Dinner With a Stranger

Dinner With a Stranger
     Mom and I are approached in a parking lot at night by an espresso complexioned young woman. Unlike most beggars she asks us if we need any help instead of requesting alms for the poor. I ask her for directions to the hardware store. She says, “Let me show you,” and hops in the back seat of our car to guide us through the night.    
     While the woman directs us Mom says she is hungry and needs to go home.      
     The woman says, “Oh let’s go to my place so I can cook for you. I make a sumptuous gluten-free casserole of polenta and quinoa with roasted sweet potatoes, plantains, kale, and black beans all in a rich ancho chili sauce. Please don’t turn me down. We’ll have a lot to talk about since we don’t know each other’s past.”      
     While we are dining, I notice numbers tattooed on her wrist. But I keep quiet about them since I am enjoying myself too much to call it a night by disturbing Mom. The lady tells us about the Catholic school she attended a child in Guatemala. I reply, “We have something in common. I was a live-in student at a Catholic boarding school.”    
     She says, “You are my long lost brother.”    
     I ask, “What happened to your brother?”    
     She says, “He met his fate bravely.”    
     She looks away like she’d rather not delve into that part of her history. And so I drop the subject. But my curiosity gets the best of me. I ask, “I apologize for being nosy but I couldn’t help but notice the numbers on your wrist. Are they a mark of a club you belong too?”    
     “They are from a secret society I once belonged too. But the thing about secret groups is that they are secret. Let’s not talk about sad things. There is too much happiness to share.”    
     I reply, “I must say you are a wonderful hostess. You gave my Mom and me a night to remember. If only we could stay longer. But my eyelids are drooping and I have to stay awake to drive us home.”    
     She replies, “Please you must stay for my blue corn pancakes dipped in honey. You won’t regret it.”    
     I ask Mom and she assents. “Our answer is yes. There is so much joy in your house. Just the way it is decorated with the shrine to the Our Lady of Guadalupe adorned with flowers and palmettos.”    
     She says, “I decided at a young age that my living space would be dedicated to my brother who loved all things spiritual. And I feel the need to share the rest of my story.”    
     I reply, “Well I think I can speak for Mom that we both are both fascinated by you. Please do tell if the spirit moves you.”    
     “The intake lady at the prison tattooed the numbers on my wrist. She told me, ‘This isn’t the real name that your parents gave you. This is just a way for us to keep track of you.’ You see my father murdered my brother because he brought danger to our family by joining the anti-government faction. My mother threatened to turn him into the police. So he raised a machete to my mother. So I took papa’s life. Surely you understand my reason. All I ask for in return for my hospitality is absolution. Please don’t judge me. Now do have the pancakes. Your palate will thank you for them.”
     “Do you have any cinnamon to go with those flapjacks?”
     “My spice rack would be unfit for a Hispanic kitchen without it.”
Written by goldenmyst
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