Posted by Ross
My karate studio is about a ten minute walk from where I live. I go to karate usually three times a week, though have been going more recently because I am getting ready to test for brown belt. But I'm not writing this to talk about karate. I am writing this to talk about the bag of tamales sitting on my table.
When I was carrying that bag home, it felt like I was carrying a big bag of dog shit. Like from a Great Dane or something. And the fact that the tamales were still steaming didn't do a thing to enhance my appetite.
I generally see the tamale lady when I'm walking home from karate on Wednesday and Thursday nights, standing with her shopping cart full of tamales for sale. I speak Spanish so I always say something like, "Buenas noches."
And then she usually says, "Buenas noches, como esta?" (Always third person.)
And then I say, "Bien, bien, y tu?"
And then she says, "Bien, gracias."
And then I say, "Hasta luego."
And then she says, "Hasta luego."
Or sometimes I say, "Que te vaya bien."
And she says, "Igualmente."
I don't think the tamale lady is as old as I am, which is 30. And I know the tamale lady is considerably shorter than my wife, which is 5'1".
The point to all this has to do with the first time I said "hola" to her three years ago, after which point she asked me if I wanted to buy a tamale, and I said no. I didn't tell her that the reason I said no had to do with the fact that I just didn't find the prospect of buying tamales from someone's shopping cart particularly appetizing.
And now, three years later, there are dos tamales de pollo y dos tamales de queso sitting on my kitchen table still in that black bag so it looks like I brought the Great Dane shit into my apartment. And though I am hungry, I do not want to eat the tamales.
Which makes me wonder what happens next time I see the tamale lady. One possible thing I could do is never buy a tamale from her again. Another possible thing to do is that I always keep a dollar on hand and buy un tamale de queso every time I see her, and then throw it away when I come home. Another possible thing I could do is try the tamales, and who knows, maybe they will be amazing...or maybe I'll get some sort of parasite in my stomach...or maybe a fun combination of the two.
See what happened was I was walking home from karate tonight and she was walking to her spot with her shopping cart and I asked her, "Como estas?"
And she said, "Bien, bien, trabajando."
And it was the way she said "trabajando" that made me feel, not necessarily bad for her, and not necessarily responsible for her, but, well, I guess it made me feel generous (not that four dollars for four tamales is the hugest act of philanthropy or anything).
The only time I ever saw the tamale lady not at her little spot was this Sunday morning, like 8:45, when I was on my way to Sunday school.
She was walking down my street pushing her cart. And we said our greetings, and then she said, "Quieres un tamale?"
And I said, "Es demasiado temprano para tamales."
But I kept thinking, was she, like, out all night selling tamales? It made me think maybe I should buy a tamale at some point. It made me even think maybe they would be the world's greatest tamales. I mean, she's out there selling those tamales all the time, so she must have repeat customers, right?
So tonight I bought some. And she didn't really have a bag to put them in. Instead it was like one of those plastic bags from the grocery story that you put the fruit in. Except it had like been cut in half or something so that it was really just a thin piece of plastic. Only I didn't know that, so when I tried to put my change back in my wallet, the tamales slid all over the place and onto my karate bag and stuff, and I was doing my damndest to keep them from falling on the street, and then she was like, "Un momento."
And then she grabbed up the tamales in her bare hands and walked over to the little convenience store run by the guy whose car has an "Allah is Your Protector" bumper sticker on his SUV and he gave her a couple of those black plastic bags and she put the tamales in the bag and then gave the bag to me, and I said, "Gracias."
And she said, "De nada."
And then I said, "Hasta luego."
But I just don't think I can bring myself to eat them. Maybe I'll heat up some of those Trader Joe's turkey meatballs instead.
** Update: The tamales turned out to be good. **