First You See Her, Then?

To me, a beautiful woman with a book is something I could only envision in my wildest imaginings

By Tommy Villalobos, Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: January 27, 2017

First You See Her, Then?

"There is no such thing as romance in our day; women have become too brilliant; nothing spoils romance so much as a sense of humor in the woman." I made the foregoing declaration after downing four beers at the Green Bar. I then looked around for engagement.

A Fríjol seated two bar stools from me and to my right, made no response. I figured he was concentrating on a lost love or even a lost wife.

To my left sat a Pepino who also seemed lost in some Pleito from long ago and two states away. Sure, sometimes it took him several minutes to react, but he always responded. I liked bouncing my thoughts off him.

"Oscar Wilde wrote that down in his play, "A Woman of No Importance." What do you think?" I added.

The Pepino took his customary few seconds to ingest my words, burped, then said, "I think all the time," as if proudly proclaiming heartfelt pride in a well-hidden fact.

"But what do you think now?" I challenged. By the way, I am Edgar, the Barrio Sage, or the Barrio Be-Knowing-It-All, as some misguided souls call me. I like to read books and people. However, back to the Pepino. He was still thinking as we get back to him.

"About what?" he said, with another underscoring burp.

"The women of today and their take on romance."

"I can tell you about women," said the Pepino. "One day when I turned eight, my mother dropped me off at my abuelita's and never came back. I didn't cry. I laughed. I went from one female who cooked like an army sergeant, to a grand Señora who filled me with Comida Méjicana from sunrise to sunset. I haven't tasted such tasty cooking since she turned in her olla.

Considering how this Pepino's misfortune turned into a Spielberg ending, I recalled what a famous man once said, "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." In my case, I must always add, "If you give him some time."

I then remembered her like it was something that happened right before I walked into the bar.

It all started out one spring day at a Chicano book fair. She, the object of my discourse, was selling books at a bookstall. To me, a beautiful woman with a book is something I could only envision in my wildest imaginings. I could compare it to a guy seeing a babe approach him out of nowhere with two big mugs of beer, set both before him and slide in next to him.

I walked up to her bookstall, opening one of the books. It was about life in early San Antonio while I was thinking about life in present East Los.

"What are you looking for?" she said as she walked toward me in a methodical manner, which I, being Chicano-blooded Edgar, saw it in a salacious manner.

"Do you have anything by Edgar Solotán?" I gave her my name even though I have never written as much as a grocery list. I did this just to take up her time, and, thus, observe her, and hang with her beyond the usual allotted time under the circumstances.

"No, but if you whistle the first five lines, I might recognize something." She was obviously on top of her Chicano Literature. She gave me a stare, okay, a glare that said she did not appreciate me or my ancestors, going back to my first ancestor plucking wild corn in some valle in Méjico.

Seeing how she caught me off guard and had wrapped my tongue several times around my throat, she then politely said, "What are you looking for?"

"Ah, the eternal question," I said, regaining my cerebral equilibrium. "Are you a philosopher posing as a beautiful woman?"

"Neither. I'm just me."

"Just you?"

"Con safos."

"You from around here?"

"Chale. But I ain't saying where. Don't want no trouble at no book fair. But don't cross me, ese. I can take care of myself."

Another saying by that famous man crept into my brain: If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.

I was about to make another U-turn of the many I have taken during my lifetime when she said in a soft, inviting voice (okay, maybe not, but that's the way I heard it), "This is a very good book. Read it myself. Three times."

Holding a thick book with both hands, she pushed it toward me as if it were a cake she had just baked for me. I read the title while she still held it firmly under my nose: "The Ways Of My Abuelita Jesusita For Today's Chicana & Others" by Clotilde Bonista.

"That's for girls," I spit out.

"And others," she spat back.

She withdrew the book and placed on a shelf below her.

"What else you got?" I said, hoping to recapture the only friendly moment she had offered me.

To be continued…

Illustration by Helene Thomas of Yakima, Washington. She did the cover of Tommy's latest novel, Outline For Love.

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