Clementino, ya no me quiere

(New to the Clementino saga? Start at the beginning.)

With my supply of Bubu Lubus at dangerously low levels, and my attempts to find another local dealer of my favorite Mexican candy having failed, I swallowed my pride and found myself outside Clementino’s store. Weeks had passed since our last encounter – since the day he had gotten into a shouting match with my husband. Carlos granted me permission to go to the store on the condition that I “act like una mujer casada and not like a school girl.” … Fair enough.

The bells on the door tinkling behind me, I went inside the small dimly lit store. As I got in line behind a little woman wiring money, Clementino looked up and smiled. There on the counter top sat the familiar blue box full of Bubu Lubus – his previous threat to no longer sell them had only been a bluff meant to make me feel badly for not accepting his piropo.

The woman in front of me shuffled out of the store and I approached the counter.
“Buenas tardes,” I said.
“Buenas tardes…¿Qué quieres?” he asked in a friendly way, lifting his chin toward me.
“Cinco dólares en Bubu Lubus,” I said, looking at the box.
“Cinco dólares…en… Bubu Lubus,” he repeated, taking the box down and counting them out on the counter.

I thought about saying something, about asking why he had been so rude to my husband that day – but what acceptable excuse could there be? I asked no questions and he offered no apologies. The unspoken thing sat between us like an unseemly fence between good neighbors.

After a moment passed, Clementino cleared his throat. Breaking the silence, he finally said what was on both our minds.
“Estás enojada conmigo.”
“No, no estoy enojada,” I replied, immediately chastising myself for being too nice.
“Sí, estás enojada,” Clementino insisted, “porque ya no vienes a visitarme como antes.”
“Bueno, estoy un poco enojada,” I said. He lifted his eyes from the counter top and looked at me.
Before he could say anything and before I could lose my courage, I forced myself to say what I knew I should.
“Portaste muy mal con mi esposo,” I said, tsking him.
“No,” he said shaking his head.
“Sí,” Now it is I who insists. “Sí, portaste mal.”

Clementino switches to English as he slides my debit card through the machine.

“Your husband said I sold the phone cards to him, but I didn’t,” he said meekly. “You came that day – not your husband. I never saw your husband that day. Maybe he bought the cards from my wife, but he said I sold them to him, and I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did. Yo estaba en el carro cuándo él venia a comprarlas. Bien recuerdo que fue tú.”

Clementino shakes his head, puts the receipt and pen on the counter. I sign while he puts the Bubu Lubus into a small, black plastic bag.

He holds the bag hostage as he tells me, “He came with your mother-in-law. Your mother-in-law always has problems with the phone cards – nobody else. If she was a more regular customer, I would care, but she only comes for the phone cards and to cause problems. N’hombre. I don’t care about her.”

I’m not sure what he expects me to say. Not liking my Suegra didn’t give him the right to yell at my husband that day. I look at Clementino. He doesn’t apologize. Qué terco. He shrugs as he hands me the bag.

“Okay then,” I say, sighing. “Hasta luego.”
He lifts his chin in my direction and mumbles “hasta luego.”

Standing on the sidewalk in front of the store, blinking against the bright afternoon sunlight, I feel a little like a deflated balloon. Clementino ya no me quiere… this is a good thing… but I was so hoping we could go back to being friends.

Tatuado

My cumple is at the end of the month, but Carlos wanted to give me his gift un poco temprano.

This is Carlos’s first and only tattoo… y lo amo!

Suegra still doesn’t know about it. When she finds out, she will probably threaten to disown him, (otra vez.) She believes tattoos are a pecado and that only “mala gente” like pandilleros get them. When Carlos told me this I said, “Wait, doesn’t your older brother have tattoos?”

“Yeah,” Carlos said, “but when my mother found out, she slapped him.”

So Carlos’s birthday present to me? A permanent reminder of his love, and the promise of mucho drama to blog about in the coming days.

(Thanks, nene!)

Gringa Invasion

While she passes most of her time in Chalatenango proper where her family lives, and Soyapango where Carlos’s childhood home is – Suegra sometimes goes to visit her childhood home which is in a town in the mountains of Chalatenango called San Luis del Carmen.

I visited there one afternoon when we went to El Salvador. Against all my gringa instincts which screamed that I needed a seat belt, I rode in the back of a Tío’s pickup truck with my then one year old baby. They threw cushions from the sofa in to make the ride more comfortable. We rode up, up, up, stopped for some bony looking cattle to cross the road, and then up, up, up some more. San Luis del Carmen was very quiet. There was a pretty white church, typical Salvadoran-style cement block homes lining the road, the ever present chuchos aguacateros (street dogs), and a small store selling soda en bolsas and snacks.

A typical Salvadoran-style house. “DIOS ES AMOR” means & “God is love”

chucho aguacatero (street dog) that followed us

A little store selling snacks, etc.

Carlos enjoying a bag of orange soda and a snack.

Suegra’s modest childhood home has been kept in good repair despite being over 50 years old, though no one inhabits it. The home sits on a fair amount of land – the trees in the backyard are heavy with coffee beans.

That is how I remember San Luis del Carmen, so I was surprised when Suegra told me there are a lot of gringas there now – “jovenes, chelitas, americanas – como vos!” she says, though I imagine they are younger than me – maybe Peace Corp. volunteers or missionaries. She says they are pairing up with young Salvadoran men, (she emphasizes that they are dark-skinned country boys – “pero puro del campo!” she says, as if this made it more shocking, which to me it isn’t. Country boys have their charm though I married a city boy.)

Suegra went to San Luis during the feast day in December. During the festival, the town traditionally picks a “reina” (queen) … This year, the reina was one of the gringas.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this. I’m fascinated by the idea of an entire village that ten years from now may be made up of families that resemble my own. Part of me wonders if these girls know what they’re getting into. It’s one thing to marry a Salvadoran who has immigrated here – but quite another to marry a Salvadoran in El Salvador. My mind swirls with the compromises, sacrifices, and struggles they will face. Culture shock. Language barriers. Machismo. They are on his turf. They are on their suegra’s turf. As romantic as it appears on the outside, the situation raises many concerns.

Honestly, I do laugh a little imaging the phone calls home. The parents expect information about when to pick their precious daughters up at the airport now that their volunteer assignment has come to an end. Instead, their daughter’s voice sounding farther away than ever says, “Mom, Dad, I met someone here. I’m staying in El Salvador and getting married!” … Those poor gringo parents! …And then imagine when the parents go to El Salvador for the wedding. Will there be tears of joy or tears of sheer terror for what their daughter has done? (Oh wait, I’m just having flashbacks to my own wedding…jiji…)

But what about the relationships that don’t work out? What if they love each other but the girl desperately wishes to return home? It isn’t easy to adjust to a drastically different culture and way of life. It also isn’t that easy to bring your new novio with you thanks to immigration law which splits us all up into these man-made parcels called countries. Will the girls go home with broken hearts or will it be the muchachos who are left con el corazón en pedazos? (Either way, one must make the sacrifice of being away from their own family and culture.) If the girls stay in El Salvador, get married, start a family and then for whatever reason, end up divorcing, what happens with the children?

How do the Salvadoran women of San Luis del Carmen feel about this “invasion” of gringas? Do they feel animosity towards the gringas for “stealing” the men? Was it fair for an outsider to be chosen as the “queen” of the town?

If I were a sociologist, I know where I’d be buying a plane ticket to right now.

Clementino Part III

I still really haven’t had closure to the whole Clementino situation. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out Part I and Part II.) What kind of closure am I expecting? I don’t think there can really be any.

Suegra went to the market the other day with my older son to buy phone cards. Clementino’s wife was at the counter and Suegra said she could hear Clementino in one of the aisles stocking shelves. Suegra bought the phone cards and then requested to purchase Bubu Lubus, (for me of course.)

Well, Suegra says that as soon as she said the words “Bubu Lubus,” – Clementino raced to the front, almost tripping over himself. He came out to the front counter, and seeing Suegra at the register, started looking around the rest of the store. When he presumably saw that I wasn’t there, he went back to re-stocking shelves.

To make sure Suegra wasn’t just making up stories, I asked my older son and he said that’s exactly what happened.

So anyway, yesterday was Valentine’s Day and I received a package in the mail covered in hearts. The boys hoping there was something for them inside despite my name being on it, watched me open it. I pulled out a 24 pack box of Bubu Lubus.

My youngest son looked at the Bubu Lubus and the hearts all over the envelope and jumped to conclusions.

“Whoa!” he said, “Are those from Clementino?”

I assured him they weren’t. Silly cipote. Then Carlos came home and seeing the box of Bubu Lubus and heart patterned envelope raised an eyebrow.

“Who are those from?” he asked.
“My friend, Amanda!”
“…Hm, are you sure?”

I showed him the shipping address as proof. Obviously, Carlos is still thinking about the Clementino situation too.

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Read: Clementino Parts 4, 5, 6

Más Romance!

I know I usually post about our telenovela on Wednesday but I have something fun to share in the spirit of romance y amor that has taken over my blog this week!

Here is a very romantic message from Andrés Guardado, Mexican fútbol star of Deportivo La Coruña in Spain.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I shared this video because I love it.

“Clementino” Part II

Okay, some of you have asked what else is happening with the “Clementino” situation.

I’ve found it amusing that I’ve now been labeled a “rompecorazones” – I don’t think I can see myself that way and I feel a little badly for Clementino – if his intentions came from his heart and not from lands further south, (si me entiendes.)

I still say it was a romantic gesture but ultimately it was made inappropriate for the fact I’m married, (and Clementino is, too.)

I tend to be a romantic and flirtatious person but I also believe there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. I try very hard to respect my husband by not doing anything that would hurt him. Carlos is generally okay with me being a little coqueta because he trusts that it won’t go further than una mirada, or sonrisita.

That being said, I don’t feel anything negative towards Clementino. I feel bad for his wife, but he’s been so nice to me this past year, it’s difficult for me to be outraged in any way. Maybe I’m just still in shock. Mostly, I feel a little sad that he crossed the line because he put an end to what I saw as a casual friendship. I really liked going to the store – it was part of my weekly routine. It also feels strange to imagine him realizing after a few weeks, that I’m not coming back.

Bueno, I think most of you want to know more about how my husband has reacted though. Carlos has been acting differently since this happened. He is naturally a jealous type but he has worked to overcome his insecurities this past year, (lucky for Clementino!) … So, when I jumped in the car and told Carlos what had happened, he was a little on edge. He wasn’t happy about what happened, especially the part where Clementino touched my hand. He said that was pushing it too far and if Clementino tried it again, he’d break his fingers.

Knowing that Carlos felt that way, I was a little panicked to find out that he was going back to the store the next day, thanks to Suegra.

You see, after trying and failing to call El Salvador with the phone cards she had bought, Suegra came to me saying, “Tienes que decir a tu novio que estas tarjetas no sirven.” (Very funny, Suegra. She is going to get me into trouble!) – I refused to take her to the store to exchange them and so when Carlos came home from work, she asked him to take her.

Suegra told me that she wanted to scare Clementino. She said she was going to tell him she knew all about what he had said to her nuera and that she was going to tell Clementino’s wife. I begged her not to do this but she wouldn’t say anything more.

So, Carlos and Suegra went to the market. Both deny that they said or did anything. According to them, Carlos waited in the car and Suegra just went in to exchange her phone cards without mentioning anything. They are really good mentirosos though, so I don’t know if I believe them.

One thing I do know – Carlos has been super romantic since this happened. He has always been that way, but he has definitely been even more so lately. Here are some of his text messages…

When Carlos was hugging me last night, I asked him jokingly if he was worried that Clementino would steal me away. He hugged me tighter and said, “No… you’re mine.”

The feminist in me objects to the ownership implied in those words. The romantic in me says, “Yes, I’m all yours!”

Read: Clementino Part III

“Clementino”

I’ve mentioned before that there’s a Latino market I go to and the cashier there gives me a discount on the Mexican candy I buy.

I haven’t given the name of the market. Let’s just say it’s called “Clementina’s Latino Market” … Well, Carlos and I didn’t know the name of the male cashier but we always refer to him behind his back as “Clementino” – just because it’s funny.

Well, it’s because of me that “Clementina’s” carries Bubu Lubus. I asked for them early last year, and “Clementino” promised me he’d find them. The next week when I came in, he had the candy waiting for me and has consistently kept them in stock ever since.

Over this past year I’ve come to expect his smile when I come into the store. Over the past few months, I’ve come to expect his joking conversation and the occasional words which could be interpreted as flirtatious but not inappropriate. I thought it was all innocent, though Carlos warned me that he didn’t like the way “Clementino” looked at me. I thought it was all silliness… until today.

Leaving Carlos and the boys waiting in the car, I went in to buy my usual tortillas and Bubu Lubus. Suegra actually came inside with me – she bought a handful of phone cards and left without waiting for me. A young couple sending money via Western Union, and a homeless man buying beer, stood ahead of me in line. I waited patiently until it was my turn and then approached the counter, (which, for reasons unknown to me, is so tall that it comes almost to my chin.)

I put my tortillas on the counter top and pulled two Bubu Lubus from the display. “Clementino” smiled and asked me how I’ve been. I returned the polite conversation as he slid my debit card. Without looking at me he sighed and smiled, then as he waited for the approval he said, “Sabes que, me enamoré de tí.”

I didn’t say anything. I waited for him to talk more – I waited for him to laugh at the joke he was making or for me to realize I had misunderstood. I gave him a quizzical look.

“Te quiero, pero no me quieres, verdad?” he said.

I still said nothing but he kept talking as he laid my receipt and the debit card onto the countertop. When I reached up to take them, he covered my hand with his.

“Es por tu culpa porque eres tan bonita… me entiendes todo que estoy diciendo, sí?”

I nodded, my cheeks burning hot, and pulled my hand away. I accepted my bag of tortillas and candy saying, “Gracias, adiós.”

“Cuándo vas a visitarme otra vez, preciosa?” he said as I walked toward the door.

“Cuándo necesito más Bubu Lubus, pues,” I said laughing.

“Ah, es que no me quieres, verdad?”

I pointed to my wedding ring. “Clementino” shrugged and told me that didn’t matter.

I ran to the car and told Carlos everything that happened, with a smile as I came out of my shock, I admit. Suegra piped up from the back seat that “Clementino” was a “sin vergüenza”, but that I was good for telling my husband. Carlos said “I told you,” multiple times and surprisingly didn’t go back in the market to kill “Clementino” – at least not this time.

And me? I’m feeling like I’m in a real life telenovela… and wondering where the hell I can safely buy my Bubu Lubus now.

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Clementino Part II