Monday, January 02, 2006

my favorite dishwasher

I was expecting a call from my father, my cell phone balancing expectantly on my knee as my mother and I drove the icy road to Vermont on Christmas Eve. When the clanging ring sliced through our festive background music of Handel’s Messiah, I picked up the phone quickly, ready to fill my dad in on the results of my week at UConn Taste and Smell Center. But instead of his usual loud phone greeting, I heard a crackling static and a quiet, Molly? Hola? Molly?

Yes? I asked, hesitantly, vaguely aware of the familiarity in the voice.

Molly? Hola! Como estas? And then it hit me; who else would call me speaking in a gentle Spanish? It was S., my dishwashing partner from the Bistro that I worked in this summer, a surprise call on a snowy Christmas weekend. I yelled out his name with an excitement that startled my driving mother, babbling my happiness at hearing his voice in an extremely incongruous Spanish-English-Italian mix. I had not spoken to him since my last day of work, over four months ago.

I surprised myself with the ease in which I could eventually switch to Spanish. Despite my meager understanding of the language, the majority of my vocabulary hinging on words pertaining to dishwashing, we had a working conversation. I filled him in on my accident, lightly, without much detail; he was shocked and delighted that I am now ok. He told me that The Chef is still loco y enojado; J. was fired a few months ago (as well as four other dishwashers who came one by one to replace me). S. is still in the dark hallway of the bistro’s prep arena every night, washing those heavy white dishes and chopping mounds of garlic and onions. It was somehow shocking to realize that the life I lead this summer still continues, simply without me there.

He recently acquired a phone, luckily having saved the phone number that I handed him on my last night of work in August. He called to say Feliz Navidad and to see how I was. I was touched to hear his voice, to hear his concern, to remember the unexpected connection of friendship that we made despite our difference in background and future.

Before hanging up, he softly, with clear intonation said Es bueno que usted no es un lavaplatos. Pero tu era mi favorito companero de trabajo. He never did understand why I was washing dishes with him, never thought it was a good idea for the chica pequena to haul piles of plates all hours of the night. He is glad that I no longer live that life. But the fact that I was his favorite gives me a glow of pride. I was surprised by his call; it hit me like the sudden shot of steam coming out of the bistro’s sanitizer door after a mountain of pots and pans were fitted in for cleaning. Except, I suppose, this burst of steam didn’t come into an exhausted face in a 112 degree kitchen at 2am. It was a deluge of comforting warmth on a chilly winter afternoon. I’m happy to know S. is doing well and that we have the ability to continue our mismatched friendship. It’s a good thought with which to bring in the New Year.

1 comment:

grace said...

i want to comment on your last post. not this one. but there are already 7 comments there. and they're all very sympathetic and sappy. i can't compete with that shit, so i'm posting here. separating myself from the uncyncical and compassionate. for i, clearly, am not one of those.

i wanted to tell you that when i got my wisdom teeth pulled (age 17) and hyperventalated causing the oral surgeon to hit a nerve, 1/3 of my tongue went numb. i think you knew that. but now i'm 22 and sometimes that part of my tongue tickles, which means the feeling is coming back. your smell and taste will come back. someday.