Some Thursdays when I’m driving home from my ukulele time with the kindergarten and first graders, I will stop at the blue cart with the big red Michoacan on the front.
The menu is printed in red on the side: Red chicken. Green chicken. Red Pork. Green Pork. Pepper and cheese. Each costs a dollar.
An elderly lady stands behind the blue cart.
If there is a parking place I will pull over to buy three tamales for lunch. I love the pork with red sauce.
Today there was a parking spot. I pulled over and waited in line behind a young woman who buys one tamale.
It was chicken I think.
About four feet away sat an elderly Black lady in a lawn chair by her apartment entrance. As the young woman walked by, the elderly lady asked if they were good. “She doesn’t speak any English,” said the elderly lady, as if to explain.
The young woman nodded in the affirmative and walked on.
The elderly lady in the lawn chair then turned to me. “I’ve never had one. We both have been here for a long time, but she doesn’t speak any English. Are they good?” she said.
I said, “Let me get you one. Would you like pork or chicken? Red or green?”
I was amazed at thought that these two women were a few feet from each other all day, day after day, and never spoke to one another.
“Chicken, thank you,” the elderly lady in the lawn chair said.
I turned to the tamale vendor and asked for three tamales, pork with red sauce and one chicken with red sauce.
She reached into the plastic cooler, lifted a towel covering a black plastic bag and pulled out the four tamales. She put three in a clear plastic bag and wrapped the bag with a single paper towel and put the chicken tamale in another bag and wrapped it in a single paper towel. Even though she knew I was buying it for the elderly lady she handed it to me.
I walked over and handed it to the lady in the lawn chair.
“What is this?”
“It is a corn husk,” I explained. “You just unroll it and the rest is corn meal, chicken and sauce.”
“She never had?” the lady vendor asked me.
“No. Never,” I said.
“I will pay you the dollar the next time you stop,” the elderly lady in the lawn chair promised me.
“No, no. My treat,” I said. I handed the vendor a five dollar bill and she gave me two back.
“I bought four,” I reminded her.
She smiled at me.