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Old chambón


Órale, the featured word this week is chambón. It means a motivated and convinced believer who’s wrong. It’s of unknown origin, with no feasible root in either Spanish or English. The closest word in Romaní, in terms of pronunciation and meaning, is chamborró, which means adolescent—somebody who doesn’t yet know how the world really is. The vato who was sure de amadres he was invited to the party that he brought guests and didn’t even ring the doorbell, but nel, he wasn’t invited, is a chambón! No psychological or behavioral condition is necessary to be a chambón. You just have to hit the wall going one hundred miles an hour sure there was an opening when there was never any.

The vato was strolling down memory lane in the Southside on the street where the most beautiful morra he ever met once lived. Dogs were barking and low-riders were cruising by checking him out, but his mind was in a time gone by.

The epitome of beauty to him, the morra had reddish brown hair and an athletic build. Soft voice with a subtle Mexican accent, as if her parents spoke good English with a heavy Spanish accent and passed it on to her.

The vato remembered how she came in the fall and went away the following spring. Everybody at school was charmed by her. She was lovely in every way. The vato’s memory of her was that of the sun rising and shining hard and then suddenly going behind the clouds. Mucho buzz y good feeling, then nothing.

Walking down that street after many years brought back not just the memories of what had been, but also the dreams of what could have been.

There was the semicircle driveway where she boarded her family’s station wagon and drove away.

Then suddenly his daydream dissolved, and out of it emerged the real life image of Louis, the chambón who once competed with him for the morra’s attention.

The vato came to associate the word chambón with the face and pathetic behavior of Louis that fateful spring day.

The vato had gone to visit the morra one sunny Saturday in April and found her helping pack up her household. Their relationship had been growing until then. They weren’t boyfriend-girlfriend, but he was sure they were headed there. The vato remembered the feeling of elation at the time. He was sure they would eventually kiss, go to the prom together, get married, have children, and live happily ever after.

The morra came out to greet him that Saturday then suddenly told him she was leaving for good.

Then just as suddenly, Louis drove by as if he too was coming to visit but, seeing the vato standing in her driveway, yelled something unintelligible and sped by.

“My dad got a good job in San Antonio,” the morra told the vato.

Seconds later, Louis drove by again and repeated his gibberish and peeled his tires.

The morra then retreated back into the moving project.

Then Louis sped by a few more times chisgado de amadres.

The family eventually drove away, but Louis kept circling and yelling at the vato until he left.

“I know who you are,” Louis told the vato.

“You come by to check on somebody?” he asked sarcastically.

“Chale. I know she doesn’t live here anymore,” said the vato.

“Pos why are you here then?”

“I live here. Bought the house after I retired. I never got over her. So I just bought the house where she used to live,” Louis said.

“Retired from what, ese?” the vato asked.

“The priesthood,” Louis said, staring hard at the vato.

“Eeee! Chambón!” the vato thought to himself.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.