Moist and Fresh

Moist and Fresh

by Alejandro "Jano" Cabrera

Jos had decided (insisted, really) to accompany me back to my home so that he could formally meet my parents, Jose and Maria. He wanted, he said, to sit down and simply trade some stories with them -- get to know them better.

Why Jos wanted to spend a prime Friday evening in this way was beyond me, as many of Jos's ideas always seemed to be. But this is what he wanted to do, and as I always enjoyed the pleasure of my friend's company and could see no harm in it, we loaded my laundry into my car (laundry was the primary reason I was returning home that evening) and headed into the city.

But as I was pulling into the driveway of my home, I began to have second doubts about having Jos meet my parents. In my narcissistic way, it occurred to me that Jos and my parents would have absolutely nothing to talk about save me. How could they? Jos and my parents were worlds apart educationally, culturally, and "generationally".

These thoughts continued to plague me as I opened up the front door.

But they disappeared the moment Jos walked into my home as if it were his own.

"Madre, Padre!" he screamed out as he marched into the front hall, leaving me to lug in my laundry on my own. "The son you never had, nor wanted is here."

I can't imagine what went through my poor mother's head when she saw this tall, white, maniacally grinning stranger suddenly stride into her kitchen, and begin rapidly babbling at her in Spanish. I can only tell you that when she heard me scream from the hall that I had brought home a friend from college, I could hear an audible sigh of relief emanate from the kitchen.

I can also tell you that by the time I had put down my laundry in my room and walked into the kitchen myself, Jos was already comfortably chatting it up with my mom and was helping her with her tortillas.

"Mom," I said. "Meet Jos."

"Si," she replied. "Es muy lindo." (Yes, he's very lovely).

Inwardly I marveled at Jos and his gift to connect with people. I had met many of my friend's parents and with a few exceptions the experience always felt to me very stilted and forced; we'd exchange polite banter on all the usual subjects (life at Pomona College, the weather, how I had met their offspring) and then simply shake hands and go our separate ways.

But here was my friend talking to my mother on the benefits of hitchhiking in South America.

My father, at this point wheelchair bound, rolled into the kitchen to see what the commotion was. I introduced him to Jos and then left the room to begin the process of getting my laundry done.

When I returned, my father -- who was in great pain during this period -- was laughing aloud, slapping the kitchen table top like an excited little boy. Jos had brought him under his spell as well.

I can't recall what Jos and my father were talking about -- possibly my father's habit of trying to learn Yiddish, though he's Mexican-American and a fallen away Catholic -- but I know that they were both enjoying their conversation.

I finished helping my mom with her tortillas and then lingered around a bit to observe my friend interact with my father. I enjoyed watching the two of them banter.

And then came a pause in the conversation. All conversations have them, these quiet periods where each side looks for the next island of talk to explore.

But it occurred to me that I had never seen Jos experience this silence before. He was all talk, all the time. At that point, I started leaving the room lest in the silence my observation of them be observed. But as I left I heard Jos recover and say, "Now I bet you don't know what's so important about this little item."

Probably pointing to one of his rings, I thought as I walked to the laundry room to get my clothes.

But Jos had not been talking about one of his many rings that often adorned his fingers.

No -- he was talking about a cake mix box. Specifically, a Duncan Hines, Moist and Fresh cake mix box. How do I know this? I know this because while I was gone, Jos had spun this large tale to my father about how my nickname at school was actually "Moist and Fresh".

I don't know the exact mythos Jos created and how much fake background he gave my dad, but I do know that my father -- a man who I would never describe as gullible in any way -- asked me when I returned why I had never told him that my name was "Moist and Fresh."

I thought he had lost his mind.

"Dad," I said. "YOU named me Alejandro and my nickname is the Mayan King, not 'Moist and Fresh'."

"That's not true," he insisted. "Jos just finished telling me all about it."

Jos, clever lad that he was, had already disappeared into the backyard to help my mother water her plants.

I stared at my father for a bit, realizing that my dad not only did not believe me but was taking the word of a man who he had only known for only an hour or so as gospel. I said nothing, grinned, and walked into the backyard to grab Jos before he started telling my mother other comparable tales.

I told my friend to say his goodbyes, packed up my clothes, loaded the car and headed back to Pomona College -- where for a week, I suffered being called Moist and Fresh by Jos.

More by Jano Cabrera: Moist and Fresh, Portable Massage Table, Kurt Kobain , Damon and Phintias, People's Guide to Mexico

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