We sit on overturned milk crates, the thick blue plastic digging into my chubby legs. It's in our blood, he always says. When I'm old enough, he will show me how to make rum. This is another thing he always says. 

He has a real shot-glass. I have the metal cap from the bottle of Don Q. 

He pours out the golden nectar: just below the rim of the glass for him, just below the edge of the bottle cap for me.  I make a move to taste my shot, but he stops me. Anyone can drink rum, but not everyone knows how to do it properly, with a toast. A proper toast should always be in Spanish. Anything else would be uncivilized.

I follow his lead and raise my little, metal bottle-cap, filled with rum, up as high as I can, and repeat the words he says with such bravado: "Salud. Dinero. Amor." Metal taps glass, we smile, and then we each drink down our shots in one swallow. The alcohol burns my throat and sends a warm rush through my body. It is not unpleasant. I know this feeling well, already. 

"Una vez mas!" he announces, reaching for the bottle to refill our glasses. This time he remains silent and waits for me. I raise my makeshift shot-glass and say, in my four-year-old voice, calling up all the bravado he has left for me, "Salud. Dinero. Amor." 

Still the only toast I ever make. English-speaking women swoon a little. It would have given him devilish joy to know this, Caribbean Casanova that he was. 

Juan Matilde Torres

Juan Matilde Torres

- Lana Nieves is a Puerto Rican writer from Brooklyn, NY.  Read her previous entry for Dead Housekeeping here.