There are good-byes. And then there are Mexican good-byes. By this, I mean that most people say good-bye and then they leave. Mexicans, on the other hand, say good-bye and think of many reasons for staying un poquito más. Such as telling the story they just remembered on the way out, upon touching the doorknob. Or, because they haven’t seen each other in such a long time, like since last week. I, too, of course am guilty of these long, extended good-byes. Perhaps, I didn’t say everything that I wanted because I couldn’t get a word in edgewise or the stories told were so good that I didn’t want to interrupt them.
While I was in Mexico, every good-bye was a despedida mexicana, but one long good-bye especially comes to mind. I was staying at my cousin’s house and we were going to visit her sister. My cousin, her husband, my aunt, and I went to my other cousin’s house. We would leave about three o’clock in the afternoon in order to avoid the afternoon rush hour traffic. I agreed because Mexico City’s normal traffic is horrendous and traumatic, even if you’re just a passenger, let alone driving during rush hour. So we visit my cousin, we eat at a restaurant called California, we go back to the house of the cousin we just visited, look at some old family pictures, and talk and talk and talk over old times since the last time I went to Mexico, which was twenty-nine years earlier. By the way, we started up the conversation right where we left off the last time I was there as if I had just left a few days before.
At 3:00 p.m. sharp, my cousin announces that we’re leaving immediately in order to avoid the rush-hour traffic. My cousin’s husband says that we can’t leave his house without first drinking some tequila together. That would reflect poorly on their hospitality. Besides, how could I go to Mexico and not drink tequila?
As the guest of honor, he served me tequila in his very own special tequila shot glass that was wrapped in specially treated tan leather with his name embossed on the leather. How could I say no to this shot of tequila? So we all had a shot of tequila as we were standing to leave. Sure enough, we all start talking about when my cousin came to visit Chicago in 1979. As luck would have it, I was in California in the Marines at the time. So we all sit down to hear about her trip to Chicago and how she almost saw snow because the weatherman predicted a snowstorm, but then there was only a light dusting.
Of course, this called for another shot of tequila! Which no one refused, including me because I always try to be polite and eat and drink everything that is served to me. Then it occurs to our host that if you drink tequila you should drink it properly. So he serves us another shot of tequila, but this time he passes around a bowl of lime slices and a salt shaker. That’s how Mexicans really drink tequila! You squeeze some lime juice on the side of your fist, shake some salt on the lime juice, you drink the tequila shot in one gulp, and then lick the lime juice and salt afterwards. Well, we down a few tequila shots the proper Mexican way and then our host said he had to go to work to take care of some business, but when he returned, he would bring back some food for supper.
The tequila had long ago been consumed and we were left to our own devices to entertain ourselves. Actually, for Mexicans like my aunt, my cousins, and I, we merely entertain ourselves by talking about what we did in the past since the last time we saw each other. In fact, I spent most of my trip just sitting around talking to my relatives bringing myself up to date on their lives. Well, it’s after six p.m. and our host still hasn’t returned. His wife calls him on his cell phone and it turns out that he’s stuck in rush-hour traffic. When he finally returns, he returns empty-handed. We’re all extremely famished by this time. So we all pile into two minivans and go to their favorite restaurant in town. We eat supper and spend a couple of hours talking over our food. By the way, we’re still saying good-bye since three p.m.! We eventually return to my cousin’s house about 9:30 p.m.! However, we did manage to avoid Mexico City’s infamous rush-hour traffic! I have to admit that it was my longest good-bye ever, even by Mexican standards. But it was also one of the most entertaining.
Okay, let me just blurt this out and be off. ¡Adiós!