It is June. I am at a friend’s home in Southern California for a barbecue, sitting with Nigel, a balding man from London, and his sister. Most of the other guests are strangers to me. We are making light conversation on the topic of cultural differences. Nigel says that the English answer every question with another question.
As an example, he says that if I were to say, “This is lovely weather, isn’t it?” He would reply, “It is, isn’t it?”
I leave them for a bit to go to the buffet for tacos, and carne asada, but as I turn around I see Monica.
Monica has just come through the backdoor and I am standing in her way. I look up and into her large brown eyes and she stares back at me with a smile. Her hair is brown, shoulder length around a neat round face. She is wearing a long floral patterned skirt with a white cap-sleeved blouse.
All of this I see in my periphery because I am still staring into her eyes. Other guests are piling up behind her trying to get through the door but I cannot seem to move. She stares back at me with a quiet smile. As she gentle shifts me to one side, I fumble out a hello, then realize that she speaks no English.
Leaving her friends, Monica and I find a quiet place to talk, but neither of us understands what the other is saying. All I can manage to grasp is that her name and that she is visiting from Mexico; Ciudad de Chihuahua.
Soon my friends are ready to leave, so Monica hastily dips into her handbag, pulls out a pen and a little Mexican souvenir; a little knitted poncho with a small ceramic sombrero glued to 1 by two inch card. She writes her email address and telephone number on the back of the card.
Before I leave, I look back through the crowd. Monica is watching with a smile…