A Diversified Living Room
I was sitting on a chair holding a coffee cup the size of a thimble.
It was filled with black gold.
I took another sip.
My ears began to ring.
“Would you like some more?” she says to me in her thick Portuguese accent, long shiny black hair, dark eyes and bright white smile. She was holding a beautiful porcelain coffee pot in her hands.
“No, thank you,” I stammered.
I covered my doll house cup and saucer, containing what I later learned to be, espresso.
“I do,” says her younger sister.
She was a teenager, with the same dark hair, eyes and bright white smile. “Anabella was speaking in their native tongue. But since Mariana filled up her thimble, I understood what she’d said.
And then, the fair skinned, blonde guy with the square rimmed glasses, who was sitting next to Anabella on the sofa named, Stephen, only they pronounced it, Steff-un, said, “Nine.” He faced the palm of his hand out and shook his head.
I knew what he said too.
It was late morning in 1980, something or other.
Sun rays leaked through lace curtains which softened the light by the time it hit the wood floor between us.
I was on a date with my Sweet Sven.
But he wasn’t there.
He was across the street.
You see, he had a little carpentry work to do at his father’s, then passed on down to his brother’s, store.
“It won’t take long,” he’d said, grabbing his tool belt. “You can hang out at my brother’s house.”
Well, it just so happened that this brother, younger than Sven by one year, had been in the Peace Corp sometime during the seventies. And while in South America, he’d met the woman of his dreams, Mariana.
And they got married.
And then Mariana’s little sister decided that she wanted to come and visit her big sister over here in America.
So Anabella had boarded a plane.
And then while in the sky, somewhere between Brazil and Dane, Wisconsin, a guy from Germany found himself seated next to Anabella.
He was taken with her beauty.
And somehow that guy got off that plane with Anabella. And somehow he’d landed on Sven’s brother’s couch at Sven’s brother’s house.
The house that was across the street from the family store.
The one I happened to be hanging out at on account of that little fix-it job.
So that is how the four of us ended up drinking “coffee” and trying to communicate in that diversified living room that late morning.
Anabella and Mariana spoke to each other in what I thought was Spanish.
But they had a Portuguese to German/German to Portuguese dictionary.
So I gathered they were speaking Portuguese.
They were trying to translate what Steff-un was grunting to them and Steff-in was trying to decipher what they were babbling to him.
At least Mariana spoke English.
But, it wasn’t the same English I spoke.
I didn’t have a book.
I was all on my own.
So I did what anybody would do in that situation.
I played charades.
I pointed at things. I used props. I jumped up and down. And I said things right out loud.
Real slow and real loud.
All of my cheating went unnoticed because nobody was keeping score.
And I don’t think they ever played charades.
I came to realize that morning that what my sweet Sven meant by, “It won’t take long,” was different than what I thought that meant.
But it was fine that his little fix-it job took a long time.
Because it was a lot of fun being all buzzed up on that black gold liquid that Mariana was serving out of her porcelain spout, in that living room.
And all the while I kept on thinking, “Really?”
What are the odds?
They had all flown across the ocean.
They had all gotten off a plane.
They were all driven out of the city and into the country.
And they all ended up in Dane.
In a tiny town where the water tower is the closest thing to a skyscraper you will ever find.
In a tiny town that is littered with farm machinery.
In a tiny town that has a lake, that is really a pond.
And that pond used to be a puddle.
I wished I could have seen their arrivals.
Did they open up their arms like in the movies when the Statue of Liberty appears and scream out, “America!”
And, who in the hell has a Portuguese to German/German to Portuguese dictionary?
Oh, that’s right.
It’s not all about me.
It’s not all about America.
I never saw Steff-un and his fair skin, blonde hair and square rimmed glasses again.
He must have struck out with Anabella.
But those two Brazilian sisters are still in my life.
Because Sven and I married a couple of years later.
And then about a decade after that, Sven’s baby brother went to Brazil on vacation.
That sweet fella didn’t come home and didn’t come home and didn’t come home. And then he married that beautiful Anabella.
And he brought Anabella back to America.
Christmas Day was always entertaining at Sven’s parents home, with Sven’s two brothers, married to a couple of Brazilian sisters. And Sven’s two sisters married to a couple of Wisconsin rednecks. Aunt Helen in her apron, blind as a bat, peeling potatoes into thin air. Sven’s mother getting all belligerent, panic setting in, somebody yelling, “get a beer!” A sister hurriedly pouring a pilsner into a tall glass and Sven’s mother gulping half of it down.
And then it would be like nothing ever happened.
You see the holiday excitement always threw off her blood-sugar levels.
And then the best China and the polished silverware would be set.
Potatoes were mashed.
Gravy was stirred.
And the turkey was carved.
Snow would flutter outside the big picture window in the dining room, in the house that was just down the street from Sven’s brother’s house.
The one that was across the street from the family store.
And we would have a feast.