Tomorrow, I’ll travel four hours to visit a major, renowned, hospital to see a medical man I’ve never met before about the current state of my health. I may, in the near future, require major surgery to address a failure in my biological system.
I feel nervous. I do not want to go. I am a child who would prefer that tomorrow disappears before it makes its sunrise known. Life after yet another bump in the freeway; that’s my wish for tonight. I think I’ll swallow an over-the-counter “sleeping aid” as I lay myself down shortly after sunset. Perhaps I’ll own sufficient courage and fortitude first to watch the Bette Davis movie that lies waiting on my desk, just above this keyboard. Perhaps not. Only truth will tell, whatever truth may be.
A dear friend of mine knew of my upcoming appointment, and in a heartfelt moment invited me to share a snack this afternoon. She lives inside what most of my neighbors name a mansion, right in the middle of a desert.
Of course, I accepted her kindness and rang her doorbell just after one o’clock pm. The maid answered the door. The family dog followed not far behind.
“Entre por favor, Senor. Sea comodo. La Senora Nancy espera a Ud. en la sala.”
I listened to the tap of my boots’ heels as I entreed, por favor. Clay tile floors displayed themselves throughout the downstairs portion of the house, if a poor boy from Philly can be excused for calling those spotless and lifeless premises a house.
Tap, tap, click a few more steps and there I found myself within the open space the maid referred to as la sala.
“God help me,” I thought. “Dare I sit on the leather chair or the equally hide-bound couch?” I wondered. “Well,” I concluded in haste, “There’s no such thing as a lasting wrinkle in horse-saddle upholstery. So sit yer arse down and wait for Nancy. She is, after all, a dear friend on the telephone. And she’s so much prettier than tanned hide.”
I sat and Nancy entered (or is that entreed, por favor?). The maid remained standing inside a distant corner, most likely anticipating Nancy’s next command.
“I’m so glad you came, Anthony. Up till now we’ve talked either on the telephone or while dining at Ana’s Ristorante. I’ve felt eager to see you sitting comfy inside my house. Did you notice the wild proliferation of cacti in my garden? You know, I can hear wild animals howling once the sun goes down.”
“Er, uh, no, I hadn’t noticed the proliferation or the cacti,” I said. I wanted to add that I wouldn’t dream of being around to hear the howling sunset, but politeness stopped my voice from quarreling.
“They are gorgeous this time of year. The pinky tips especially.”
“Yes, I like pinky tips,” I said, and quick regretted the faux pas (yep, here I was sitting on American leather, remembering my Sicilian heritage, listening to espanol of a Mexican variety, and thinking just a bit in Francais; oh, this mad melting pot, this rainbow coalition; and oh, this leather that feels damned uncomfortable on my arse).
“Rosaria,” whispered Nancy in the direction of the maid, “We’ll enjoy our tapas now, por favor.” The “por favor” part sounded harsh and r-bound as Nancy pronounced the phrase.
In less than sixty seconds Rosaria reappeared with a silver tray decorated with untouchable Mexican treats. Frijoles on crackers. Frijoles atop slight slices of carne asada. Frijoles swirled inside a middle bowl of Nancy’s Lazy Susan. Frijoles topped with watery canned chile.
“Would you like a Tecate with your tapas?” asked Nancy. Almost immediately afterward, her face blushed bright red above her white, cotton peasant blouse. Matter of fact, all of her body blushed right through the sheer material.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Please, forgive me. I forgot that you no longer drink.” she said.
“Think nothing more of it, Nancy,” I said. I’d much appreciate iced tea. I began to rise, and the leather creaked beneath my butt. I thought to turn my way toward the kitchen.
“Rosaria,” cried Nancy.
“No, I can get my own,” I said.
Too late. Rosaria returned as if on a short leash.
“Un vaso de te, por favor, Rosaria,” whispered Nancy.
I took another look at the tapas, and decided to take this opportunity to escape them. I can’t abide Mexican cuisine. Frijoles con lard give me indigestion. And I’d lost any appetite I might have owned as soon as I entered this antiseptic excuse for a home. Tile floor with no sign of footprints. Leather furniture missing all familiar wrinkles that remind a man of life contained. A huge, flat-screen television set with not a speck of dust to mar its monitor. And then there was the dog, marmalade-orange fur brushed to a quiet sheen and missing the comforting odor of dog flesh and blood.
Nancy? Well, as I earlier said, she was kind, and her cotton blouse was pressed. Her whisper, well, that sounded a soft note, too.
But where was life inside this house? Perhaps the pink-tipped cacti knew the answer to my silent query.
“Do you think we could venture outdoors to see the cacti in the garden, Nancy?” I said, just as Rosaria set down my vaso de te frio (on a coaster big enough to ward off any possible drainage that might otherwise touch the glass-topped table en la sala).
For the first time since I entered (entreed?) this spotless environment that astronauts might be proud to occupy Nancy seemed pleased. She smiled. We walked outside. The desert looked just a bland as a desert always looks to me, but the air felt good, and the conversation was convivial.
I left a short time later. I pecked Nancy’s cheek the way I’ve always seen boring men peck boring ladies’ cheeks, climbed into my blue pickup truck, roared away and wondered. “Shoot,” I told myself, “I’d never write another inspired word if I were forced to live with those clean tile floors, that flat-screen television set, the obedient maid and the dog without a country. I prefer a bit of dust and comfort to remind me that life is a dirty affair. Maybe the hospital won’t feel quite so clean as Nancy’s house, kind soul though she is.”