¡Guns N’ Arepas!
Chaz Parito looked at his watch then his phone while at a stop light. Both indicated that it was six o’clock. He was late for his first date with a girl named Rica Diego, a high school senior from Central. Chaz, a high school senior from Sawgrass, met her at a book fair two weeks earlier in Miami.
His plan was to take her to dinner at a Cuban restaurant in Miami. Then see the Guns N’ Roses concert at the Miami Marlin’s Baseball Field. However, the plan had peeled away after he misjudged the twenty-mile drive to her home. What should have taken fifteen minutes for an early arrival now bordered thirty in the heavy traffic.
The pressure mounted when a vehicle in front of him flashed its hazard lights and the driver exited his vehicle, lifting his hood. As the green light teased the traffic that couldn’t move in the congested two lanes, and the cacophony of horns enhanced the inertia, Chaz’s phone rang. It was Rica…
“Hello,” Chaz said.
“Where are you?” Rica asked.
“I’m stuck in traffic behind a car that broke down. I’m sorry,” Chaz said.
“It’s alright, I understand?” Rica said.
Chaz eventually picked up Rica who greeted him with a smile. On the drive to Miami they talked about the concert, music, and plans for college.
The conversation rolled with tempo and flow until the traffic came to a halt. Rica grabbed her phone, typed in the restaurant’s address as per Chaz to see if there was a better route. Then news wasn’t good as the directions indicated heavy traffic.
Rica felt bad for Chaz and made a compassionate suggestion: “I’m having a great time now just like I did at the book fair. Why don’t we go to the concert and eat something afterwards.”
Chaz glanced over to see her smiling and agreed.
Rica navigated him from there in the direction of the concert.
“I see the stadium,” Rica said.
Feeling relived that he made it somewhere early, Chaz began looking for parking. Unfortunately, the narrow streets of Little Havana where the stadium is located were packed. A search for parking had led them away from the stadium, block by block. Rica saw an old woman on a corner holding a sign for parking.
The old woman smiled as Chaz approached her. He said hello as they exchanged greetings speaking in Cuban Spanish, and paid to park in her driveway.
While walking to the stadium, Rica said, “She reminds me of my abuela.”
“I’ll tell you, and I say this respectfully, all Cuban grandmothers look alike,” Chaz said, laughing.
Rica laughed as well and held his hand—he smiled. They walked and made a turn on a street near the stadium. On that corner, a block away from the concert was a vendor selling arepas. Chaz had promised Rica a dinner and cautiously offered to buy an arepa.
“That’s perfect,” Rica said.
Chaz ordered two of the warm sweetened corn patties with a layer of cheese and two bottled waters. The vendor, who wore a ball cap with a Colombian flag, served them then said, “Appetite por day-struck-she-own, si or no?”
Chaz and Rica were laughing with the vendor’s play on words mentioning Guns N’ Roses “Appetite for Destruction” album. “Si,” they responded to him in unison then thanked him.
They entered the concert and had a great time. Upon leaving the event, Chaz, who was in heaven holding Rica’s hand, realized they exited at a different street.
“I don’t remember entering here?” Chaz said.
“This doesn’t look familiar at all,” Rica answered.
Rica pulled out her phone in preparation of a location: “What’s was the name of the street or the address?”
Chaz realized that he had neither. He looked left and right, his jaw dropped with the burning question that made sweat collect on his brow. The look on his face filled the moment with doubt and Rica recognized it.
“OK, I know what we should do. If we walk the perimeter of the stadium, I’m certain we’ll recognize our entrance which will lead us to the street,” Chaz said.
A few minutes passed with the pull of Chaz’s memory like taffy.
“Do you see anything familiar?” Rica said.
Chaz remained silent but his clammy hand holding hers was enough indication of a “No” response.
In the crowd of pedestrians on the sidewalks and bumper to bumper vehicles on the streets, Chaz heard a familiar voice. “Appetite por day-struck-she-own! Lahs ones!”
“There!” Chaz said pointing at the vendor.
“Thank God!” Rica said.
They walked to the vendor, purchased his last two arepas, and turned onto the side street that led to his car. Waiting for them with a smile was the abuela who said, “Hola!” Chaz apologized for taking so long to remove his car. She jokingly told them, “I was more concerned about having breakfast for you in the morning.”
“Thanks for your offer,” Rica said laughing. Then Rica, looking at Chaz, placed her hand around his waist and said, “Luckily, my boyfriend got us food.”
“Boyfriend,” Chaz said smiling.
“Certainly, you know, were moving in the right direction,” Rica said.
Guns N’ Arepas (A Miami Concert Story)
is a 24-Hour Short Story Contest Winner