Ricardo sat on a vegetable crate across from me with a wide, cheshire grin.
“I would love to practice my English with you. I am traveling to New York in the week after next.” I mustered a half smile.
I answered in slow, methodical Spanish, “You will love it there. Are you going to the theatre? You must see Times Square, if only for a half an hour.”
It was closing time at the vegetable stand. I shifted my weight back and forth. V. and I had been talking about our weeks. She asked if I felt better–during the weekend, I had stopped by pale and sickly, too much time spent working in the apartment. I had been semi-delirious and couldn’t string my Spanish together well.
Ricardo came in to buy some vegetables for his fresh salmon steak. He decided to stay. He continued, “V’s smile is so sincere and inviting…I love to drop by and talk with her.”
My smile felt painted on—too transparent. My talks with V. are often interrupted by business. She says it’s important for me to hear the accents, to pick up new words of her conversations. We talk about who is hard to comprehend, who has a strange accent. Which word did I not understand?
A woman came by with a dog named Inez, a Norwegian elkhound mix, a stray. I raked my fingers through Inez’s long, gray fur and she looked up at me with affection. “Do you want a little cat?” her owner asked.
My mind first translated her question into, “Do you want a little cracker,” until I realized that she was asking if we wanted a small cat, a kitten. Funny how our minds quickly retranslate. I figured she hadn’t saved a little cracker wandering in the park nearby.
“I am sorry, but I rent and I am not sure I’m allowed to have a cat. And I have allergies.” I would love a cat, I should have said.
At 9:30, I gathered my vegetables and stood up. Time to cook pasta orecchiette. “I am hungry,” I stated plainly. I am not good at exits, especially late at night. Ricardo stood up too. “Yes, it’s time to eat.”
“Safe journeys” I wished him. “Come back with stories.”
“Chau, V.” I kiss her on the cheek, the common Argentine hello and goodbye. “You are an angel.”