21 September 2010

A Gringo in America

Bonus night at the burrito joint, thought Colin McInerney as he stood in line for a weekly installment of frijoles and carnitas, Not one but two, count 'em, dos, ponytails workin' the line.  Rosa and Carmelita, the Burrito Sisters.

He fingered the worn bills in his pocket.  It was a nervous habit, exacerbated by the butterflies making lazy loops in his belly.  That he was nervous just made him flustered, and he could tell by the heat there was a flush creeping up his neck and over his face.  The ears in particular felt hot, like fleshy heat sinks riveted to his head.  Colin blinked rapidly from the effort of trying to appear calm.  The effort was tremendous, that of trying to catch glimpses of the pretty ladies behind the counter without being caught in the attempt.

There were gaps in the line of people, odd voids shaped by the heads and shoulders of the other customers standing alongside one another.  Colin was using them as a sort of hedgerow in which he could hide and see without being seen.  He hoped.  Every so often one would look his way.  It took all his concentration to avoid flinching, like he had been hit by rubber bullets from an invisible riot gun.  Still, anyone close would have seen the jerks and twitches, the rapid side-to-side motion of Colin's head, and would probably be wondering what sort of nervous affliction he was carrying.

The line moved forward.  Colin was next up to the counter.  The Captain of the Comal, as Colin had dubbed the man working the griddle, was a friendly sort.  "Colin, amigo! Good to see you!" called the Captain; Colin liked it because it made him think of what Cheers would have been like if it had been set in a cantina, and Norm walked through the door.  On another level, Colin thought it was a nice touch considering just how many of his weekly calories came from this place.  Of course, the Captain was the only person he had the nerve to actually talk to on his many visits.

"Hey, Captain, que pasa!  Gimme the usual, please."  The Captain slapped a tortilla on the griddle and closed the lid.  "This time, add a double scoop of the frijoles, please".

Out of the corner of his eye, Colin had seen the first counter woman, the one he called Rosa (the cashier lady he called Carmelita, although he had no idea why; they didn't wear name tags and if had heard someone call her name he hadn't really been paying attention), glance over at him when the Captain had called his name.

"She knows I'm here, at least.  Probably knows I've been staring," Colin muttered to himself, suddenly feeling warmer as the Captain ladled the beans and meat onto the tortilla and slid it down the counter over to Rosa.  He gulped.  He was next, and he would have to look her in the eye.

He inched down the glass to look up into a pair of the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen,  perfectly sized roundels of mahogany-colored stained glass.  She was smiling at him in that way peculiar to the front lines of fast-food joints everywhere: friendly, perhaps, but not overly so and looking a bit clip-on.

He didn't care.  She was talking to him.  Brown eyes, ponytail and corporate polo shirt just so, and Colin hoped he could get the toppings without sounding like what he was: a dork with a crush.  Her eyes seemed to get bigger as he stared at her.  Her lips, that lovely smile, began to part and Colin knew what was going to happen next.  She was going to ask him what he wanted on his burrito.  He gulped.  She spoke.

"What would you like on it?" she said, in English tinged with the hues of Mexico.  Colin blinked, once, twice.  His mouth opened. 

"What would I like? You, of course.  Just you.  Come out from behind the counter, right now, and let me kiss you on the mouth, twine my fingers in that ponytail.  Rosa.  Is that your name?  Not that it matters.  Your name could be anything and I would love it.  Just like you.  Love you, that is.  Am I being too forward?  I hope not, I hope I'm not bothering you, because really, I am in love with you.  Just like that.  I come in here every week and you, well, you are one of the reasons I do that.  Because its stupid and silly and I can't help myself.  So please? Let's leave here and get married and live somewhere where its warm in the winter and we can sleep with the windows open. Please?"

Colin blinked again, suddenly realizing his jaw was hanging slack.  Oh, shit, did I say all that out loud? he wondered. There was a rustle of impatience in the line behind.  Rosa was staring at him, half-bored and half-annoyed.

"Sir?  What you like on your burrito?" she repeated.

"Uh, the mild salsa, lettuce, cheese and guac, please," he squeaked.  His neck flushed hotter and he wondered if anyone could see him glowing.  Rosa swiftly added the toppings and rushed the burrito over to the counter.  Colin looked away, embarrassed, but felt a little relieved that she had already turned her attention to the next customer.  He pulled the bills from his pocket to pay.  A fine tanned hand at the end of a fine tanned arm put his meal on a tray and slid it across the counter.  Colin froze momentarily, then jerked a little at the voice.

"Any chips and salsa with that? A drink?"  Carmelita asked, a feminine bell calling the faithful to prayer.  Colin looked up across the counter...and into a pair of the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen,  perfectly sized roundels of emerald-colored stained glass, and a ponytail the color of ravens.  She was smiling.

Oh, lord, groaned Colin inwardly, here we go again...

"What would I like? You, of course.  Just you..."


  1. Oh, Baby!

    Is it hot in here...or is it just me?


  2. :-) ahhhh love. that was SO sweet!!!

  3. And now all I can think of is my wife's enchiladas and a cold beer. Thanks.

  4. "a feminine bell calling the faithful to prayer." LOVE THAT LINE. Great story, Irish.

    And now I must depart for a jaunt to Chipotle and a ginormous burrito, extra toms and guac.

  5. God you've got a way with words. So concise. Not a word too many, never the wrong one.

    It's so nice in your head. :-)



"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

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