Mission Magic

Emily and I realized we had been at the bar for hours, and we were not unexpectedly hungry. “We’re in the Mission, how hard can it be to find food?”

Famous last words.

Friday night. In the Mission. 11 pm. All restaurants closed.

We walked from restaurant to restaurant in disbelief. We’re in a major city and no food to be found. Incredible.

“Hey, what are you looking for?” he asked, momentarily breaking away from his cell phone plied next to his ear.

“Food. Any food. We’re starving.”

“Go in there. They serve food.”

“Now? It’s past 11.”

“Sure. No problem. Let’s go.” He snapped his cell phone closed and ushered us in.

Into a different world. The low ceiling sported thousands and thousands of tiny red Christmas lights, strung in an intricate web. Paper mache pinatas swung from the beat of the music. The dj. Spinning. Loud, loud Latino music, boom, boom, boom. Plastic balloons, dangling, sunshines, smiley faces, twisting and spinning. And the chatter. Not English. All Spanish. My brain shifted. I could understand this. I could. Concentrate.

Emily did the talking. She’s much more proficient in Spanish than I. They weren’t serving food. The kitchen had just closed. Not even the chance of a quesadilla. But our ambassador smiled. “No problema. Dos cervezas, para tu.”

We sat down, watching the couples on the dance floor twirl to salsa beats.

We contemplated our next move. Where should we go? We needed to eat.

“May I have this dance?” he asked, his hand outstretched. I looked up. He was speaking to me. I offered my hand, he took it, leading me to the crowded dance floor. Partners seemed to part. We commanded the center of the floor. The next song began. He twirled me. He spun me. He held me close then pushed me far. The music stopped and we laughed. “Are you still a little hungry?” “No, I am a lotta hungry.”

He walked us to a tacqueria still open. We ordered tacos and burritos and I listened to him and Emily speak in Spanish. He eventually left, returning to the bar, while Emily and I returned home, exhausted by the evening’s activities. As I fell asleep I clung to the evening’s moment of Mission magic.

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