“Psssttt ….. psssstttttt ….. señorita,” whispered the old woman from her table, wildly flapping her fully extended hand in the air, attempting (in the most inconspicuous, Argentine way possible) to flag me down as do the majority of the customers at Parrilla Buenos Aires Grill when they need something. I approached the table like a young, eager golden retriever approaches its owner: faithful, a little clumsy, happy, and ready to serve.
“Hola!” I shouted overly enthusiastically.
“Me traes La Nación … will you bring me La Nación (a popular Argentine newspaper),” I thought I heard her say.
“Por supuesto!!! Of course!” I shouted loudly, internally telling myself in a quiet voice how proud I was of myself for understanding the request. Then, I hurriedly scampered to the back of the restaurant, fetched the newspaper as a good retriever does, and returned to the table, obediently dropping it at her hands.
The old woman and her old woman friend across the table both look down at the paper with expressions of utmost confusion before bursting into a quick spout of grandmotherly chuckles.
“No my dear, I had asked you for la edicción,” which to me, sounded a lot like La Nación, but as I came to find, was actually another way of saying “the bill.” Out of context, I was unable to recognize what the woman wanted, which makes for an interesting observation about understanding, and sure does make my life just a little bit harder. Oh communication woes….
But at my expense, the three of us shared a good laugh together about lost translations. I just did not pick up the tab on that one, you could say. So, after finally retrieving THE BILL, I left them to reconcile la edicción.
Afterward, as the two little old ladies made their way out the door, one paused, turned to me, rested her hands on my elbows as I reached out to her and wrapped my fingers around the crook of her arms. We looked like two young gossiping school girls, glowing in the endearment of my embarrassment.
“This is Elsa, and this is my best friend Elda,” she said, gesturing with her left shoulder toward her companion in the doorway. They could have been the same person, Elsa and Elda. Both wore glasses and khaki-colored pencil skirts, carried the same stature, and had the same short, curly gray haircut, which undoubtedly was manicured by the same hairdresser. As we get older, all of us become similarly identified in shades of gray, as well as by falling skin and time. But we maintain our individual identities, even if we grow to look more alike with passing time.
In the case of Elsa and Elda, however, the only true thing that differentiated them was the third letter in each of their names. The fact that you can only form Sale with Elsa and Deal with Elda.
But just before Elsa departs to lock arms with Elda, she fixes her eyes on me, our arms still school-girl interlaced, and she says in thickly accented English, “You have love.” Then she gives me a wet kiss on the cheek before shuffling out the door, arm and arm with her best friend. Another moment shared in the doorway, like that night with Sebastian.
Elsa’s words really resonated with me because she was right, I do have love. I have the love of my family, the love of my friends, the love of the people coming and going, and the love for myself, which has taken a lot of time and work to nurture. For as much love as I have, I will try to give. Give and receive, as Mariano always says. Give and receive.