Our youngest son, (who looks very Anglo and not so much like Mr. López), is “Student of the Week” at his Elementary school.
The “Student of the Week” has many special privileges, one of which is inviting your parents to eat lunch with you in the cafeteria.
And so this is where my husband and I ate lunch today, squished at a too small formica table, surrounded by 8 year olds.
Many of the kids recognized me, calling out my name and waving – my own mini paparazzi with pizza sauce on their faces instead of cameras. No one called out to Mr. López – they only stared silently.
We sat down at the table and began to eat when one of our son’s classmates piped up.
“Excuse me, Mister, are you Chinese?”
My husband looked at me, leaned in and whispered. “Did he just ask me if I’m Chinese?”
“I think so,” I said, not entirely sure and trying not to laugh.
“What did you say?” Mr. López asked the boy.
“Are you Chinese?” he repeated just as openly as the first time.
Mr. López looked at me again, as if to ask me what he’s supposed to say, which made me laugh more.
I set my fork down. “No, he’s not Chinese. He’s from El Salvador.”
The boy’s face was blank.
“Do you know where El Salvador is?” I asked.
The boy shook his head.
“Um, okay, let’s see… Do you know where Mexico is?” I tried, thinking I could give him directions south from there.
The boy shook his head again.
He shrugged and shook his head.
I sighed and turned to Mr. López.
“Está jodido, better just tell him you’re Chinese.”