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I shot her a cursory “buenas dias!” My biggest concern was that I’d messed up the gender of “dia" -- rookie mistake. She had a whole day of housework ahead of her.

“Avelina will prepare lunch for you." She'd already made my breakfast. "You can eat with her and practice your Spanish!” said my aunt, and later, “if you don’t want any of the fruits from the fridge you can give them to Avelina.”

The “quick lunch” she “whipped up” as I sat at the table texting my friends was absolutely rico. Fish, vegetables, potatoes, rice -- and a lime garnish on the side! I found her squatting in the kitchen eating a meager version of the same. “Avelina, come eat with me!”

She came to the table upon my request and may have felt a bit like a queen to be drinking bottled water and offered Coca-Cola, which she denied. (She had been in the hospital for an ulcer recently so she doesn’t drink black drinks anymore.) “Would you like to try this rice from my country?” I pointed at the leftover Indian rice on my plate. I hope she didn’t know that I was offering because I didn’t want any more.

She loved it. She wondered how to make it. She had never tried Chinese food. Somewhere in her stream of Spanish, she complained that her floor-length black cotton dress had gotten soaked in a toilet somewhere during the day -- she started her sentence with the words “eso es . . .”

I swear I heard “SOS.”


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