Lunch At Elementary School
Pearl González giving me back my dollar bill and telling me that she didn’t need money to be my friend made me realize, in my eight year old mind, that perhaps romance was not out of the question…even for a Mexican Zombie.
Before this, my mom, doubtless wanting to spare me unnecessary grief, had gone out of her way to warn me about trying to fit in, to be like the other kids. “Mijo, you are NOT like the other kids. Recuerdate que eres especial, y no vayas a pensar que puedes ser como los otros ninos.” So I was always stepping back from things, not wanting to be draw attention to myself. When other kids raised their hands to volunteered for class projects, I just kept hand down and looked away. And what had it gotten me? No friends at school, no one showing up for my birthday party, that’s what! And now I had someone that I really liked who appeared to be taking a shine to me. So what not act like a normal eight year old?
With that in mind, I spent the next week trying to be super sweet to Pearl. I’d accidentally meet her at the school gate in the morning, trying to make like it was all coincidental. And I’d make sure to sit next to her at lunch in the school cafeteria., “Is this seat taken?” And then, after school, I’d linger by the front of the school just to be able to see her as she waited until her parents drove up and picked her up. I would fantasize about being in that beat-up Volkswagon bus her parents drove and driving home with her.
And Pearl seemed to like all of this attention. Within a short time , we were lunching together regularly. And this was no easy feat. By now my mom knew about my eating preferences. And so she’s make tacos of raw cesos or tripas and put them in my brown lunch bag. “But eat by yourself,” she would admonish me. “Mijo, the other kids will not want to be your friend if they see you eating cow brains and cow guts for lunch. Come solo.” But how to eat lunch with Pearl without blowing my cover?
My solution was simple. Every day, at noon, the school bell would ring and those kids with bag lunches would take them to the cafeteria, find a seat and start eating. Those kids whose parents had given them lunch money would line up in the cafeteria line. I guess Pearl’s parents were pretty well off because Pearl always bought her lunch at the school cafeteria. It always took about ten minutes for her to go through the food line so while she was doing this I would sneak behind one of the trash dumpsters in back of the cafeteria and wolf down my cesos tacos. Then I would find Pearl and feign either not being hungry or having just eaten before she sat down. Well, all went well for a couple of weeks. Pearl and I became regular lunchmates. And then the inevitable happened.
One day I was in early in the cafeteria and had found an isolate corner of the cafeteria to eat my lunch I figured there was still five or ten minutes before Pearl would come out of the lunch line. So I reached into my brown paper bag and pulled out a cesos brains taco. I had just taken a bit out of it, and was relishing the great taste, when I hear Pearl’s voice behind me. “Lazo, WHAT are you eating?”
There was no getting out of this. Pearl was standing next to me, her food tray in her hand, staring at the cow brains I was holding. I smiled meekly and showed her what was left of my taco. “Er, my mom makes these weird tacos now and then. Don’t even know what’s in this one.”
“Ugh! Looks like cesos to me.”
“You know about cesos?” I said, suddenly lighting up.
“Yeah, my uncle works at a butcher shop and now and then he bring some home. But not for me , thank you! Ugh!”
Just then Lupe, one of Pearl’s friends, came by. “Pearl come sit with me.”
“Gotta go, “ Pearl said to me. She turned and walked away and sat down at another table with her friend. Then I heard her say to Lupe, “Yes, can you believe it! Ugh!” Then they broke into loud laughter. And me? I felt like the world had collapsed on me.
But the world really did collaps on me two day later when Pearl didn’t show up for school. I worried about her and by midday I couldn’t keep it to myself. I walked up to my third grade teacher, Mrs. Bunson.
“Is Pearl Gonzáles sick?” I asked.
“Oh, goodness no,” she replied. “I believe her family moved away to Lincoln Heights and so she’s transferred to a different school there. I understand the move was rather sudden.”
I walked away numbed. Pearl was gone! My eight-year-old mind was in turmoil. My chance at true romance was gone. If we were friends, why hadn’t she told me she was going to move away?
Well, what I did was go straight home and cry my eyeballs out. Would I ever see Pearl again? I wept all night long. And then the next morning when I awoke, I suddenly had something more important to worry about. My mom was applying make up on my face and arms a she did every morning before sending me off to school. When she said, “Mijo, limpiate del baba en tu boca.” I didn’t know what she was talking about until I touched my mouth and realized I had gooey drool hanging from my lip. I hadn’t even noticed it because I couldn’t feel the drool!
That was my first encounter with Zombie drool, something that would haunt me the rest of my life. I guess it happens to us Zombies when you reach a certain age. Kinda of like puberty. You develop this unconscious and uncontrollable drool and you can’t even feel when you are drooling. So you don’t really know it until some of the drool drops on your clothing or someone says something.
So there I was. Pearl gone out of my life and now with something really ickey to worry about at all times–Zombie Drool. What else could go wrong?
Copyright 2012 by Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions Inc.