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Capsaicin: Chiles con Sal | By Marisela Gomez

A mother sat across her young son at her kitchen table with a basket of yellow chilies in the center. The morning sun and sea breeze traveled between them, lighting up her white kitchen. She placed her hands on the table and slowly entwined her fingertips together, waiting and smiling at every second that she stayed away from her chilies. The young boy stayed silent, watching his mother lost in her seconds of control.

No más chiles,” she said while smiling and staring at her chilies, “Say it with me, no más chiles.”

He stayed silent and continued to watch her as her hands turned into tight fists. Her smile widened, revealing her white, clenched teeth. He waited for a few more moments, taking note of the tears building up in her eyes.

No más chiles,” he said as he walked away from her and she gently took hold of a chili, moving it to her nose and absorbing its scent before taking multiple bites, seeds spilling across the table.

She spent the rest of her day munching on her chilies; raw, boiled, grilled, and roasted. Pans and pots piled up in her sink as she continued to cook without restraint. She sang, and her voice mixed with the spices in the air. Her son stayed in his room muffling his attempts to cough out the scent of the spices that found their way through the cracks of his door.

As the sun dipped past the horizon of the sea she ate the last chili from her basket. She savored the remaining capsaicin in her mouth. Her burning tongue and lips stayed with her in her moonlit kitchen.

The young boy walked past his motionless mother and turned on the lights. He went to the sink and stood on a small stool to wash the dishes, pots, and pans. His mother closed her eyes as she felt the last lingering burning sensation. She turned to her son and watched as he bent his small shoulders over the sink.

She moved closer to him and placed her arms around him, engulfing him with the scent of her chilies. She cried and said, “No más chiles, I promise.”

He continued to wash the remaining dishes and turned off the faucet. He stroked her head and moved her arms away from him. Stepping away from the stool he went to the refrigerator and took out the carton of milk. He drank every drop and went back into his room as he said, “Take a towel this time.”

His mother cried a bit more, took a towel from the cupboard and went out into the beach. She removed her food-stained dress and placed it next to the towel on the sand. She walked into the sea and floated on her back, as she repeated, No más chiles with every backstroke. The salty sea seeped into her mouth, skin and every pore.

After a few more, No más chiles, she swam back to shore and dried herself before going back inside. She went into her son’s room and held him as he pretended to sleep.

The next morning, they sat next to each with another yellow-chilies basket in the center of their kitchen table. She smiled and said, No más chiles. He waited for a few more moments, but he could see her weak control.

He took the basket and threw the chilies out the kitchen window. She rushed outside to pick them up from the sand and munched on her chiles con sal.

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