Friday, April 13, 2007

The kindness of strangers

Friday the 13th in Granada. About 4pm. I'm having a late lunch (class runs until 3) in a café on the Gran Vía, fairly close to the cathedral. Not too many people in the café - myself, a couple of people at the counter, a Canadian family at the table next to mine, three workers on break at one of the other tables. The place is small, maybe six tables in all, but welcoming. The waiter has been very patient with my Spanish, correcting me ever so gently.

I´m feeling at home, so when I'm done with my bocadilla, I linger, reading El Páis, which I find is at a level that I can generally understand, with only a little fumbling for the dictionary. There's an article on Kurt Vonnegut, which I read with interest. augmenting my vocabulary with such words as pianola, pájaro de celda, matadero cinco, and - of course - desayuno de campeones. Suddenly, I find myself tearing up, noticeably. Unexpectedly, because I would never have considered myself an avid fan of Vonnegut, though I have read most of his books, a long time ago. But somehow I suddenly feel his loss keenly, perhaps not so much the man, but what he stood for. Or I'm just a long way from home, and tired. Or a little of both. Idiotically, now I´m actually sitting there in the café crying, willing myself to stop, but not entirely succeeding.

Then, a voice, from the next table, Canadian. "Is everything OK?" Curious, but with a note of genuine concern. I gesture, and try to explain the Vonnegut thing. Through some kind of cosmic grace, the reaction is more than I could have expected. "Oh, gosh, I know exactly how you feel. When we heard the news yesterday, I was all shaken up too. He was just such an important figure for people our age." All of this from the mother. Then, unexpectedly, from her husband. "Here, why don't you come and join us - we´re just sitting here for a while, taking in the view".

For some reason, this kindness threatens to unhinge me altogether, but I pull my chair over to their table. The waiter approaches, asks if everything is OK. We say yes. But he reappears a minute later, with a brandy, which he puts in front of me with a flourish. Courtesy of the house.

We chat for ten or fifteen minutes, pleasantries mostly. I drink the brandy, pay my tab. We go our separate ways.

The kindness of strangers. An unexpected gift on a rainy afternoon in Granada. I am blessed.


Jane said...

A lovely moment. And so it goes. Vonnegut would have approved, I think.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to summon sadness but failing. Because Vonnegut was part of my first husband's "karass" (can't recall how V. spelled it but the concept stuck--people who'll be part of your life always, even if you don't want them to be)? Because I thought he was already dead? Because I've lost my idealism? Because I woulnd't want to re-read any of his fiction?

I love the image of the waiter bringing you brandy and the Canadians sharing your mood, but my surprise that he was married to the photographer Jill Krementz is much sharper than any sense of loss. For once, you're the sentimental one!

Abrazos and another brandy from an aging curmudgeon,


amybuthod said...

Lovely, David. Have a great Sabado in Spain!

Gabriel said...

Don't mean to be picky but I see the bocadillo hit your feminine side