Christmas songs roam in the crisp warm air of Guadalajara, Jalisco. It was only December 24th of the year 2002 and summer was willing to stay in Mexico. Sun-kissed days all year long, but they never seemed to be an obstacle to cook great food and play good music. It was the season when presents and happiness were expected by all the young children. It is almost tradition for adults to party from dusk till dawn during Christmas Eve and let the children open their presents on Christmas day. My grandmother had already prepared the first batch of rompope, an alcoholic eggnog-like drink. The sweet vanilla aroma took over the house. I wished at that time that I could have just a sip of rompope only to get rid of the craving that the delicious smell caused me to have. At last, the moment I was waiting for: the food was finally ready. My mother had made an all-time classic, tamales. Though I was more excited about the pozole she had made I still ate a couple of tamales just to keep up with the tradition. You can smell the hot sizzling California chili juice soaking the beef and hominy, a warm aroma that could make me feel at home regardless of where I happen to be. Looking back now, it’s ironic this was Christmas. It should have been Halloween.
Everyone was gathering at our house for the celebration; even uninvited strangers happened to show up. Most people brought little gifts to contribute to the party, such as alcohol, food, their unmarried sons, etc… My mom was occupied preparing a meal to-go for her disabled friend, Chuy, “la cueta,” who was always unable to attend celebrations. She had been infected with polio as a young child. Lucky me, a seven-year-old girl, chosen to deliver this special package to Chuy. She only lived right down the street, which at first, I had thought that it seemed like a facile quest to complete. It wasn’t until I got to hold what I had to deliver that I questioned myself in making it all the way down the street. Frankly, I felt quite small and inexperienced to follow through with the journey.
My mother, making sure I went down the small steps on the front porch carefully, reminded me to not take an eternity to come back home. Nervously walking away with an awkward smile, I simply nodded and winked. Trying my hardest to seem tough, but my child arms could not resist the vibrations. I was very overwhelmed by the amount of sweat my hands were producing, thinking I was going to drop the items in hands. It felt as if hours had passed by, and I was only getting slower by the minute.
At last, I had arrived at my destination. I was very content to see Chuy’s house. Happily, placing the food down, I knocked with the biggest grin on my face, a warm sense of accomplishment flooding through me. After knocking for several minutes, I was beginning to lose my patience. Very frustrated, I decided to open the door on my own. My mother’s childhood friend lay lifeless on the floor.
There was no light coming in from any of the windows. It almost seemed like she wanted to die in a dark place. Her lower body was covered in feces; the smell was despicable. It also seemed as if a volcano of blood had exploded through her mouth. The fine cut in her neck was covered in dry blood. Of all the excessive graphic details, to this day I keep coming back to the horrendous smell. That smell is still carved into my cells. Suddenly, I could feel the giggles starting to come out. I was hysterically laughing as if I was a joker. The more I tried to suppress my laughter, the more my stomach would hurt. I thought my laughter would make me a suspect, so I left the food and took off running. Running away from the scene like a greyhound dog, just thinking of her rotting corpse laying there. She was murdered and left there like if she never meant anything.
I arrived at my house, feeling guilty. My mother, wondering why I was laughing, asked me what I thought was so funny. I couldn’t even speak without giggling. Everything seemed like it was falling apart, and I lost myself in that instant that I saw here dead. I just simply said two words while holding in my laughter “Chuy muerta.” That was all I could say.