Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Journey of Growth

­It was 9.10. Time seemed to be passing…slowly. I could not control myself. I decided to go to the receptionist and ask her again about my meeting with the General. I was damn sure that this meeting had something to do with David.

“No Ma’am. Please have a seat. I surely will tell you when it is time for your appointment,” said the receptionist, in her sugary sweet voice; but I was sure she carried a 9 millimeter in her crocodile-skin purse and her voice was just a ploy to hide her real self. Thinking this, I returned to my seat on the sofa, positioned exactly opposite the receptionist’s desk, with butterflies doing barrel rolls in my stomach.

The clock chimed 9.30. The mahogany door swung open and the General rushed out to greet me. “Sorry to keep you waiting Ma’am; I am extremely sorry for this impromptu summons. Did Dorothy offer you coffee?”

“It’s no problem General. Can I know why I have been summoned here? Is it something to do with my David,” I asked.

Inviting me into his office, he said, “I am terribly grief-stricken to inform you that Major David Sanchez will not be returning home from this session at sea. There was an accident involving his aircraft and I am afraid he is no more.”

I just listened to him. The words kept repeating themselves in my mind again and again. I just sat and waited. Waited for David to step out from somewhere and say that everything was fine. But no one materialized. The General kept saying sorry and kept apologizing, but how could anyone understand what had just happened in my life…

On the way home, tears glittering in my eyes the whole way, I just thought of what and how I would tell the kids. George and Theresa, just five and seven. How would they grow up without their father, how would I manage the whole family? I just couldn’t take in the fact that life could be so cruel to anyone.

The kids took it quite well. They cried a little and helped me soak in the grief, but they were still a little too young to grasp the sorrow of losing their father. Maybe it was mother’s stories about life in heaven being better than on earth; maybe they had a feeling that their dad was safe. But I just wasn’t sure of what had happened.

For the next few months, life crept on and on. I wandered from shop-to-shop, hotel-to-hotel, and household-to-household looking for an odd job. It was a Thursday in March when I entered the Café Boulevard. A small homely place in the middle of town, this enterprise was run by a woman, widowed at the ripe age of 30, and in the same way as me. I sensed that she would be someone to get me what I wanted.

Entering the kitchen the next morning, I took in the scenery. The single table in the center, cluttered with vegetables of all types; the plates and cutlery laying orderly in the corner of the room; and the lone figure in white, knife in hand, eyeing me and enjoying a quiet smile.

I was pretty good at cooking savories, and when it came to earning through it, I pushed hard for my best effort. My salary kept rising, but so did my children’s needs. It was in June, more than two years after me joining the café that Madame Child disclosed her future plans, and hearing them, my legs went numb and my eyes grew wet.

It was catastrophe. What would I do? How would I manage the expenses from my David’s meager pension? I could not think of anything. Nothing seemed to make sense. It was at that time that the man entered the Café.

Dressed in his daily costume of a white shirt and black Armani suit, accompanied with tortoise-shell glasses made the image of a hotshot lawyer clear straight from his entrance. I rushed to him to take his daily order, which never changed: bacon with eggs, and coffee, black with two spoons of sugar.

As I bestowed him with his meal, he asked me like a ghost,” What’s the problem Ma’am?” I guess my eyes told him everything because he didn’t utter a word and focused his mind on the feast in front of him. I returned to my daily chores and the day’s new thoughts, oblivious to the pair of eyes following me around.

It was 2 weeks before he made his offer. He offered to purchase the café for my benefit and allow me to run it, in my way. I could not say a word. I just kept quiet and stood there, still as a shadow. I knew I would make it work, but why would someone trust me. Trust me with so much of their money.

I accepted 2 days after his proposal, and from there began our friendship, and the journey to my growth.