As I walked down the wide hallway of the 1920’s building in the Spanish quarter with it’s old-fashioned black and white square tiles, I saw, through an open door, gray heads bent over a table. I looked a little harder and saw what the heads were bent over. Dominoes.
I took the liberty of walking into the room, letting my excitement get the better of my manners as I rattled off some garbled Spanish to the players about my grandfather and his dominoes. The old heads nodded tolerantly, benevolently and went on playing.
It’s 1950 and I’m three years old again, wearing a little white slip thing that passed for a dress and my abuelo and I were walking through my grandparents’ backyard, past the chicken coop, past the pica-pica plant by the back gate with its fiery little peppers I was so afraid of. Never ever touch it, I was warned. I held his hand as we went through the wooden gate and into the back alley, tall with shade trees, and walked to the corner. To the bodegita, the little corner store. He must’ve been babysitting me.
My bristly-cheeked, easy-going abuelo plopped me up on the counter, asked the grocer to give me an orange soda pop, grabbed a beer, and joined his compadres at the table for some Dominoes, the familiar smell of cigars in the air.
I sat on my counter, watching, and drinking my orange pop, evidently spilling as much as I drank, because I remember how splotched with orange that little white slip thing was on the walk back home. I hope my feisty grandmother didn’t give my abuelo hell when she saw it. That part of the memory is missing. 🙂