Fiction by Lourdes Gil Alvaradejo (Mexico)
Published in issue 40 of The Ofi Press
Words that came to be.
You’re six years old when you first hear the word, at least that’s the very first time you notice it. You’re walking around the house looking for your dad, and when you finally find him you yell: “¡Papi!”, he turns around to look at you and asks, like he always does, “what’s wrong?” and you say nothing, but you’re bored and want to go home. Family reunions are a complicated issue: you’re not used to being around so many people. At home it’s just your parents, your sister and you. When family reunions take place, it means meeting new people every time, it means people telling you how cute you look, how you and your sister are great girls, “bright kids”, they say. You just listen, nod and say “thank you”, just like mom has taught you to do. But you still find the whole thing boring, a little too loud, and after a while you know you’re ready to head back home.
So when you tell him again that you’re ready to leave, he says something that sounds like “Ahorita”. And experience tells you that “ahora”, means right now. It’s like when your mom says “pick up the plates”, “ do your homework”. You have to do it right away, there’s no waiting. So when he says “ahorita”, you go and find your stuff, you get your jacket and even consider getting your younger sister (but of course you don’t, your parents will take care of her).
There’s loud salsa music playing: you recognize the music from the charreadas your dad takes you to, and, although it’s not the type of music it’s usually played at home, you know this music means celebration and fun and people stepping on your feet because you really don’t know how to dance... except when you’re around them. You think about Christmas parties and birthdays, when everyone’s in the living room, 30, 40 people crowded in one small place, all of them dancing to bachata or whatever banda music they chose. Those are the only moments you really try to dance (and you only do it because you know your dad will be happy). So you do it. Years later you’ll think that you should probably had tried a bit harder to learn, it’s a useful skill. But at that moment, you only think about keeping your feet safe.
When you go look for your stuff, you bump into your aunts. It’s another round of kisses and compliments and hugs. They’re nice but too much hugging is suffocating, you think. They usually also offer you some food. By offering, of course, they actually mean actually eating anything and everything they offer. You think about the day you spent with one of your aunts and you ate a whole box of cereal, by the time your mom and dad went to pick you up, you were so full of cereal you couldn’t even move, you felt sick and nauseated… but they had a remedy, (of course they did), and gave you té de hierbabuena to fix everything and it worked and it became your favorite flavor. And somehow, you end up on the “dance floor” again.
Eventually, some time between the end and the beginning of a new song, they let you go and you go get your jacket and go back to finding your dad. You find him again, chatting with his cousins and having a few drinks, so you pull him again and tell him you’re ready to go home. His cousins intervene and ask, “so, how come you wanna go home now?”. So you tell them you’re tired and they say something about how they never get to see one another. And then that’s the word again, your dad uses it one more time: “ahorita nos vamos”. And it hits you, right at that moment, you understand what he actually means: you’re not going anywhere, not at that moment and not for the next few hours. It was just his way of saying, “we’ll be here for some time, I just didn’t want to actually say it”. You get upset because people seem to do that all the time, not say what they actually mean. You’re also upset because you’re tired and really want to go home. So you go find your mother and hang out with her until you fall asleep.
The knowledge of such word sticks with you and you start using it every day a bit more. Whenever your mom says “go to the store, for me”, you say “ahorita”. And it does happen, just a few hours later. You also start using it so you won’t hurt people’s feelings and when someone asks if you want to try whatever food they cooked you say “ahorita”. Words have now a completely different meaning and with time, you start using them with a little more purpose every time.
Lourdes Gil has been a resident of Mexico City since 2013. Books, films and drinks are some of her favorite things. In her spare time she blogs at different websites and tries to keep up with her writing, but basically spends time hanging out with friends. In real life she is the programming assistant at Ambulante, one of the most important film festivals in Mexico. She enjoys coffee and traveling.