I was a young girl in a land called Queens. My face was still bright and not settled into the dark map that chronicles the landscapes I’ve traveled. Papi was still taller than me and his ability to deliver on a promised trip to the movies was a super power.
We were going to see Star Wars, in the theater, just the two of us. Mami never went on our movie trips, never even looked at me and Papi as we said goodbye at the door, just waved her hand like there was a fly by her head. She did help me create the Princess Leia buns I had to wear to the morning show time. I hadn’t been able to sleep in anticipation of the first – ¡numero uno! – and cheapest screening of the day.
We smuggled food in my Hello Kitty tote bag: two cans of Coca Cola, each wrapped in a paper towel and tin foil to keep cool; a fold-over top sandwich bag filled with Chips Ahoy or Oreo or Vienna Fingers cookies, whichever had been on sale; and one bag of Platanutres for Papi and one of Dipsy Doodles for me. I’d never taste movie-house popcorn until I was a senior in high school and was allowed to go on a date with a boy – chaperoned by my cousin Nino, who was visiting and also happened to be in the Army. My date had bought popcorn for me and a box of SnoCaps for Nino, who cried throughout the entire second half of Beaches.
On that day in 1977 with Papi, I had allowance money in my Snoopy wallet but it was for the post-Star Wars trip to the candy store. Papi gave me those crisp singles every Saturday morning and I bought comic books, Bazooka Joes, Tootsie Roll midgets, and Now ‘n Laters, and played Donkey Kong and Pac Man while Papi played some Pick 3s and bullshiteaba with the clerk and the other guys about the wives, who in the neighborhood had gotten a new car, and which corners were too caliente and caoticas to walk past.
Thirty-eight years at lightspeed and suddenly I’m an adjunct college professor and Papi is a retiree. We still attend morning movie showings. On our outing to the seventh installment of the Star Wars saga, we stopped at the Mickey D’s on the ground floor of the mall for a small tea for him and a medium coffee with cream for me. Is one dollar, any size, he reminded me but I was already on that. The coffee was handy when we were on line to purchase tickets. Papi insisted he would pay. When he made a reach for his wallet, I had him hold my coffee while I paid. Grrr, you gots me again, he said as part of our established schtick.
The caffeine challenged our older bladders and Papi had to surrender and retreat to the restroom right when Rey, Finn, Han, and Chewie were at Maz’s and so much was revealed (I won’t mention any of it here). He returned to our reclining theater seats with an oversized bag of M&Ms – bought at the movie theater concession stand. Papi always remembers that candy is necessary for movie viewing and peanut is the only choice when purchasing M&Ms. We shared the candy in the dark and I was happy. I had gots him on the ticket-purchase line and he still gets me in ways that no one else ever will.
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