Thursday, August 26, 2010

Love at 83 - Part 3

[Please read Parts 1 and 2 first!]

Our first date, on which Rosa accompanied us to translate, was to the food court in the mall. Consuelo had heard they had Honduran food, and damned if she wasn’t right. The restaurant, if that’s the right word, had a name I couldn’t pronounce and wouldn’t be able to spell to regain my continence. I’d never seen Consuelo look anything than miserable enough to burst into tears at any second, but you should have seen her fudge-brown eyes light up at the sight of this place. And the pair of grizzled little Central American indigenous types behind the counter — the only food court employees over 18, from what I could see — were no less pleased to see us walking toward them. There were long lines for most of the other restaurants, if that’s the right word, but not a single diner seemed interested in such Honduran delicacies as tripe soup or fried Yojoa fish. The food was a lot spicier than I’m used to — at Golden Years, you get the impression that the cooks are under strict orders to make every dish taste exactly like every other dish, and for no dish to taste like much of anything. There was steam coming out of my ears after a couple of forkfuls, but I interpreted Rosa’s kicking me under the table as a suggestion that I not risk insulting Consuelo by leaving so much of what I’d ordered.

As I asked Rosa to pose the question, “So tell me about yourself,” to my intended, a trio of punks sat themselves down at the adjoining table, and began heckling us so loudly that I could hear them even after I turned down my hearing aid. They were making fun of what we were eating, and then of the fact that the three of us were together in the first place. “Dude,” the loudest of them said, “it just don’t get no grosser than two greaser bitches and an old fart.”

In my time, I’d have bashed their three heads together, but that was before the arthritis and rheumatism, before the shoulder replacement surgery, and the hip replacement. I looked around for a security guard, hoping that he or she would be armed, and lend me a firearm or even nightstick. But while I was doing so, Rosa was getting a cup of hot coffee from Starbucks, hurrying back with us, and throwing it in the face of the mouthiest of our antagonists.

Oh, how that boy could scream! But I took less pleasure in his suffering than displeasure in the fact that I’d had to have a gal intervene on my behalf. Where I come from, a fellow does the fighting, while gals cower fearfully in the background. I derived some small consolation from thinking that maybe it was different wherever Rosa came from. The most important thing, of course, was that Consuelo didn’t seem to think less of me for it. She actually put her hand atop mine when a pair of security guards — unarmed, I noticed — hurried onto the scene and whisked Rosa away. My guess is that she must have been calling them every name in the book, but the book was in a language they didn’t understand.

I got the impression Consuelo knew what I was after. I could see it in her eyes. And if not then, when? I panicked for a moment, realizing I’d left the Viagra I’d bribed one of the English-speaking groundskeepers to get me in my underwear drawer. But as my beloved rose and offered me her hand, something told me I might need it.
We walked from the food court. I hadn’t walked so fast in years. I so hoped there would seem to be a spring in my step, as well as a tiger in my tank.

We found a Lane Bryant shop. I thought for sure they’d shoo us away, as Consuelo might have been the last person in the mall at that moment who’d need oversized clothing. But the salesgirl, who was pretty skinny herself, just scowled at us, and went back to her text-messaging. We slipped into a changing room. I pulled the curtain shut. My life was about to change.

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