They Don't Have Tacos In the Suck, Part 3

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
"I have corn on a stick!"
This is Part 3 of a four-part series: They Don't Have Tacos In the Suck, which chronicles an afternoon taco truck crawl with my best friend from college, an Air Force EOD sergeant whom I hadn't seen in 10 years. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

"Let's get a palate cleanser," I told Ryan as we pulled into the parking lot of the New Flea Market on Long Point at Pech. On the weekends, you can't find a space to park in the asphalt lot. But today, on an overcast Thursday afternoon, it was empty except for a few trucks parked haphazardly around Refresqueria Rio Verde.

"What are we getting here?" asked Ryan as we climbed out. "Do they have tacos?"

"Sure, they have tacos," I said. "But I thought we'd get something different in between. Do you like elotes?"

Elote, as I explained to Ryan, is basically corn on the cob. But instead of serving it with butter and salt, as us white folks tend to do, elote is served with crema, chile powder, lime juice and a host of other condiments that only seem foreign until you taste them all mixed together. Elote in a cup, the shaved kernels topped with a thick dollop of cream and a rough shake of chile powder, is mystifyingly comforting even if you've never had it before.

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I ordered a cup for myself and a giant glass of tamarindo for us to split, while Ryan went whole hog and got an elote-on-the-cob. "I have corn on a stick!" he called out to me like a little kid. And between swigs of the sweet, apple-like tamarind juice, Ryan bluntly asked: "So, what happened? You were married for, like, a second."

Ryan himself has been married for six years. As so often happens with Air Force men, he met a pretty German girl while stationed at the Rammstein Air Base in southwestern Germany on the edge of the hilly, green Pfälzerwald forest. They were married in a castle. She is beautiful, with expressive blue eyes and a kind face.

I gave Ryan a brief rundown of my own fumbling attempt at marriage, the millions of tiny ways in which my ex-husband and I both failed at the institution every single day until we were both relieved to finally call it quits a year and a half later. Ryan listened with a playful smirk on his face as I explained how I fell into the trap of being pursued by a good-looking athletic-type -- the weak spot of too many nerdy wallflowers the world over, men and women alike -- and refuted at least one point.

"You're not really a nerd," he laughed. "You're more of a pop culture dork. You're a female Chuck Klosterman."

"I don't know that being a female Chuck Klosterman is such a great thing!" I replied. The smirk was still on his face. He was waiting for his turn; I could tell. I promptly shut my mouth and let him have it.

"Well, the missus and I," he began grandly, "have been together since day one." He told me the story of their brief courtship and the mutually agreed-upon eventuality that they were destined to be together, so why spend useless years dating? It was sweeping and romantic and beautiful and everything you could want for your best friend, or for anyone with a good heart who deserves to meet another good-hearted soul in this world.

"When we got married," he told me, "I asked her: 'How much of what happens over there do you want me to tell you?'" It suddenly occurred to me that I wouldn't know the answer to that question were I married to a military man myself. But Ryan's wife knew the answer immediately: She wanted to know everything.

Those shared experiences became a bond between them, and Ryan grew even closer to her over time than he imagined possible. One day he told her: "You're my reason."

"My reason?" she wanted to know.

"You're the reason I want to come home after every deployment," he told her. "When I'm sent away on a six-month deployment, I just picture myself walking home to you. It's what gets me through. I picture myself walking over a huge mountain for six months until I see you again."

We sat and grinned goofily at the mountain Ryan had traced in the air with his hands. His corn-on-a-stick was gone, my cup was empty.

"My palate is cleansed," he announced happily. It was time to move on.



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16 comments
jim
jim

Welcome home, Ryan! As a Cold War submarine vet, I officially take back thirty years of "the civilian equivilant of being in the military" cracks about the Air Force. Apparently, the junior service has changed a lot from the days when a major crisis meant the base ran out of ping-pong balls. (That happened to a guy from my hometown, who joined the Air Force to see.... Nebraska.) Great series, Katherine!

William Philpot
William Philpot

That flea market/truck is right outside my neighborhood. I will have to try their elotes, because everything else from that truck has been a disappointment.

And good work on getting tears in my tacos. I hope the next part is at El Ultimo and there are some tears of joy.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

I have got to try Elote.  Best I've had so far is the Roasted Corn at the Rodeo.  Glad to see your friend is well-grounded.  It's always great to see friends from your past.

csoakley
csoakley

Hey, you're a pretty good writer. Have you ever thought about writing as a profession?

(Note to the internet: I know KS is already an accomplished writer. This is just my manly way of saying "I really dig this story" without getting too weepy about it.)

dream
dream

great reading.

dream

SirRon
SirRon

Damnit Shilcutt. Part 4 better not be so emotional. I'm not properly wired for this stuff. But it's so awesome.

Bradg
Bradg

 Must continue!  Part 5 through whatever, cause we're loving this.

Robert
Robert

Damn, this is only a four-part series?!

Cornball
Cornball

More! More! More!  Lighter's up!

Ranger Rick
Ranger Rick

A taco story that makes me cry at work?? What the hell KS?

SirRon
SirRon

Ha ha ha ha! The best jokes are the ones that are explained. Great comment!!1! Like!

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Well, we only had two hours that day...  ;)  Glad that you're enjoying it, and thanks for reading.

csoakley
csoakley

I guess I had that coming. Good article, though. I like the change of pace.

Robert
Robert

Boooo. We're all too invested. Write it into screen, a la My Dinner with Andre. I'd buy the promotional action figures.

Robert
Robert

Oops, that was supposed to be 'screenplay'

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