If you have visited or lived in Mexico, you probably know that after a restaurant meal, one has to request the check or bill. It isn’t automatically brought to your table after the last dirty dish is carted away. To receive your bill, one simply waves at or makes a check-mark motion in the direction of the server. Or the diner may audibly ask for “la cuenta.”
From the first time I heard the word, I thought “la cuenta” sounded light and musical, not harsh and rude like “Check!” Even adding a “please” to the request in English, I thought, failed to soften the hardness of the word. Using the term “bill,” on the other hand, never seemed appropriate to me; had we just bought plumbing supplies at Home Depot, endured a root canal at the dentist office, or used more than the allowable minutes on our cell phone? No. “Bill” implied a business transaction more than an enjoyable service. Besides, I thought the word “bill” sounded just plain flat. “La cuenta,” conversely, was beautiful, symphonic.
Imagine my surprise when I learned of an American, Willy Lyman, who settled on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande decades ago, married a local woman, Lola Cabral, and opened a restaurant, Mesa Para Dos, serving a fusion of flavors from the US and Mexico.
Lola gave birth to fraternal twins, a girl and a boy, on the first anniversary of Mesa Para Dos. Willy and Lola named the girl LaCuenta and the boy Bill.
I swear this story is true. Or the figment of my imagination.