Socorro had to pick up Peter from his house on her way to work.
Peter was the head chef at the restaurant Socorro worked at. It was a upscale place that catered those rich white folk in the surrounding ski towns in Colorado.
Truth be told, Socorro had no idea how she landed the job there in the first place. Her English wasn’t any good for a while. It was thick with accent and spice.
Four years ago, she had moved into town after two agonizing months of walking across the US boarder. She left her husband back in Mexico. In the dead of night, Socorro gently picked her head up from her pillow and got out of bed. She put on her shoes; the same pink and neon-green running shoes she had owned for the last nine years of her life. After that, she walked North. In the late afternoon, when her husband woke up, he could not find her. He attributed her disappearance to the witches.
A mere eight years later, Socorro found herself honking outside Peter’s house. No one was coming out. Socorro left shut off her car and walked up the steps to Peter’s house. She knocked a mother’s knock.
“What?” Peter yelled from the other side of the door.
“Late!” Socorro responded. Loud enough for the rest of the neighborhood to have the tips of of their tongues singed with flavor.
Peter beat his feet against the wood floor until he reached the door and swung it open. “Will you shut the fuck up?” Peter asked. He was a tall man if there ever was one. The glasses on his face weighed his neck down to his the front of his shoulders. He hadn’t shaved in months, but he only carried around 16 blond hairs on his chin.
“Come help me find my wallet.” Peter put his hand across Socorro’s back and pushed her into the house. At the doorway, she breached the wall of milky cigarette smoke and entered Peter’s stuffy house.
“You lost the wallet?” Socorro asked.
“I misplaced my wallet,” Peter started as he left into one of the bedrooms. He began to yell what he was saying. “I have a lot more faith in myself than to assume I lost my wallet.”
“Did you check the kitchen?” Socorro asked.
“Nope. I don’t cook with a wallet, but by all means go ahead.”
Socorro entered Peter’s kitchen. It was barren. It felt abandoned. There wasn’t any grime on the floor. No mildew on the sink. No foul smells coming from the pantry. Truly there was nothing. Socorro opened the covers in search of the wallet and found nothing. Real life nothing. She opened the refrigerator and found that it was powered off. There wasn’t a single tangible item in the entire kitchen except for the salt shaker in the middle of the dining table. The thought of the fullness of her family’s fridge passed her mind.
“Alright, I found it. It was behind the washer, can you believe that?” Peter asked as he ran into the kitchen.
“Where’s your kitchen?” Socorro asked.
“What the fuck is the matter with you. You’re standing in it.”
“No. Where’s the food? You have no food.”
“I just take some back with me from the restaurant at the end of the night.” Peter walked to the dining table. “And look! I have salt at least.”
“Only salt?” Socorro asked still in disbelief.
“What do you want from me here?” asked Peter.
“And your girlfriend? What does she eat?” asked Socorro.
“Haven’t seen her since Christmas.”
“This is no way to live, Peter.”
“Minimalism. You know what that is, right?”
“I know it’s no way to live.”
Later, in the car, Peter lit up a smoke. His knees bent as high as his head sitting in passenger seat.
Socorro, who hadn’t yet started the car, couldn’t get her mind off the salt. “Do you ever get lonely?” she asked Peter.
“Oh here we go. No. I happen to enjoy my own company. In fact, I prefer it,” said Peter. He switched the radio to the classic rock station. “Alright we can go.”
Classic rock was new to Socorro. She would hardly call it classic. Classic was the ballads of love and conquest on the ranch back in the unnamed mountains of Mexico. Classic was throwing on carne asada on the grill and hearing her uncle pick the six-string with enough flavor to make even Peter dance around. Classic was more of a feeling than a sound. The place where it all began.
Peter was strumming his air guitar with vitality. He had barely enough room to move around and rip apart the guitar solo on the radio. Socorro peaked every few seconds to see Peter’s eyes closed, his left fingers moving frantically around the neck of the guitar like they knew had to play. His right hand purposefully strumming, trying to keep up with the increasing pace. His face was one of peace. No furrowed brow or crinkled nose. She caught the corners of his mouth as they begun to curl.
Socorro began to sing:
Rata de dos patas te estoy hablando a ti
Porque un bicho rastrero
Aún siendo el más maldito
Se queda muy chiquito
I am talking to you
Because a bug creeping
yet being the most damned,
compared to you
it is very tiny.
“That was beautiful,” Peter said.
“Have you heard it before?” asked Socorro.
“Fuck no. It sounded pretty though. You Mexicans are crazy like that. All your songs are about conquest and romance. Ya’ll really loving each other down there.”
“Yeah people hear what they want to hear,” Socorro said.
“What is that supposed to mean?” asked Peter.
“I didn’t mean anything.”
“Look okay, even if I were to reach out to her, it’s not like she’s going to be very receptive to me. You know what that means? She won’t just pretend like she doesn’t hate me,” said Peter.
“She doesn’t hate you.”
“How do you know?”
“Because people don’t hate you, they just don’t like you.”
“What the fuck? Do I smell or something?” asked Peter.
“A little bit,” she replied. Socorro started the car and they set off for work. Ten hours later, the restaurant closed for the night. It was 8pm. She wanted to ask Peter to go grocery shopping. Maybe get him a stocked fridge.
As Socorro was taking off her apron, Peter approached. “Hola,” Peter said, “would you mind coming with me to the store? I don’t want to smell this weekend.”
“What’s this weekend?” Socorro asked.
“I’m asking my wife to come back home. A date of sorts.”
“Where?” Socorro tried not to squeal.
“Home. I just said. I’m making dinner, so I need groceries.” Peter couldn’t look her in the eye.
“Of course I’ll go with you,” said Socorro. She was trying to not make it a big deal. It must have taken a lot for Peter to reach out, she thought.
“Cool, I call shotgun,” said Peter.
Or maybe he just needed a ride.
At the grocery store, Peter and Socorro surveyed the produce. People that know food know how to shop. They take their time. It’s common practice to scratch and sniff. To hold the food to the other’s nose. To hum mmmmmm when something smells good. To inspect tomatoes in the light. To squeeze avocados. To knock on the watermelon and hear its insides drum, to shake and ruffle the dew off of the cilantro. To check the marble on steaks. To people like Peter and Socorro, grabbing groceries isn’t grabbing groceries. It’s sharing. It’s playing the lottery. Providing. Resupplying. Reading into history. Trying new things. Testing their ability. Cooking.
“Fuck me, man. What do you think? A New York strip with grilled sweet potatoes and radicchio topped with ricotta?” asked Peter.
“That’s literally off our menu at the restaurant, Peter,” said Socorro.
“Yeah, but I know how to make it really well.”
And that’s exactly what Peter was going to make. The two shopped for what was needed and then some. Socorro would sneak a can of food, or a bushel of vegetables when Peter wasn’t looking.
Back home, Socorro helped him stock the fridge and set the table.
“The date isn’t until tomorrow. Why are you setting the table now?” asked Peter.
“Will you do it tomorrow?” replied Socorro.
Socorro finished setting up the table. The kitchen looked somewhat like a kitchen now. Although nothing was visible, the fresh ingredients behind the refrigerator door, the cabinets hiding the spices, there was a sense of fullness in the room. Additionally, there was finally pepper at the table.
The next day at work, Socorro noticed Peter shaved his sixteen hairs on his chin. His craned neck didn’t droop as low. Socorro didn’t mentioned his apparent confidence. Although, Peter often went over to her and rubbed his chin. She wouldn’t feed into his ego.
It was 5:30pm. Peter was set to leave early for his date.
“You ready, Peter?” asked Socorro? She couldn’t stop herself from smiling.
“Born ready, love. I have to change real quick, but I brought a change in my car. I’ll just change in the walk-in,” he replied.
Peter stepped out for a minute, but returned with clothes in hand. He rushed into the walk-in and started to change out.
“One button loose or two?” asked Peter as he slightly opened the walk-in door.
“On your dress shirt? she replied.
“Two loose. Leave some for the imagination.”
Peter said nothing and closed the door in embarrassment.
“Fuck! My balls are going to freeze in here.”
“Put your pants on.”
“I am. Are you ready?”
“Are you ready?”
Peter walked out of the walk-in. “I was born ready.” The white collared shirt on Peter made him look longer, yet more professional. Standard black dress pants. Standard black dress shoes. “What do you think? I little brave fashion wise no?”
“Perfect,” Socorro responded.
Peter went home and Socorro finished the shift on her own. She closed the kitchen with the help of the dishwasher.
Before starting her car, Socorro sat for a while.
She thought about how she would dress up if she went on a date. Does she still have that black dress she bought at the flea market when she first got here? She figured she needed to dress fancy to make it in America. That’s how all the movies looked anyways. Black was the color of the elite. A cutting edge feeling in the color which Socorro wished for herself. She didn’t have shoes to go with. Maybe next paycheck.
Her phone rang. It was Peter.
“Hello?” answered Socorro.
“Yeah she didn’t like it,” said Peter.
“The date,” replied Peter, “and I guess the food.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, she came in and told me that my shirt was buttoned wrong. Then, I served dinner, but she was busy looking over the house. She went room to room and then told me how I was doing a bad job taking care of myself as per usual. Her words not mine.”
“And then we sat down. She looked good, but I think she tried to look too good. Like she knew she was coming here to mess with me and tried to look as good as she could just to say fuck you to me.”
“Did she leave?”
“That’s the thing. She told me how much happier she was without me and how I was dead weight she was carrying and how she wanted to drop me off once and for all. And then guess what?”
“She took her fucking salt shaker, that cold bitch.”
There was a long pause. “So she didn’t like the food at all?” asked Socorro.
“Well, she didn’t touch it. She just kinda left.”
“Okay. I’ll be over in a little.”
“See you soon.”
Socorro sat back into her seat. She started her car and left for home. After changing out of her work clothes, she went over to Peter’s.
She knocked on the door. Peter answered and saw Socorro in her black dress. It hugged her curves delicately. She had put on cherry lipstick. Made her accent that much more fiery.
“I don’t give it up on the first date,” said Peter.
“Not a date, Peter.”
“The food’s cold.”
“Yeah, I’ll throw it in.”
The two sat at the table with their microwaved meals in front of them. Socorro took the first bite.
“Needs salt, Peter.”
“Of fucking course it does.”
Peter was impressed how Socorro dressed up. She looked great. He scanned her starting at her hair. Flat, but naturally tangled. Like her story was told through the knots in her hair. Her black dress was perhaps a little tight, but when a person looks good, sizes go out the window. The dress cut off right above her knees, letting her toned legs run down uninterrupted to her feet.
On her feet were her humble pink and neon-green trainers.