Thursday, February 27, 2003

His Name Is Fritos. That shall be the title of a short story of mine. Yesterday on my way from work to Barbara's a guy sat down near me on the F train. Too close to me it seemed – there were plenty of open seats but he took the nearest one against the wall, perpendicular to my bench. He was a thin, young Hispanic man with a wispy mustache, a gold chain, and curled hair bulging under his baseball cap. He was eating Fritos. At first I didn't, but then I caught a whiff of that unique Frito smell, that salty-sandy smell, momentarily delicious but so transient, so insubstantial. And I thought of the word itself for the first time, how it's a Spanish word for a fried thing, but I'd managed to never in my life recognize it as a Mexican-influenced thing: to me Frito was all-American, garishly so; as American as Crayola or Dr. Pepper or Visine, blissfully artificial and pure Yankee.

But they stole the word.

And I remembered the real reason I get this American-flavored taste when I think of Fritos: when I was maybe nine, we were in the hills of Northwestern Connecticut visiting my mom's cousin and her rich small-town family. She'd married an oil executive and had a Barbie doll-blonde baby daughter whose beauty was fated to be ravaged by alcoholism and depression. But I digress. This girl, then a teen, was introducing my brother to someone I think, and she momentarily forgot his name, and she took the opportunity of her misstep to say this:

"Fritos! His name is Fritos. I've got to go get more Fritos."

And she glided into the kitchen to pour more in the bowl.