I was fifteen years old when my family moved from Guatemala to Uptown, Chicago. On my first day in Chicago I befriend some Mexican kids who offered to show me around the neighborhood, especially Chicago’s famous lake shore.
I got really excited and I told them in perfect Guatemalan lingo, “Vamos a chingar la pita,” which to me meant nothing more than, “Let’s go have some fun.” Unknown to me, my, “Vamos a chingar la pita,” to these Mexican kids meant something more like: “Let’s go fuck some bitches.”
Talk about first impressions. I had just met these kids.
Luckily for me, one the Mexican kids had met some Guatemalan people before and he had an idea of what I had really meant to say. He explained to them and to me that, although we were all Latinos, and although we were all speaking Spanish, we were speaking different kinds of Spanish – similar to the way that someone from the USA speaks English different than someone from England.
I was able to explain myself to them, but not before the youngest kids from the group started to sing a little song, “Vamos a chingar la pita, vamos a chingar la pita,” or “Let’s go fuck some bitches, let’s go fuck some bitches.” The other kids tried to stop him, but he pointed at me and said, “He said it didn’t mean anything bad.” So we tried to ignore him.
It only took us a few minutes to reach the lake but at my hormone-driven age of fifteen years old, I didn’t notice the lake or the wide open spaces. What I did notice were two beautiful girls sitting on a nearby bench. I wondered aloud if the girls spoke Spanish and one of my friends quickly replied that the girls were Puerto Ricans and that they indeed spoke Spanish.
I had never met any Puerto Rican girls before but I figured it was a good time to get started. So I walked ahead of the group and I approached the girls.
One of the girls was eating some cookies and, using the most masculine voice that I could muster, I said to her, “Me das una galleta?” Or, in English, “Would you give me a cookie?” She looked and me and smiled but before she could do or say anything, the other girl stood up, stepped in front of me, and slapped me hard across the face.
“Hay tienes tu galleta,” she said, Or, in English, “There’s you cookie.”
I didn’t know why she slapped me but I knew that I had to get away from her. So I turned around and walked back to my friends.
They were laughing their asses off. And when the little kid saw me, he started signing a new song. “Hay tienes tu galleta POW! There’s your cookie POW.”
This time, my friends didn’t try to stop him. This time they were laughing and singing along.
Finally, one of my friends stopped laughing long enough to explain me that: “galleta” to me and to them meant “cookie.” But to a Puerto Rican “galleta” means both “cookie” and “to hit”, so that was why the girl had slapped me.
I thought to myself: This is going to be so difficult. Not only do I have to learn how to speak English, but I also have to relearn how to speak Spanish.
Just then, I felt somebody tapping my shoulder. I turned around and I saw the cookie-eating- girl standing in front of me. At first I thought she was going to slap me, but instead she gave a cookie, a real cookie. And she even wrapped the cookie in a little paper napkin.
I thought to myself, this is my chance to impress her; this is my chance to really impress her. So before I could say something stupid that could get me in trouble, I stuffed the cookie in my mouth.
I was still thinking what to say to the girl when I noticed that the napkin had some number written on it. I looked at the girl and she had her thumb on her ear and her pinky on her mouth making a hand gesture that was impossible to misunderstand.
Call me, it meant.
When she walked away, I turned around and I showed the paper napkin with the girl’s telephone number to my friends.Immediately, they stopped laughing and looked at me with a mixture of surprise and admiration.
And then I thought to myself, that maybe, just maybe, I’m going to be just fine.
Nestor “the Boss” Gomez was born in Guatemala and has called Chicago his home for the last twenty five years. He is a salsa dancer, self taught poet, t-shirt designer who works during the day at S&C Electric and drives Uber and Lyft during the weekends. As a child Nestor used to have a speech impediment, he stuttered, a little over a year ago he participated in his first Moth Slam as a self imposed goal in order to get over his fear of public speaking, since then he has won the Moth Slam several times, was March 2015 Moth Grand Slam winner and placed second on the July 2015 Grand Slam but if you ask him about his major accomplishments he will tell you about his kids, winning the heart of his girlfriend Melissa Pavlik “sweet Mel” and making his mother and siblings proud. He hosts Do Not Submit on Pilsen and is an active member of the Stoop Collective.