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She bit off all the tips!


Órale, to demonstrate how effective of a communication platform Caló can be, we’re going to start using it to navigate that delicate, complex, and very nuanced world of romance. Es gonna be puro romance from the eyes of a vato– just a vato. You tell us if it works or not. This episode is about the word, quehubole, It’s a greeting made up of the contraction of the Spanish words, qué, which means what, and hubo, the past tense of haber, which means is or have. It also has the suffix le, which indicates the acceptability of or preference for a given action or thing. Quehubole asks, what did you want to have happened? It can be abbreviated further as a more impersonal quehubo, which mean what’s up. Quehubole can also be used in a more existential greeting, as in ‘what do you think,’ in the same fashion that hello is used when it’s presented as a question. Quehubole? Hello?

The earliest romance the vato can remember came to him the summer between his 2nd and 3rd grade. It was an unexpected experience that briefly transported him out of the monolithic world of play and sleep he had known until then. One moment he was playing with a childhood playmate, then suddenly he was in love with her—viscerally and forever. It was a glim pse of love that proved formative. From then on, he would compare every moment of intense love or joy against this first encounter.

It occurred one early afternoon on the way back to his grandmother’s house from the tiny store a few doors down, where he had been dispatched to buy a dozen green chiles to make a calabacitas casserole for lunch.

“Here, take these 10 pesos and go tell Panino to give you a bonche of green chiles. Make sure they’re all whole, not damaged,” his grandmother had told him with a smile.

The vatito smiled back. He knew this was a big act of grandmotherly love. A lot of labor for just one serving for just one little vatito.

“Check and make sure the tips haven’t been bitten off,” his grandmother added, broadening smile to hint at the little race for the chile tips they often got into.

He took the 10-peso coin and ran off amadres to Panino’s in the hot sun. On his way, he passed by his usual playmate, Luci, who was standing in her front doorway.

“Where you running?” she asked when she realized he wasn’t coming in.

“Panino’s,” was all he could say as he dashed by.

“Here you go a bonche of green chiles—all whole,” said Panino, showing him they all still had their tips before he finished wrapping them in a cone of brown paper.

The vatito le puso back to his grandmother’s and again ran into his playmate.

“What’d you get?” she asked him, standing in his way.

“Chiles,” he answered.

“Let me see,” she demanded.

He showed her the bunch of chiles, and before he could react, she grabbed the package, opened it, and started biting the tips off the chiles.

The vato froze, incredulous and tickled. He thought he might play along and race her for the tips, but she was done before he could react.

“Eh!” he said at last.

“Quehubole?” the girl said as she rushed into her house with a got-away-with-it smile.

The vatito walked back to his grandmother’s with many mixed feelings.

“Luci bit off all the tips!” he announced as he plopped the chiles on the kitchen table.

His grandmother chuckled and give him a knowing smile.

“You’re still too little to understand,” she told him as she brought him into her arms.

He felt his face turn hot. Whatever had happened, it was different but good—as good as anything could be.

“Quehubole?” he said softly to himself.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.