What Should Not Matter (Chapter 3)
Rosa and Britta entered the Blue Star. It being a large well lit diner that made use of its position at the corner of the street by having entrances on both sides. It could also be said that the “Blue Star” was just that, with everything in the place being a dark blue; making it seem as if one were eating at the bottom of the ocean. There was also a casual relaxing grace about this place which its patrons seemed to appreciate, specially those who like Britta went there on their lunch break.
It was the Blue Star’s lunch hour crowd which forced them to take seats at the long round counter that surrounded the cooking area. It being there where they were attended by Juan, the black waiter from Costa Rica. “Hola, Rosa como estas? And how are you today Britta? And what can I get you senoritas today? Here is the menu, you look at it and tell me what you want I be back.” were the words from their sometimes overly friendly waiter; who was so busy that he did not even have time to stand around and gab or hear their reply to his question.
“Britta, what you recommend I have today? You know what is best for me and Geraldito, like you know I will call him.” was what Rosa cried out to Britta, trying to be heard over the roar of those who were also eating at the Blue Star. “Rosa you eat what you want, you know what to avoid and as I have already told you your weight is what it should be.” was Britta response as she knew that most expecting mothers liked to be reassured of what they already knew to be true.
“Ok, I’ll tell you what, since today is your turn to invite, I will have what ever you are having.” was Rosa’s reply who seemed tired to the point of not even wanting to look over the menu. Today, there was something about Rosa that Britta had taken notice of. It giving her the sensation that Rosa was waiting for the appropriate moment to tell her something or perhaps ask her for a favor and it was while looking over the choices on the menu that she could feel Rosa’s eyes on her; as if she were analyzing if now was the appropriate moment to say what thoughts her mind was turning over.
There was something in Rosa’s tone when she said “Britta” that told her she wanted something from her which she felt uneasy about asking. It was as if she were making a request on someone else’s behalf or as if she were about to ask her something which she would have to think over, like weather or not she would agree to being Geraldito’s godmother.
“Britta” now Rosa repeating her name for a second time, as if she wanted her to stop looking at the menu (which was no longer needed since Britta had already made up her mind) and look her in the eyes; as she was going to ask something of importance. Britta at that point looked into Rosa’s green eyes, reading that there was something on her mind which she could see Rosa needed to ask. So Britta, not wanting to assume that Rosa would ask something of her simply said in her typically calm Nordic voice “Yes, Rosa what is it?”
Rosa was a person who was very talkative, exceeding any Britta had ever known but she noticed that on some occasions Rosa found it hard to articulate and she sensed that this was one of them. Britta at that point knew that Rosa wanted something from her but needed perhaps a little push or motivation from her to say what she seemed to be so desperately trying. Britta at that moment more as an instinct than anything else took Rosa’s right hand (Rosa sitting on Britta’s left, occupying the rotating stool next to hers) with her left, which was the closest one and then rotated her stool to where these two women were facing each other. As Britta was now holding Rosa’s left hand with both her hands while looking her straight in the eye in a show of affection that Rosa had never known her Swedish friend to have. It was a look that at first even frightened Rosa but then as she saw a southing smile break from Brittta’s lips (it traveling all through Britta’s face, making Rosa secure of talking to a friend), who at that moment had also been taken by the feeling of wanting to give warmth through a simple physical act of holding hands.
Rosa at that moment felt a sensation she had gotten from very few people in her life, her parents, brother, and late husband being those who had given her the confidence to express herself like Britta was now supplying her with. “Britta, you remember my brother or me telling you about he,?” were Rosa’s words which she said in a tone of voice that showed how relaxed she was. “Yes, I remember you telling me about him. You mentioned that he is a boxer who lives in Florida, who is quit well known but why do you ask?” were Britta’s words which also showed relief. As it had been the not knowing that had led her to worry but she could now see that there was no need.
As Rosa went on slowly, much more than usual, pausing between words as if she were crossing a mine field; not knowing what Britta’s reaction would be or as if she were unsure of her own English. “Well, how can I tell you? He is going to have a fight, his first in New York, in Madison Square Garden and it’s a very important for his career as a professional.” Rosa’s voice starting to fill with a certain pride as she continued “My bother has asked me to get him a doctor, see he need doctor because his old doctor from Panama is retiring and he needs a doctor to look at him, please (now her voice taking on that desperate tone of someone who is in need of a friend or someone’s help) can you be his doctor? Of course you would be well paid. He like I tell you, my brother is a top ranked contender so you he would pay you well.”.
Britta was now taken aback by this request, as it was one she never expected anybody to make. She was confused and did not know what to say; on the one hand this was the sort of request which if from anybody else she would have refused without thinking it twice but this was different. She being from a country where people never made quick decisions needed to get more information which she thought to do. “Rosa (saying this as it was now Rosa who was holding her left hand with her right while looking at her with those eyes of hers that were imploring as much as her voice) I can’t say yes till I know more about what your brother wants and how much time he wants me for. I can imagine he will pay me, that is not the problem but what would I have to do for him, would he want me to go to his fights?” were Britta’s words said in the insecurity of someone who is being asked to do something she really did not want to do but on the other hand did not have the character to say no.
“I am not really sure what you would have to do for him, that he could explain to you but I think his old doctor used to go to his fights and from time to time he would go for a check up but I don’t really know. It’s best you talk to him but I would like you to be his doctor because I feel I can trust you. We need someone who will tell us the truth because sometimes my brother’s manager want to make him box when he has injury, you know to make money.”. Rosa’s request was so bizarre that it was something Britta never thought she would be asked. She even had trouble imagining what it was that she would be doing. Would she be required to wait ringside for Rosa’s brother and check between rounds what toll the punches thrown by his opponents had taken on his face and body.
At this time Britta was really trapped between not wanting to change her professional life and wanting to help her friend. As she could see how this was something of magnitude to Rosa and on the other hand extra money would never be unwelcome; as she could always see him after hours at the hospital. She really did not know what to do. She would have to think about it but how to say it? How to tell Rosa that she needed time to make such decisions, without her friend getting the wrong impression that she was refusing. Rosa could see the emotions in Britta which had become mixed and decided it would be better to let her think it over, so she with the desire of not causing further strain on her friend said “You don’t have to decide now, you can think about it but please promise me you will see my brother and let him explain it to you; ok?”. in a voice that let Britta know that she was also capable of understanding the dilemma her friend might be experiencing. Britta however did not fail to notice the look on Rosa’s face, as she said this in the tone and with the look that one friend uses which says that come what may their friendship would not evaporate.
Britta at that moment stepped out of herself; laughing in disbelieve at her own decision and while still keeping her hand in Rosa’s; said “Ja, (yes in Swedish) I will do it!” in a voice of someone who has just been convinced of something she never thought she would be. Now, Rosa’s joy was visible (like the time she had told her she was expecting) with one of those spontaneous reactions that were so like her Latin American friend, as her voice went to one of cheer when she said “Ok, you will talk to my brother?”.
“No, I will do it, I will be your brother’s doctor.” were the words Britta said in her own Swedish accent but using her friend’s enthusiastic way of expression. As if she had caught some of her Central American friend’s flair which she at first found a little exaggerated. Rosa’s feelings of delight took over her and made her hug her friend quicker than she could realize what she had done. Britta, however much to her own even further surprise welcomed her friend’s hug and didn’t even mind her friend’s kiss, which she even felt good about, as it let her know how much her service as a doctor would mean.
“Senoras, que pasa aca porque tanta felicidad?” (Spanish for “ladies, why so much joy?”) was what they heard Juan say that interrupted that which they were sharing as they turned away from one another to face the counter. “Juan (now Britta speaking for both of them said) Rosa and I will have the same thing. So we’ll take the chicken special with the Greek salad and two cokes.” “Ok, coming up senorita Britta.” , Juan cried out as he jotted down their order on his pad.
“What did Juan say?” was Britta’s question as she continued savoring the moment she and her friend had shared. “Oh, it is nothing. He asked why we are so happy?” was Rosa’s reply with the relief that she and her friend would become closer, as she was going to be not only meeting her brother but working for him as well.
Suddenly, the sound which Rosa feared the most was heard. This given it brought back memories which Britta knew from where of they came. It was the sound she recognized as the one her phone made whenever it was receiving a text message. It was this sound which always caused in her the same reaction of near panic that on this occasion rushed her to quickly get to her phone; her having placed it in her left leg pocket of her overalls. As she opened the phone ( first looking through the window on the phone) she saw that the message was from her brother. The message whose content bought her relieve (as it was nothing to worry about) was “Le has dicho a tu amiga la doctora lo que te pedi? Y cuando me va poder ver me para hablar? Derrepente manana antes o despues de tu concierto el que tu me dijiste sera en el Parque Central podemos invitarla a algun lugar o en tu casa?”. (Have you told your friend the doctor what I asked? And when can we get together and talk? Maybe tomorrow before or after your concert in Central Park? We can take her somewhere or at your place.)
“It’s from my brother Manuel, he asked me if I asked you to be his doctor, he asked me if he could speak to you maybe tomorrow before or after my concert at the park or at my place or maybe we go out somewhere for a drink? (now her voice and face showing the idea that had hit her) Why you don’t meet my brother here and then you two go to my concert together? He could meet you after work. You know tomorrow I can’t meet you till after the concert because I am going to be busy, so why don’t you meet him here yourself and he will tell you what he wants from you. Is that Ok?” cried out Rosa as she put her right arm around Britta; to thank her once again for what she was about to do for her brother.
“Ok, tell your brother I will meet him here tomorrow at 18:00, after work and he can tell me what he wants from me and give me his medical records.”, Britta replying in her relaxed Swedish voice which came in sharp contrast to Rosa’s anxiety while sharing a laugh which was drowned out by the overall noise in the diner. It was at this point that Rosa felt the confidence she needed to send her brother a reply to his SMS, telling him that her doctor and best friend (since the death of her spouse) was also going to be his doctor.
“Senoras, (this word making both Britta and Rosa look up) excuse me. Here are your orders, both of you have the same today. So, buen apetito.” was Juan, the “friendly waiter” or “simpatico waiter” as he was known to his customers; telling Rosa and Britta that their orders had been served. Britta and Rosa both looked at each other and at their meal which was on the counter and then at Juan, who was still waiting behind the counter with both his hands at his sides as if waiting for them to say something. “Thank you” was what they said together as Juan looked at them. “Excuse me, Britta but do you mind if I speak Spanish to Juan?” Rosa asked Britta, who not being able to answer in words, as her mouth was full simply nodded in the affirmative to Rosa; who started conversing with Juan.
“Manana va venir mi hermano, tu te acuerdas que te dije quien es el?”.(tomorrow my brother is coming, you remember I told you about him?) “Si como no, el es el boxeador, el nuevo mano de piedra Panameno, yo he visto sus peleas, yo como tu sabes soy un gran fanatico del boxeo, el va pelear en el Madison Square Garden pronto contrata un Koreano para ponerse entre uno de los contendientes al titulo” (Yes, of course he is a boxer, he is the new Panamenian “hand of stone”, I have seen some of his fights. I as you know am a great boxing fan. He is going to be fighting at Madison Square Garden against a Korean fighter in order to become one of top contenders for the title) was Juan’s reply in his perhaps not loud but enthusiastic way of speaking that reminded Britta of a radio announcer.
Britta loved hearing people speak Spanish, as she loved its melody which she could understand most of as she was a fluent speaker of Portuguese; which she learnt during her long stay in Brazil. “Si, es cierto lo que has dicho pero yo te lo mencione a mi hermano porque manana va estar en Nueva York para ver mi concierto en el Parque Central y lo pienso mandar aca” (yes, it is true what you said but the reason I am talking about him is because he is coming to New York for my concert in Central Park and I am thinking of telling him to have lunch, here) was Rosa’s answer which surprised Juan at the thought of having a celebrity in his father’s diner. “Que bien que tu hermano va venir aqui pero no entiendo, tu lo vas a mandar que no va a venir contigo?”(That’s great your brother is coming here but I don’t get it, your sending him here, isn’t he coming with you?) Was Juan asking in confusion. “Si, mira lo que passa es que yo manana voy a estar demasiado ocupada con lo del concierto que vamos a dar en el Parque Central y por lo tanto el va tener que venir aca solo, para encontrarse con Britta” (yes, it turns out that tomorrow I am going to be too busy with the concert which we are giving in Central Park and that’s why he is going to have to come here tomorrow and meet Britta by himself) was Rosa’s reply to Juan, who she could see from the look on his face that suddenly something had occurred to him which he said “Oye, como la va reconocer tu hermano quien es tu amiga? Acaso el la visto?” (Listen, how is your brother going to know who your friend is? Has he seen here?).
Rosa suddenly started thinking about what he had said as Britta continued eating her lunch, not really paying attention to what was being said. “Britta, you remember what my brother looks like? I showed once his picture but that was when he was very young; maybe you won’t recognize him tomorrow when you come? I have idea, maybe you send him an MMS from your phone, that way he will have your number and your photograph so he know who you are and he can call you if he has a delay tomorrow.” Rosa said to Britta, whom she could tell from her prickly smile was shy about doing such things; prompting Rosa to say “Come on, don’t be shy.”. “Ok, now I send him my photo by MMS with a message telling him it’s me and my number, he reads English doesn’t he?” was Britta’s reply to Rosa who just said “Yes, he speaks”.
Juan then (who overheard while attending the client next to Britta and Rosa) said in his joking manner, while Britta handed her phone to Rosa saying “Please, take my photo”. “Si, es una buena idea mandale el MMS si, no tu hermano no la conoce, y yo creo que tu hermano le va gustar esta, gringinta.” (Yes, it’s a good idea, send her an MMS, if your brother does not know her, I think your brother will like this, gringa).”Oye, ten cuidado lo que paras diciendo de mi amiga y presta atencion porque ella entendiende el castellano porque habla el Portuges, que tu lla sabes es muy parecido al nuestro idioma!”(hey, you watch your mouth when you talk about my friend and be careful she understands Spanish because she speaks Portuguese which like you know is similar to our language) were Rosa’s slightly indignant words which she gave as an order to Juan as she handed Britta back her phone, after having taken her photo (which Britta posed for by smiling, after trying to fix her hair with her hands) so Britta could write a message which would accompany the MMS to be sent to Manuel’s number; Rosa having already given this number in case of emergency.
“Y quien dijo algo malo de tu amiga? Yo simplemente dicia que tu hermano probablemente le va gustar tu amiga, porque yo creo que ella es el tipo de mujer que les gusta a nosotros los latinos.” (What did I say? All I am saying is that your brother will probably like your friend because you know how Latin men like her type.). Britta who had understood the general idea of what Juan said after having sent the MMS said “Si, yo se que los chicos Latinos, le gusta las Suecas rubia , incluso mas que los chicos Suecos, yo me dar cuenta de esto cuando estube en Brasil como me miraban los muchachos, mucho mas que en Suecia donda miran mas las latinas como Rosa.” (Yes, I know how Latino Boys like blonde Swedish girls, I noticed this when I was living in Brazil, they way the men looked at me. A lot more than they did in Sweden where they look at Latinas like Rosa) was Britta’s comeback in Spanish which surprised both her listeners; who could see that something had come of the private Spanish lessons she had been taking. “You speak good Spanish, but excuse me I have go back to my work, enjoy your meal.” Juan said laughing to himself.
After that the two senoritas got to their meal which they ate in almost complete silence, as none of them could afford to use up much time for lunch; specially with schedules that did not allow them the freedom that other people enjoyed. During their meal however they did go over how Britta would spend the following night at Rosa’s apartment, a place where she had already spent many a night; on the evenings which she had gone to see Rosa play with the New York Philharmonic. Britta not only had spent the night at Rosa’s apartment but even had a closet full of her clothes which she kept for special occasions; on which she would have to dress up.
At about 12:50, Britta suddenly realized as she had finished her lunch that time had come for her to go back to work; prompting her to say “Listen Rosa, I have to go back to work but I see you are not finished with your meal, so why don’t you stay and I will call you (just then Britta was interrupted by the sound of an SMS reaching her phone) later to see how you are doing and don’t worry. I will meet your brother here tomorrow after work at six pm and here is 20 dollars. This should be enough to cover our lunch.” in a voice that like herself never showed how in a hurry she was, as she got up to leave the diner and her friend Rosa; to go back to the hospital where she would have to do her rounds. Just as Britta stood up and was about to leave, Rosa while looking at her friend standing over her (after having placed Britta’s 20 dollar bill on the counter to pay the bill they had yet to ask for) joyfully said “Takt (thank you in Swedish) for everything but don’t call me. I have to practice, better we chat tonight on Skype, I’ll be on after 8.” as her friend left her with the hurried words “OK, hey doff” (good bye in Swedish).
My name is Gianni Truvianni, author of many an article to be found on the internet along with the book “New York’s Opera Society”. My works also include the books “What Should Not Matter”, “Love Your Sister” and several others which still remain unpublished though I am presently looking to change this.
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