Our boss came to town. He said since he was on the border he wanted to go someplace real Authentic. Where real Mexicans eat. None of this fake gringo stuff. You know. Ethnic. So we drove a few blocks down from my co-worker’s house to a restaurant where a smiling octopus waved at drivers from seafoam bricks. We sank into our booth just in time for comida corrida and ordered for him in Spanish. They’re having pork tacos today, but first they’ll bring you some soup. Do you want noodles or beef stew? Leave room, dessert comes with it too. While we waited, an old man walked in balancing blocks of queso menonita on his shoulder. My co-worker and I shook our heads and he shuffled to the next table. Christmas lights blinked from the ceiling. TV Azteca blared in the corner. A woman behind the cash register took phone orders. Corn bobbed in two caldos as the waitress set down our bowls. She pulled extra napkins from her smock and smiled. Provecho. Our boss fingered the clear plastic table cover and scanned the walls. High school cheer squads and football teams. The waitress shifted. Still smiling. ¿Todo bien? We nodded slowly as he poked at a piece of pan tostado. She turned to drop the day’s postre—watermelon slices—at another table. Our boss frowned at us over his sopa de fideo. Are you sure this is authentic?
Abigail Carl-Klassen was raised in rural west Texas and radicalized on the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in ZYZZYVA, Cimarron Review, Guernica, Aster(ix) and Post Road, among others, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets 2015, and was shortlisted for the Society for Humanistic Anthropology’s Ethnographic Poetry Prize. She earned an MFA from the University of Texas El Paso’s Bilingual Creative Writing Program and taught at El Paso Community College and the University of Texas El Paso. Before becoming a college instructor, she worked in community development and in the El Paso public schools.