I forget I’m happy here. It sneaks up on me, and I find myself grinning. Like now, sitting at a table at Il Giardino. It is my place to go out in the world here where I feel welcomed. The sun is warm on the skin of my shoulders, the back of my neck. A breeze moves the brown butcher paper on the table.
I ask the owner about the young pregnant woman who works here. My Spanish is clunky, halting. I mime the pregnancy, curve my hand out before my belly. “Sí,” she says, rocking an imaginary baby in her arms. “She is bringing it today,” she tells me in Spanish. I like this woman. Her dark brown eyes are alive, her warmth and wit quick and expansive. She has felt comfortable to me from the beginning. There is something familiar about her. I always expect her to break into my native tongue, but she doesn’t speak it. I don’t know if her first language is Italian or Spanish. She talks fast in both. I am drinking strong espresso with two tiny cups of milk she has brought me. So, the young woman has had her baby, I think, is going to bring him by soon. Him? I’m not sure. But all of a sudden I feel happy. I’m happy I knew enough to ask about her. I’ve become a regular here. I’m happy the news is good, happy to see the pleasure and the awe on this woman’s face. Abuela, perhaps, grandmother, or maybe it is just love. I am happy to be sitting here having the exchange, to feel a part of things, if only for a moment. The moment passes, and I’m sipping my coffee and moving my pen across the page. I am just some customer again, the American woman in the hat. But I’m different now, because happiness sneaked up on me and fluttered at my table for a moment, reminding me. I’m happy here. I forget.
[Editor’s note: I’ve revised this piece from one I wrote when I lived in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico. It was a sweet surprise to stumble upon it yesterday in a jumble of saved scribblings. This woman is Iris, who became my real friend, though I didn’t know her name that day. She and her Italian Mexican family adopted me. There is a sweetness for me in finding a record of the way I felt happy and at home there even before they took me in so completely. And it tugs on me, the longing to be among them again, sipping espresso on the patio, looking north past the oven to the blue and the hills beyond the town. If by some magic you find this, my friends, know I am missing you and loving you with all my heart. Les estraño. Les quiero con todo mi corazón. The two photographs are from http://www.todossantosguide.com/ilgiardino/index.html. Oh, and the baby was a beautiful little girl, not a boy. Her name is Julia.]