That made sense. I could see Margarita’s dilemma.
“Tell you what,” I said, “call your partner and tell her to come so that we can have a meeting right now.”
The look on her face wasn’t hopeful. “She is in Oregon right now.”
I thought about it. “I’m gonna give you my number. Call me when she comes.”
She looked hesitant. “Are you sure you aren’t going to ignore my calls?”
“I give you my word,” I said. “That’s all I have.”
She seemed hopeful this time. “Deal!”
I paid for my food, took my energy drink, and walked away. I didn’t see Margarita until June, four long months later. Meanwhile, I started looking for jobs. It wasn’t easy, but I managed. I also reconnected with Carla and found out she had a boyfriend who was happy to help me learn English; at least, he said initially. And like I said, 2007 turned out to be a memorable year. I met many interesting people, made unforgettable friendships, and somewhere in the end, love entered my life again.
Photo by Qimono.