Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bon Appetit, Mennonite!

As I stood there watching these men pull the car out of the sand, I wished I could have made myself invisible before any of them turned around and looked at me. Instead, I just looked at my feet, said thank you, and slowly walked to the car.

Before I got in, I heard Frank say, “Anna, before you go, here is your cheque.” I turned around but I didn’t look up as he handed it to me and said, “You don’t need to come to work tomorrow. I will call you when I need you again.” 

“Thank you,” I said, and drove off.

I was so tempted to look in the rearview mirror but I thought, “No! Whatever they are doing now does not concern me. Just get off this field before I get stuck again.”

While driving home, I felt how tired I was. My feet were killing me. I hadn’t worked a long hard day like that since I picked apples in Mexico every fall. I tried to talk myself into just putting that day behind me and deciding to be happy. 

I thought, “I have a cheque that I earned myself so I will go straight to the bank and cash it. There is a grocery store right beside the bank. I will buy salsa and the ingredients I need to make Komstborscht (cabbage soup) for supper.” I was hoping that would make me feel better.

I drove to the bank happy yet so embarrassed about being all sandy from working all day. I didn’t have time to go home to shower and change. I was afraid that the bank would close and I really needed the money. On my way into the bank, I remembered I was supposed to keep the car running for a while. I hoped that it was long enough and that it would start again.

I was happy to see that there was still a long lineup at the bank. As I walked past the lineup, people were staring at me as usual. While I stood in the lineup, I looked at my cheque. It was a hundred dollars. I tried to figure out how much that would be in Mexican pesos but I couldn’t focus. My thoughts just kept going back to the tobacco field.

I looked around to see which teller I might get. There was one male and the rest were all female. I closed my eyes and wished really hard: “Please, please, let it be a woman that helps me.” I opened my eyes and there was no one left in front of me. I was afraid to look up but I did and, of course, the only sharply dressed, handsome man smiled and said, “What can I do for you today?”

On my way to him, I was thinking, “oba nee oba nee oba nee.” I put the cheque on the desk and said, “Cash, please, and would you like to see my SIN card?”

With a confused look, he said, “No, ma’am, just your bank card please.” He looked up something on the computer and sighed as he said, “I’m sorry, I can’t cash this cheque. There is a minimum of five business days hold on personal cheques. I can put it into your account and you can take the cash out in five days.”

As I felt my face turn white, it felt like my heart skipped a beat. I thought, “Oh, of course! I am not even going to ask him any more questions.” I just walked out of the bank, stripped of my happiness that had lasted a whole ten minutes, and mourned the death of my komstborscht idea.

As I walked to the car, I thought to myself, “I bet that car won’t start and this is going to go on and on and on … grrrr … this really bites!” I felt so useless, hopeless, and as many words that ended in “less” as I could think of.

I thought, “I’m such an idiot!” I realized Frank gave me a personal cheque so I wouldn’t have to wait for payday and come back. I knew that was the end of that; he was never going to call me.

I leaned against the car and fought with all the strength I had left to stop it from happening, but it didn’t work. The tears just rolled down my face anyway. It was like I had no choice but to just let it happen right there in the bank parking lot. I wiped the tears off my cheek with my dress sleeve but, by doing that, I just added more sand to my face. I opened the car door, put the key in, turned it over, and it started!

I thought, “Ahhh, ok! But, now what?” I just sat there for a while and took a few deep breaths as I wiped even more sand on to my face. I thought, “Anna, the car started so just drive home! Anna, drive home!” As I was driving, I forced myself to focus on thinking about how nice a hot shower would be.

I tried to lift the box of fruits and vegetables but it didn’t even budge. There was no way I could carry that upstairs. I could barely walk. I was hoping that I wouldn’t run into George looking like that. I left everything in the car and went up to my apartment as fast as I could.

I got in the shower and as I watched the sand go down the drain and felt the hot water soothe my aching body, I realized that this wasn’t so bad. If I was still in Mexico, I would have had to pull the water up from the well, one bucket at a time, carry it inside and wait an hour for it to heat up on the stovetop. Then, I’d pour it into a stainless-steel bathtub and wash really fast before the water got too cold.

As I washed my hair for the third time to get all the dirt out of it, I thought, “Hilary! I have gone almost a whole day without thinking about him.” I quickly got out of the shower and wrapped my hair up into a towel and thought, “Oh, how I longed to hear that deep voice of his saying, ‘Anna would you come and work for me again?’”

I rushed over to the phone to check my messages and there were five. I got all excited until I listened to them and not one of them was from Hilary. They were all from Mark again.

He was all upset again because I said I would go to the job finding club but I didn’t. He sounded mad. I thought, “He will get over it. I don’t need to let him know what I am doing every day.” His phone calls were starting to get really annoying.

I wrapped my wet hair up into a bun, got dressed, grabbed a few bags for the food, and went down to the car. I tried to lift the box again but I still couldn’t even slide it an inch. As I shook my head in frustration, I looked up and saw George walking toward me.

He smiled and said, “It looks like you could use a hand carrying that up” and grabbed that box like it was nothing and carried it up for me.

He still walked beside me even while carrying a heavy box. I was walking really slowly and he asked if everything was okay. I told him that I was just really tired and that my feet were hurting really badly.

George put the box down on my kitchen counter and asked, “How was your first day working on the farm?”

I took a deep breath and sighed as I said, “I was hoping you wouldn’t ask.”

“Ahhh, shit, sorry too late, so just get it over with and tell me,” he said.

I explained how it went as good as possible, including how those half-naked men pulled the car out of the sand. He chuckled and said, “Oh, crap, what a disaster and you couldn’t even cash the cheque? Bad deal for you. You should have just started going to that school I told you about instead but, since you are your own boss, it’s your decision. Next time Bree has a farm job for you, just tell her no!”

He asked, “What about the embroidery shop; did they send you your cheque yet?”

“No, I haven’t heard anything at all from them.  I just had five messages from Mark again wondering where I was and what I was doing.”

He said, “You know, Anna, you should be careful with Mark. He is really starting to creep me out. A buddy of mine told me that he is seriously fu#ked up in his head and it sounds like he is obsessed with you.”

I told him I didn’t know what to say to Mark or how to make him stop calling me. George said he would help me figure something out.

He said, “You know, Anna, would you mind if I called the embroidery shop and asked them if they are going to pay you or what’s up with that?”

“You don’t have to.”

“Yeah, I think someone has to do something about that. Have you eaten dinner yet?”


“Why don’t you come to my apartment and I will make us something to eat and I will call them while you are there in case they want to talk to you,” he said.

He noticed my hesitation again to go to his place when no one else was going to be there and said, “I think someone has to step in and do something here and I don’t see anyone else offering, so why can’t it be me? Could you just trust me a little? I am just trying to help you out and make your shitty day a bit better.”

I thought, “Okay why not? After the day I’ve had, I could really use some company.” We took some fruit and walked to his apartment.

I couldn’t help but stare at George as he was cutting the watermelon. It was so weird to see a man in the kitchen working, let alone a man with long hair and tattoos. Every time he looked up at me, he just smiled, showing his perfectly straight white teeth. I would quickly look down and pretend I was washing fruit. It felt good, strange, and wrong all at the same time.

While he made us sandwiches, I put the cut-up watermelon into the bowls he set out for us. 

“Let’s go eat in the living room,” he suggested.

He placed two perfectly puffed up pillows on the floor at opposite ends of the coffee table. Please have a seat, Anna, he said as he sat down on one. It was all so foreign to me. I thought, “Sitting on pillows on the floor to eat?” You couldn’t do that in our home in Mexico because those nice pillows would get all dusty.

I put my hands together and closed my eyes, bowed my head, and said my prayer in my head. I just opened my eyes and peeked through my lashes at George to see what he was doing and he was just sitting there patiently with his legs crossed and his hands on his knees waiting for me with a big smile on his face. Then, he said, “Bon appetit!”

“What did you just call me?” I asked. Click here to continue reading my story.

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