Speaking-over-a-mile-a-minute-all-the-time-and-constantly-throwing-the-number-409-409-409-in-multiples-of-three-was-literally-her-signature. Like she was in a race to get out what she needed to say before anybody stopped paying attention or she forgot what it was she was trying to say – one or the other – our vecina Juanita spoke faster than anyone we’d ever met.
And just as fast, she was a part of our life. One minute we were moving into our first house, a small little three bedroom-one bathroom place in a lower middle class neighborhood of mostly black and Mexican families, and the next, there she was on the other side of our screen door going on and on about something or other we just assumed my mother understood. All it sounded like to us was ¡409! ¡409! ¡¡409!!‘ Juanita swore by it. According to her, 409 the cleaning product could take care of anything, no matter what it was.
¿O se le tapo el baño? ¡¡409, 409, 409!!
¡Estos-huercos-no-hacen-caso-fijese-que-a-mi-también-me-mancharon-la-carpeta-ayer-si-nomás-me-descuide-un-ratito-iluego-iluego-ya-estaba-toda-manchada-de-puro-chocolate-pero-luego-luego-le-heche-409-y-el-409-fijese-que-es-bien-bueno-que-luego-luego-el-409-409-409-la-dejo-como-nueva! ¿Tiene 409?
¡409! ¡409! ¡¡409!!
Of course her 409 was more like for-ou-nain.
In all honesty we were all quite mean to poor Juanita. The fact she weighed all of 130 pounds, had crazy frizzy hair, wore half-inch thick bifocals, drove a town car-sized sedan, liked wearing teeshirts with kitty cat designs, flowers and the likes with spandex pants and stretchy blue jeans really didn’t help her any either, in our eyes. Even my dad would join in on the arremedadera sometimes. ¡Esa vieja fastidiosa!, he’d yell out of nowhere in that tone of voice we all knew meant he was enjoying what we were saying even if he wasn’t laughing with us.
My mom was the only one that most of the time would refrain from saying anything about her dear friend and vecina Juanita. She was after all her confidant and compañera. When we were all gone to school or work, in my dad’s case, Juanita was the one that would keep her company, that would give her advice, that would cry with her, that would chismear with her, and who really showed my mother the true value of a friendship. Which was why it was so funny when after scolding us for making fun of la pobre de Juanita – ¿ella que les hace? – mom would start imitating her herself almost to the tee, pace of words and mannerisms impeccably Juanita’s.
The odd thing was, after we left that neighborhood we all actually missed Juanita. Life just wasn’t the same without her showing up unannounced at our front door, sending all us kids running through the house trying to get away from her and her high-pitched voice as fast as we could, but never any faster than her lightning-speed flow of words.
We didn’t have anyone to hide from or pretend we weren’t home for anymore in the new house. Juanita, if you’re out there, sorry for all the chistes at your expense…and by the way 409 is actually pretty good for almost anything.
Thanks for the tip.