I switched to regular numbers because I suck at Roman numerals and who knows how long this saga will continue. (If you’re new to this story, read Parts I through III first.)
Pero, you’re not here for a history or mathematics lesson, verdad? You’re here for the chisme. Well, this will be a long one, so get comfortable. Listos? Okay…
So, last week, the whole familia, (including Suegra, of course), piled in the car to run errands. As we passed through downtown close to Clementina’s Market, Carlos asked where else I needed to stop.
“We’re almost out of tortillas,” I said.
Carlos narrowed his eyes at me.
“Why do you want to go in there? They sell tortillas at the other Latino market,” he said as we sat at a red light.
“Yes, but they don’t give away free piropos at the other Latino market,” I said. Carlos didn’t laugh. The light turned green and he pulled up a few car lengths from the large glass windows of Clementina’s Market.
We had been speaking English but Suegra is a metiche and had understood the gist of the conversation. She offered to go in and buy the tortillas herself. Maybe Carlos was embarrassed that his mother knew he was celoso because he said, “No, está bien.”
Before I knew it, I was walking through the familiar door of Clementina’s – the bells clanging against the glass door. My heart pounded in my chest remembering the last time I had been here – how awkward it had been for him to tell me he had fallen in love with me – to have touched my hand. Clementino looked up, and seeing me, broke into the happiest smile you can imagine.
I tried to appear nonchalant and greeted him with a “Buenas tardes,” on my way to the back of the store to get a package of tortillas from the fridge. I grabbed two bottles of Jarritos so I could use my debit card, ($5 minimum.) As I made my way back to the front of the store, I became increasingly anxious about how Clementino would act towards me after what had happened. I put the tortillas and Jarritos on the countertop.
Clementino’s face had changed since I came into the store – he looked serious, when only moments before he had looked so happy.
“No Bubu Lubus?” he mumbled when I didn’t reach for the box on the counter.
“No, hoy no,” I said.
“¿Porqué no?” he asked, running my debit card through the machine.
“Es que una amiga me mandó una caja de Bubu Lubus y tengo suficiente ahorita,” I said, trying to sound cheerful.
He looked at me as he put the receipt on the counter.
“Mentirosa,” he said without malice. “No quieres comprarlos de mí…” he said raising an eyebrow.
I signed the receipt, “No, de veras, una amiga me mandó—” I said feeling defensive.
“Mentirosa,” he said again with a small smile.
I told him “Hasta luego” and went out to the car, which was now parked right in front of the big glass windows. I got in and buckled my seatbelt.
“Everything fine?” Carlos asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Did he behave?” Carlos asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Man! Don’t look so disappointed about it!”
“Yes you are!”
“Well, I just feel… am I not cute today or something?”
Carlos started laughing.
“What?” I said.
“You know why he behaved?”
“Because as soon as you went in, I pulled in front of the store. He looked out the window after you went to the back and I waved to him. He knew I was watching.”
This made me feel a little better and it explained why he’d had such a sudden change in mood. Still, I wondered if things between Clementino and I could return to normal. I would have to wait another week and eat a lot of tortillas before I could try my luck again.
Suegra and I went to Clementina’s Market – Me to buy tortillas and Suegra for phone cards. Before buying her phone cards as usual, Suegra went to the back of the store. I put the tortillas on the counter and looked for the box of Bubu Lubus, but it was no where to be seen.
“Y los Bubu Lubus?” I said, looking at the blank space where they used to be. “¿Dónde están?”
“Bubu Lubus no vendo ahora,” Clementino said.
I grabbed a package of De La Rosa Dulce de Cacahuate, (my other favorite.)
“¿Porqué?” I asked, handing over my debit card.
“Porque no vienes a comprarlos de mí,” he said.
I smiled and raised an eyebrow, unsure of whether he was just out of stock and joking with me, or if he had found a way to take revenge for not accepting his piropo weeks ago.
“Síííí,” he reassured me, “Los Bubu Lubus – no más.” He rubbed his hands together as if cleaning them off and showed them to me empty, with a small smile playing on his lips.
Suegra appeared behind me, “Clementino,” she demanded, interrupting us. “¿A cuántos son?” she asked, holding up an avocado. Clementino quoted her the price and Suegra sighed disgustedly, muttering about how expensive they were as she went to return it to the produce section.
Clementino leaned down and whispered in English, “Do you get along with your mother-in-law?”
“…More or less,” I said translating the Spanish words “más o menos” that I had almost said aloud.
Clementino shook his head. “I don’t know how you do it.”
“She can be… difficult,” I admitted.
“Yes,” Clementino said, “She is a VERY difficult woman.”
We shared a smile as Suegra came back to the counter to buy her phone cards. I left feeling hopeful that our friendship was now back on track.
That same day, later in the evening, Carlos and I ran an errand. Suegra asked Carlos to buy her phone cards. We stopped at Clementina’s Market and since it was late and cold and I was tired, I stayed in the car while Carlos ran in by himself. This was Carlos’s first time facing Clementino since the whole situation began. I watched the store anxiously. I saw Carlos go to the counter, Clementino handed him phone cards, and Carlos came back to the car within 2 minutes – the whole transaction happened without incident. I felt happy. Things were finally getting back to normal.
We brought the phone cards home and Carlos handed them over to Suegra.
“Pero estas tarjetas no sirven, vos!” Suegra said immediately. Despite the late hour and the fact that Clementina’s Market would be closing in 20 minutes, she insisted Carlos bring her back to exchange the phone cards. Carlos put his jacket back on and with car keys jangling in defeat, headed back out with Suegra behind him.
Since all had gone so well earlier, I didn’t worry for a minute about Carlos going back to the market – so I was shocked when he and Suegra returned full of anger.
“What happened?” I asked.
Carlos and Suegra told me the same story – they had gone into the market and Carlos asked to exchange the phone cards because they were the wrong kind. Clementino refused to exchange the cards saying, “You were never here today.”
Carlos told Clementino, “But I was just here, less than an hour ago!” and Clementino continued to insist that Carlos was lying. They both raised their voices to the point that Clementino’s wife, Clementina, came up to the front counter to see what was going on. Carlos explained to Clementina what had happened while Clementino shouted over him that he was a liar, and that “only the muchacha [referring to me] came here earlier today with her,” (indicating Suegra.)
Having had enough and not wanting things to escalate further, Carlos stormed out. Suegra stayed and Clementina exchanged the phone cards while chastising her husband and asking him what in the world had gotten into him.
Carlos and Suegra are now boycotting Clementina’s Market.
Part 7: Clementino, ya no me quiere