Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Mennonite’s Day in Court

When I finally convinced my right foot to lift up, move over, and step through the door, George and the giant police officer let go of the doors and followed me in and the police officer explained where we had to go and wait.
We walked along a long hallway and passed many doors.  I thought, “How many doors does this place have?”
When we finally got to a wooden bench located beside one of the many doors in the building, George and I sat down.  An older man with shiny hair, dressed in a suit and tie came through the door and asked, “Are you Anna Wall?”
As my heart began pounding out of my chest again, I looked at George before I answered him.  George winked at me and nodded his head, so I turned back to the man and said, “Yes.”
“Wonderful, please stay here until I call you to come in or tell you that you can leave.”
“Okay,” I answered as I thought, “ Ah… so he is just going to tell me what to do and not even to tell me his name?”
“Wonderful,” he said again as he turned around and walked back into the courtroom.
He left me sitting there thinking, “ I am glad he’s got nothing but ‘wonderful’ today because I sure don’t. I will just call him oomkje wundascheen (mister wonderful).”
I thought, “ Should I ask George if he knows who that is? Maybe a more important question would be… ah…”  as I turned to George and asked, “Do you know what exactly I will have to do in there?”
“Well yes.  If Mark tells the court that he didn’t do the things that he has been accused of, then you will have to tell the court yourself what he did,” he answered.
“Why can't that policeman just tell the court? He knows more about what happened than I do.”
“That’s not how it works, the person he did this too has to tell the court. No one else can, even if they know more about it.”
I thought, “ Ay caramba! I really need to go to the washroom.”
I turned to George and asked if it would be alright if  I quickly went to the washroom.
“Absolutely.  Just walk past five doors to your right and the women’s bathroom is the third door to the left after you turn the corner,” he answered.
“Ah… okay,” I said with a confused look on my face as I thought, “ Wow that’s a lot of English numbers,” as I stared at his perfect beautiful teeth.
“Should I come with you? Because I will if you want me too.”
Part of me wanted him to come with me,  but I decided that I could do at least that by myself.
“No, that’s okay, I think I can find it.”
“Okay sweetie, I will wait here for you then.”
I got up, straightened my skirt, and made my way past the first door, counting down the doors in my head following George’s directions. While I washed my hands in the washroom, looking at myself in the mirror,  I felt strange, even the way the building smelled was strange. The whole atmosphere was strange.
While I stood there and looked at myself in the mirror in a daze, I hardly recognized that pale bony face looking back at me with those dark circles under the eyes. Even I looked horribly strange.
I suddenly felt terribly homesick again. I thought,  “What am I doing? This is all so wrong, I should just forget about everything and go back home to Mexico.”  As a tear rolled down my pail bony cheek. Part of me wished that my tears could wash me down that drain so I didn’t have to face whatever it was I had to face because I had no idea what exactly was going to happen in that courtroom.
But knowing that George was kindly and patiently sitting there waiting for me, I talked myself into walking back to him. I splashed my face with water, wiped the tears off, took a deep breath, turned around, and pushed through the door.
My heart stopped when I looked up and saw Mark standing right there in front of the washroom door looking right at me. I froze for a second, and before I had a chance to react, he smiled and said, “Hey, gorgeous Anna! It's so good to see in the flesh.”
It happened so fast, it was like an unknown force took over me, scooped me up and kept me from collapsing right there. I looked down as I was freaking out on the inside while that same force slowly turned me around and pulled me passed him. I thought, “ If I just make it around that corner then George will see me and I should be okay.”
It felt like he was right behind me as I put every ounce of my strength into putting one foot in front of the other. My feet felt so heavy it was exhausting.  It felt like the more steps I took the further away George seemed. But I never looked back and just kept putting one foot in front of the other slowly moving forward. When George saw the look on my face, he got up and started walking toward me.
“Is he still there? Is he behind me?”
“No, nobody is behind you, Anna.”
I turned around and let out a big sigh of relief when I saw for myself that he wasn't behind me.
“What, who was behind you?” George asked.
“Mark! He was standing right in front of the washroom door when I came out,” I explained
“What the f#ck?”
“Ah… Yeah!”
“Did he say or do anything?”
“Yes, well he didn’t do anything, he just said, “‘Hey, gorgeous Anna! It's so good to see in the flesh.’”
George put his arms around me and said, “That is so f#cked up! He should have been supervised. AHHH! Okay, I am not letting you out of my sight again.”
“Okay,” I said as we walked back to the door and sat down on the wooden bench to continue waiting. I sat there on pins and needles expecting Mark to walk around that corner any time. And sure enough, a few minutes later two police officers escorted Mark past us into the courtroom.
I didn’t look up at him, I just kept staring down at one of George’s tattoos on his perfectly shaped smooth arm. When I finally looked up, I saw that the door had already closed behind them. I began to panic and held my breath.
“Breath Anna! Breath!” Geroge ordered.
I was so shaken up and tense that my whole body hurt from the inside out. I tried to focus on breathing but it seemed like there was just not enough room in my lungs for any air.
George noticed how panicked I was. He smiled and said, “You know what Anna? I was really worried this morning.”
I recognized a pattern. He had done this before. He began to talk about something else to distract me and get me to think about something other than what was going on in the courtroom next to us.
“Really? What were you worried about?”
“Yes, really. I was worried that you might have gone shopping with Christina and bought a new outfit for today.”
“I thought that you might have had an idea about how you should dress, and we both know that that hasn’t exactly worked out well for you.”
I turned beet red and nodded my head.
“You know, I can go shopping with you sometime if you like. I can help you pick out some outfits that I think would look good on you.”
“What? You want to go shopping with me? You would do that?”
“Absolutely. It would be honored if you’d let me take part in that.”
I began to think that he was just messing around with me. I didn’t trust my emotions at that moment and I couldn’t tell if he was being serious or not.
It had worked. He actually got me to think about something other than what was going on.  All I could think was, “Ah… yeah, the last thing I need is people in Mexico gossiping about me being seen in a ‘stoff brell’  store with a ‘schwiennoagel’. Oh no! That could never happen. Not in a ‘stoff brell’ store anyway.”
 I visualized George coming with me to shop at a clothing store: he’s sitting in the women’s dressing room waiting area, watching me as I come out of the change room with my first outfit on. “NO! absolutely not, that outfit looks f#cking ridiculous! Next!”
The idea was growing on me as new butterflies were coming to life in my stomach. I forced my thoughts back to George in real-time as I had made eye contact with him and asked out of curiosity, “Where would you take me?”
I began to feel warm while I stared at his lips when he was about to answer me and I jumped as the door flew open and “Mister Wonderful” flew through the door ruining that perfect moment.

He said, “Good news. Mr. Grant pleaded guilty to all the charges.” I got up so fast I could feel the wind blowing past my ears. He turned to me and continued, “Anna Wall, you are free to go. You may leave when you wish to do so.”
The last words began to sound further and further away as if they were coming from a far distance while I stood there in shock. I suddenly felt really cold and everything went black just like the time at the factory and in George’s apartment.
When I came to, I heard George’s voice, “Anna! Anna! You’ve got it all wrong this is not the place to nap. This is the place where people come to swear, remember? Ah… shit,” and he began to laugh.
When I opened my eyes, I saw George’s teeth closer than I had ever seen them. I was lying on the bench with my head on his lap. He was looking down at me, his fingers wedged into my hair, stroking my forehead back and forth with his thumb.
“Anna, can you hear me? Are you okay? It’s over.  You are free to go.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“That lawyer literally scared the living daylights out of you when he came flying through the door.”
I quickly got up when I heard a deep voice asking, “How is she doing?”
I felt extremely light-headed from getting up so fast. I thought I was going to pass out again when Officer Parsons handed me a bottle of water. I took a sip of the water while the police officer asked me how I was doing.
“I think I will be okay now.  Thank you for the water.”
“It’s over now.  You are free to go, Anna,” said Officer Parsons.
“Is it over? Will I get served any more subpoenas?” I asked as I felt proud of myself for remembering how to say that word correctly especially at a time like that. I listened to everything he was telling me.  He was using big words, but I understood enough to know that I wouldn’t be served again, that this was it.  I could move on. That was all I cared to know. I never even asked where Mark was going or for how long.
“Anna,  if you have any more questions, feel free to give me a call. Take care now,” the police officer said and left.
I turned back to George. He got up and said, “Anna, let's get the f#ck out of here,” and we walked out of there.
I began to feel even better as soon as I spotted Christina’s car when we walked through the last set of doors. I was relieved to know that my feeling had been wrong. I was so happy to see her. As we drove off, George convinced us to go out for lunch.
George and I both explained to Christina what happened at the courthouse as she drove to the bar where I had run into my ‘mason jar past’ the night George danced me around that dance floor.
“I’m not surprised that you fainted Anna. A person can only take so much all at once,” Christina answered. As we shared a plate of what George and Christina explained to me were appetizers.
We sat and nibbled away at the appetizers as we talked about the fact that I didn’t even step foot into the courtroom.
Christina said, “This is all so bizarre. He freely admitted to everything he did.  He didn’t even try to get away with it. He probably never even intended to hurt you, Anna. He just wanted to love you, but he’s too crazy or never learned how to build friendships and that you can't force people to like you. Um… ah… I just don’t know what to make of this.”
“Bizarre? I say he has gone completely psychotic. It seems that he just doesn't give a shit about anything anymore, except you Anna. Ah… shit, sorry. I don’t mean to make you more nervous again,” George explained.
“I’m just happy and glad that this whole thing is over and I don’t have to think about it anymore. I just won't be going to any groups anymore that's for sure.”
“It’s good to be careful and I don’t mean to scare you Anna, but you could have met him anywhere, not just at a group. Not going to groups isn't going to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. I think telling your friends as soon as you start feeling weird about someone’s behavior toward you is the way to go. That way they can help you figure out what to do in the early stages,” George answered.
I dropped my head down and answered, “Yes. Next time I will tell my friend George so he can help me right away -- in the early stages.” I looked up at him. He smiled, winked at me, and said, “Atta girl.” Click here to continue reading my story.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mennonite steps through many doors

Continued from Misunderstood Mennonite

Door image courtesy of Susie Peters Van Hoeve
I felt a nervous sensation traveling all the way down to my toes as I turned around and saw George standing there, with the biggest smile on his face, showing me his perfect beautiful teeth again.
“Hey, how are you?” he asked.
I quickly looked down as I said, “Ah… I’m happy today. Happy that the holidays are finally over and I get to do what is most important to me again.”
“You must be the only person here who is happy that the holidays are over. I’d be careful, happy people can get seriously hurt on a day like today. I have experienced nothing but f#cking misery in here today.”
“Okay,” I answered. Just then Bree came walking in and shouting, “THIS IS A F#CKING SHITHOLE, I WISH THIS PLACE WOULD BURN TO THE F#CKING GROUND!”
I looked at George and he winked at me as he said, “You see what I mean? You might want to steer clear of her today.”
“Okay,” I replied and laughed as the butterflies began dancing around in my stomach while the bell rang. It was time to go to work. I was happy that I got to talk to George even though it was only for a few minutes. I was so relieved to know that he still treated me exactly the same as he did before saw me in that skimpy dress at that New Year’s party.
I listened to George, keeping my joyous feelings to myself, and stayed at my sewing station during the breaks. I just studied for my citizenship test to avoid everyone and learned that John A. Macdonald was not the first president, but the first prime minister of Canada, and memorized the difference.
While reading about the current Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chretien, I began to realize that I hadn’t seen any of the Low German people leave at the end of the day shift and thought: I wonder why none of them came to work today? Then I remembered that it was January sixth and that it was actually a Low German holiday.
I felt bad for not even remembering and working on a holiday. I knew that that was a big sin and I shouldn’t be working, but I thought: It’s too late anyway, and the last thing I need is another holiday as I continued working and studying.
At the end of my shift, I went home feeling happy and accomplished. When I got home I had a message from Sergio in Nuevo Porvenir, Mexico, that my parents had tried to call. I went to bed thinking I’m not even going to get into trouble for working on a holiday because no one who could call Mexico knows about it. I giggled out loud thinking that I had gotten away with it.    
The two weeks leading up to my court date, I was a nervous wreck. I felt that knot growing bigger in my stomach again as I finished up my upgrading class and began to prep for grade nine. I couldn't eat or sleep again.
I decided that shopping for new clothes to wear for my court date was a bad idea. I didn’t want to end up with some ridiculous outfit again. Instead, I decided that I would wear the same skirt I wore at my award ceremony.
The morning finally arrived and I was a complete disaster. Everything I touched fell to the floor or got knocked over and spilled while I was trying to get ready. I couldn't even enjoy my usual cup of instant coffee -- I kept spilling it too.
By the time I had finally gotten dressed I was completely exhausted and just gave up on everything and sat down. As I sat there, thinking I am not going to make it through this day, there was a knock at my door.
I ran to the door, hoping it would be George. And sure enough, it was. When I opened the door and saw him standing there smiling his perfect teeth at me, I knew that the day would still be hard but manageable with him around.
“Good morning, sweetie. How are you doing?” he asked.
I lifted my head up, shook it side to side as I made eye contact for a split second, then dropped my head down again. He walked through the door, closed it, and said, “Oh, Anna, come here,” as he put his arms around me. And just like that, everything was better for a moment.
“So, are you ready? Have you practiced swearing for today?” he laughed.
I didn’t know where to turn my face as I turned all red and I said, “Ah… nooo, no more swearing for me,” in a low, serious, disappointed voice.
“Ah… shit, I’m such an idiot. I’m sorry, Anna. I know that isn’t as funny to you as it is to me. I shouldn’t have asked you that.”
“It’s okay. I am just a big mess today.”
“I can’t even imagine what you are feeling. You want to tell me about it? Ask me anything, anything you want to know. How can I make this day better for you?” he asked.
“You already did by coming over and offering to come with me. You have no idea how much better you have already made my day.”
“I’m glad to hear that. It’s the least I can do. I forgot to ask you the last time I saw you, how is school going for you?”
“School is great. I finished upgrading and I’m starting grade nine on Monday.”
“Holy shit, Anna! That’s amazing. You worked so hard for that, you should be proud of yourself.”
I wasn’t sure where to turn, how to act, or what to do with myself as he was complimenting me on my accomplishments. I just smiled and nodded my head and said, “I know that it’s going to get a lot harder now.”
“You're right, it probably will, but I have no doubt that you will be able to figure it out. Just like you did when you started school. Remember how frightening that was for you?”
“Ah… yeah, I sure do.”
“Did you think you would be able to do all of that in such a short period of time?”
“No! No way, I thought I was going to be in kindergarten my whole life,” I said as I began to feel better and even started giggling.
“So did you go shopping for new clothes for today? I’m just curious because you were all worried about that the other day.”
“No, I decided that I shouldn’t be allowed to shop for new clothes anymore and I am just going to stick with the clothes that I have until figure out my Mennonite sexy balance. Or how did you say that?”
He let his head drop down and said, “Ahhh right! Okay, well, you look great, Anna.”
I knew he was just being nice because I looked terrible. I hadn't slept or eaten in a long time and out of nowhere, the words just fell out of my mouth.
“You know, George, I felt terrible about buying that skimpy dress and wearing it to the New Year’s party. And you know what I thought to myself the day after?”
“What did you think?”
“I decided that it was too hard to be sexy like Christina and that I was just going to stay a hairy f#cking Mennonite and continue to only wear my pleated dresses from that day on.”
“Holy shit, Anna, that’s a bit harsh don’t you think?”
I regretted saying that as soon as I heard the words out loud, but it was too late. He heard every word I had said.
“Well, that should be your choice, whatever you decide, Anna. I can't imagine that it would be easy to drop the way you have dressed and lived for twenty years just like that.”
“I’m sorry if it had anything to do with what I told you at the party. It just bothers me when people act or dress a certain way for other people.”
“Okay, no, that’s okay,” I answered while I began feeling stupid for bringing it up.
We got interrupted by my phone ringing. It was Christina. She had offered to drive us to court. My heart started pounding out of my chest when she said, “I’ll be there to pick you up in five minutes.”
I hung up the phone and looked at George while I held my breath.
“Oh, crap! Breathe, Anna! What is it?”
I suddenly felt so cold and began shaking when it sunk in that it was time to go to court. “Christina will be here in five minutes,” I answered in a frightened shaken up voice.
George came closer, put his arms around me and I immediately started feeling warmer as I inhaled his scent again.
He said, “Anna, just breathe. This day will soon be over and I hope we can laugh about it someday. You are going to be just fine, you are an incredibly strong woman. You have experienced so many heart-stopping moments already and you are going to get through this too.”
I wished that I could melt away at that moment so the feeling would stay with me forever. But my thoughts wouldn’t allow me to enjoy that too long. Incredibly strong woman? No! This whole thing happened because I am an incredibly stupid woman!
But again, like all the other times, I didn’t melt away. That incredible moment in time also passed and it was time for me to go to court.
George took my hand, guided me toward the door, and helped me put my jacket on. He grabbed my keys, guided me through the door, and locked it. He gently took my hand again and we quietly walked down the hallway. All I could hear was my breathing and the echoing sound that our footsteps as we walked toward the second door I was about to walk through that day.
I just stared at that door as it appeared closer and closer. When we finally got to it, George opened it and put his hand on my shoulder to guide me through it. I just continued to stare at the next set of doors. The doors that exited the apartment building onto the street. Where Christina was parked and waiting for us.
George opened that door and guided me through it onto the street. Christina got out of her car, hugged me, kissed my cheek, and looked right into my eyes with a kind of compassion that just about brought me to tear up. George opened the car door for me, waited for me to get in, then closed it and climbed into the back of the car.
A song played on the radio while we drove to the courthouse that haunted me for a long time after: it was “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. I didn’t realize until months later how perfect that song suited my mood that day.
We pulled up to a building that had two big doors facing the street. Christina stopped and put the car in park. While George got out to open the door for me again, Christina placed her hand gently on top of mine, turned to me and said, “Good luck, and don’t worry so much, Anna. George is going to walk you through this. I will be back in about an hour to pick you up, okay?”
I just nodded my head as I fought back the tears and the horrible feeling that that might be the last time I would ever see her. My hand slid out from under hers as I stepped out of the car. George closed the door and we just stood there for a moment and watched Christina drive away.
I turned toward the courthouse doors, then looked at George as he put his arm around my shoulder and took the first step for me. I just followed where he guided me.
Halfway to the doors I stopped and looked up at the Canadian flag to the left of the sidewalk and the Ontario flag to the right. Both of the flags waved at me, standing tall and proud up in the cloud-covered sky.
I continued to follow George’s path by putting one foot in front of the other as the doors appeared closer and closer. A giant police officer walked through the right-hand door and held it open for me while George opened the left-hand door. I stopped and looked at the giant policeman. He smiled and said, “Anna,” and as he took off his cap, I recognized him. It was officer Mike Parsons.
I just stood there and stared at the giant officer, then at George, and back and forth again. I was frozen and I couldn't take one more step. That was until I looked at George again and pictured him in my mind saying, Come on, Anna! Just walk through the doors, we are freezing our f#cking asses off over here. Click here to continue reading my story.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Misunderstood Mennonite

When I wiped the tears off my face, I remembered that I had been too drunk the night before to even have said my nighttime prayer. I thought, This is why I am having such a bad day.
I straightened myself in the chair, closed my eyes, and said every single prayer I knew in my head as I sat there and continued crying.
When I finished I took a few deep breaths and decided that I should do something else so I could stop crying. I didn’t want Christina to wake up and see me like that, so I decided that I would watch another movie.
I watched one of Christina's very dirty movies called Showgirls. I sat there on pins and needles, occasionally holding my breath as I watched that woman dance, scheme, and claw her way to the top in some very skimpy dresses (like the ones I now thought I should never wear again).
A few scenes in that movie made me feel very uncomfortable and got me thinking about Aaron and all my mason jar memories. But I continued watching. I wanted to know what would happen to those girls, with whom I could, to some degree, empathize. Only, my dream was to learn how to read even faster then I had already learned, to learn to write, and to become a factory worker with a perfect attendance record.
Partway through, I paused the movie and tiptoed to the kitchen to get a glass of water before continuing to watch the whole movie. When the movie ended I got up and checked on Christina making sure she was still breathing. She was.
I sat back down in that chair and read a Cosmopolitan magazine with Mariah Carey on the cover. I read all about a new jean trend that she had started by ripping the waistband off. I thought, Why would anybody wear ripped jeans? and continued reading until Christina’s mom came home.
The sun had disappeared and it was starting to get dark by that time. Christina’s mom hugged me, looked me right in my eyes, and said, “Thank you so, so much for staying with her all day. You are such a good friend to do that. I really appreciate this. She shouldn’t be left alone and I really needed a break. Thank you, Anna.”
I hugged her back and said, “You’re welcome,” because that was what other people said when someone said thank you to them.  I was getting used to saying that as my English got better every day.
We had never learned a word in Low German that translated into you’re welcome. We always just said Daut es nijch needijch (That is not necessary), or sometimes sarcastically say Daut kammt nijch fonn botta (It doesn't come from butter), which didn’t make any sense in English.
I collected all my stuff, including my skimpy dress. I rolled it up, put it into a plastic bag, and walked home. I hoped that I wouldn't run into George anywhere by the apartment building the whole way walking home. I wasn't ready to face him yet.
The closer I got to the building, it looked like he wasn't home. When I couldn't see if any of his lights were on, I changed my mind and wished I would run into him. I began thinking that if ran into him, then at least I would know if we were okay or if he was disappointed in me. That mattered a lot to me.
I got all the way to my door and there was no George insight. I had a long bath hoping that that would help relax me but it didn’t. All I could think of was, I wonder if George went home after walking us to Christina’s mom’s house? Or where is he, is he with Bree?
I heard my mom’s voice in my head saying, Anna, that is not for you to figure out.
I thought, I have to call home. I got out of the bathtub and put my beloved brown pleated dress on with the yellow tulips and called the store in Nuevo Porvenir. I explained to the Mexican man who answered who I was and that I wanted to speak with my parents.
He said, “Hola Anita! Si, si… Voy a ir a decirle a tus padres y te devuelva la llamada (I will go tell your parent and call you back, Anna)”. It sounded like he knew my family and of me, he knew right away who I was talking about.
After he hung up the phone I thought, I wonder what kind of stories he has heard about me.
I loved it when Mexican people called me Anita until I learned of another Low German woman who worked the day shift at the factory whose name was Anna Harder. She hated the name Anna so she had legally changed her name to Anita. I thought, Well, she’s from Chihuahua, that’s why she was allowed to do that. She ended up marrying a man whose last name was Dyck.
One day, during my early days of working at the factory (before I had grown so fond of George when I was absolutely terrified of him), that woman and the name Anita came up in a conversation during lunch. I was sitting at the table with George, Felicity, Richard, and Christina. Felicity asked me, “Who is that new woman who is working in the sewing department? I heard her name is Anna Harder. How are we supposed to keep people separate when so many of them have the same names?”
“Ahhh… that is not her name anymore. Her name is Anita Harder Dyck,” I answered with my most confident voice because Anita had told me herself.
Everyone stopped chewing, looked at each other, and started laughing.
I thought, Great! Why do these people think that Low German names are so funny? Maybe I just need to explain this better to them.
“You see, ah… her name was Anna Harder, way before she got married. Before she got married she changed her name to Anita. That is the Spanish name for Anna. And then she got married and became Anita Harder Dyck,” I explained. And when they all started laughing again, I realized that I was missing something, just like the time Felicity called me a Schmuck and said, “Well, thank you.”
A couple of days later, when Christina and I were sitting at the table by ourselves, I asked her why the name Anita Harder Dyck was so funny. She said, “Anna, say her name again and, this time, say it really fast and don’t pause in between. Just say it like it’s all one word.”
I cleared my throat and I said, “Okay, um… ah… Anitaharderdyck.”
She sat there like a statue, looked at me with her eyebrows raised, and waited and waited. Finally, she asked, “You don’t hear it?”
“Ahhh… it sounds exactly the same as it did before, just faster,” I answered.
“Okay, that’s it, Anna! I have to explain to you why this is so freaking hilarious,” she said.
“Umm… okay,” I said and moved really close to her when she began to explain it to me. She explained it in the plainest English possible. And when a lightbulb turned on it heated right through me and brightened my face bright red. I got up, went back to work, and didn’t make eye contact with any of those people at the lunch table for a whole week. Especially that George man, who I was so afraid of.
I remembered that moment every time somebody called me Anita and I turned red all over again. Being called Anita didn’t make me feel special anymore. I often thought that’s what that woman gets for changing the name her parents gave her.
My phone rang. I picked it up and said, Hello?
“Anita! Hola como estas? Soy Sergio.
“Hola Sergio, estoy bien,” I answered.
I was tempted to carry on a conversation with him to find out how he knew my family. But I was afraid that he might ask me something I didn’t understand, and then what would I do? The last thing I needed was to get myself mixed up in even more language misunderstandings which could turn into another Mexican Mennonite schmuck situation.
“Lo siento Anita, pero tus papas no setava ne la casa (I’m sorry Anna, but your parents weren’t home).”
“Okay, esta bien, no te preocupes, muchas gracias,” I answered, and quickly hung up the phone. I had had it with that day. I went to bed, said my prayer, and tried to sleep.
During that week, I had many cappuccinos while helping Christina pack up some of Richard’s belongings, which wasn’t easy at all.
“Tell me what to do and I will do it, anything you want, Christina,” I said.
She put some of Richard’s stuff into a box then she would take it back out and say, “But this was his favorite, I can’t get rid of this.” I stood there, helpless, not knowing what to say.
We did that for about three days, and then my favorite friend of hers, Josh, came to our rescue. He came walking in and said, “Don’t be discouraged, ladies. This is a start and that is what matters. Just leave it to me, I am here now.” He wrapped one arm around her and the other around me, hugging us both tightly against him at the same time.
I tagged along with Josh and Christina to many fancy restaurants where I felt so out of place, just like I often did when I went places with Christina and Richard before he died. I spent a lot of time with Josh that week. The more time I spent with him and got to know him, the more I loved him.  
He had a way of making me feel like I was special, important, smart, and worthy of nothing but the best, just the way I was. I couldn’t get enough of that. I gloated in it as much as I could.
Sadly, that all came to an end and it was time to get back to reality. For me, that was that dreaded court date, work, school, lots of homework, and studying for my citizenship test that was coming up.
As I was getting ready for the first day back to school while listening to the radio, people were talking a lot about a man named Mike Harris and how upset they were with him. A man on the radio warned people not to be outside for longer than ten minutes at a time. That’s how cold it was. I took his warnings seriously and changed from a dress to jeans, put on two sweaters and my jacket, and off I walked to school.
When I got to school I walked into my classroom to loud voices arguing about the same man named Mike Harris. There were a few new students in my class who also had a lot to say about this Mr. Harris person. I remembered the saying from my colony, This Mr. Harris man is not for me to worry about, and opened my books and started working on where I had left off.
When the teacher came in she said, “For those of you who are going to grade nine in two weeks, just finish the books you are working on now, you don’t have to start a new one.”
At lunchtime, I got a hug from Steve and Chung as they said “Happy New Year” to me. As we ate our lunch I sat there and listened to them talk about all the parties they went to during the holidays.
“How about you, Anna? Did you party much during the holidays?” Steve asked.
“I went to one party.”
“That’s it, one party? How was it?”
“Yes, it was okay. Not the next day, though.”
They both laughed and Steve recommended that I smoke a doobie the next time I had a hangover. He said, “That always cures my hangovers.”
We got interrupted by his friend before I could ask him what a doobie was and it left me wondering about it.
While I went to work and sat in my spot at the table in the lunchroom, staring at my citizenship study booklet, I thought, What the heck is a doobie? I smelled a pleasant familiar sent and heard a voice behind me saying, “Hey there, sexy Mennonite lady.” Click here to continue reading my story.

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