Kim Nelson: Two Taquerias, Both Alike in Dignity

lazos-and-arturos5Juliana Lazo met Ramiro at a party. She had been standing in line for the keg, a red solo cup in her hand, when Ramiro ended up behind her. He was distracted with checking his cell phone for texts from a girl, Rosie, he was supposed to meet that night who was apparently blowing him off. When he finally looked up from his phone, the sight of Juliana leaning over the tap, her long curls cascading down her tanned shoulders, the silhouette of her delicate profile softly glowing in the streetlights, took his breath away. After Juliana filled her cup with foamy beer and handed Ramiro the plastic faucet, she was equally struck by his warm brown eyes and crooked smile. They flirted throughout the night, circling each other like animals. Juliana could feel Ramiro’s eyes on her as she moved through the crowds, his gaze sliding over her body like velvet. It
felt too early when she left the party, her drunk friend tugging on her elbow like a hook dragging a fish out of the water. As she parted the crowd one last time, she slipped her cell phone number into Ramiro’s warm hand. He looked down at it like a winning lottery ticket.

Juliana was picking up a shift at her family’s restaurant when her cell phone lit up with a text from Ramiro. She could barely contain her smile as she quickly typed a response. Not far from the restaurant, Ramiro was stretched across his bed, reading her response. The Smiths poured through his headphones and blood rushed through his veins. He felt on top of the world.

They met up at a park on the near west side one summer night, when the sky was clear and the stars won out the battle against the city lights to shine above their heads. They walked and held hands, talking as the warm breeze washed over them. They both talked quickly, overlapping each other’s sentences as they kept thinking of new things they wanted to share, as if they were afraid of running out of time. The night seemed so sublime that it could never last; such perfection was always fleeting.

When Juliana mentioned her family’s restaurant, Ramio blurted “That’s so funny; my dad owns a restaurant too!”

“What’s it called?” Juliana asked.

“Arturo’s. That’s my dad’s name.”

Juliana’s face went pale, the color from the sun draining away. “I’m a Lazo,” she whispered, her voice shaking.

Ramiro’s stomach dropped. Lazo’s, the restaurant right next door to Arturo’s. His father’s biggest competitor for business, personal rival, and sworn enemy.

“I have to go,” Juliana said, tears gathering in her eyes. She slipped her hand out of Ramiro’s, pulling away. But something drew her back in like a magnet, and she could not resist leaning into him and kissing him. He drank her kiss in, the scent of her hair swimming around his face, making him dizzy with longing.

“Don’t go, Juliana!” he pleaded, but she was already running away towards the El station. She was swallowed up into the darkness of night. Ramiro looked down at his hand, which now felt emptier than ever, now that it had known Juliana’s hand.

At the top of the steps of the station, Juliana stood still, watching the approaching train. The wind it created enveloped her, and into the thunder of its wheels, she whispered “My only love, sprung from my only hate.” Her voice was lost in the noise like pebbles tossed to the ocean.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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