The week had been tough relationship-wise. Everyone I was close to was pissing me off. My roommate set a bug bomb off while I was sleeping (mistake, of course). My mom wasn’t calling me back. And el Venado, the boyfriend, kept screwing up.
He called Friday night. The first ten minutes of the conversation were tense. He was trying, but I insisted on answering his open-ended questions with yeses, nos, okays, and fines. Of course I wasn’t fine or okay, and he could pick up on it. Ten minutes into the conversation he finally received my telepathic clues and said what I wanted to hear.
“I want to see you.”
“Because I miss you.”
“Will you come over?”
“Okay, but only if you make me pancakes for breakfast.”
“Whatever you want.”
“I’ll see you in half an hour.”
I tacked on an extra ten minutes to make him think I needed time to pack. Of course, I was ready to head out to his place. I’d already packed a change of clothes and my toiletries in my red overnight bag. Half an hour later, I parked on the steep hill outside his apartment and gave him a call.
“Okay. I’ll be downstairs in a minute.”
El Venado didn’t keep up his end of the bargain the next morning.
“We don’t have any pancake mix,” he said as he looked over the pantry shelves once more. “I can make you chilaquiles… or chorizo con huevo.”
“No,” I whined. “I want pancakes!”
“I can go to the store or Jim’s.”
“I’m already hungry. My head hurts.”
“Then let’s go to Jim’s, it’ll be quicker”
We got in to his red car. We made a left from Marengo to Soto. At Cesar Chavez, he waited for pedestrians to cross the street before turning right.
“I thought Jim’s was on First.”
“It is, but I need to stop by the bank.”
It seemed as if everyone in Boyle Heights was out shopping, running errands and enjoying a late breakfast on a sunny November morning. Men, women and kids walked the crowded sidewalks clutching plastic shopping bags.
Cars lined up at the stoplight at Breed in front of the bank.
I looked around. To my right musicians in white shirts, jeans and Tejanas strolled around the tables at George’s burger stand. They played some classic ranchera for approving diners. Before I had the chance to identify the song, I heard the familiar bass line of Santana’s “Oye como va” thumping out of a grey El Camino heading east. The young men in the front seats bobbed their heads to the beat, oblivious to the bustle around them.
The light turned green. El Venado turned on Breed and parked in the crowded BofA lot.
“I’ll be right back. I just need to get cash and deposit this check.”
I leaned back in my seat, soaked in the sun and enjoyed the faint sound of guitars and singing from the músicos at the burger stand.
El Venado returned a few minutes later.
“You ready for your pancakes?”