Us big boys know how to handle ourselves in a food-line buffet. We jolly up to the servers so they smile and laugh and dish up a little bigger portion on our plates.
I was off on a Bird Watching Elder Hostel in Trinidad/Tobago several years ago. The bird group worked out of a motel serving buffet meals. Of course I pulled my, usual, jolly-the-servers-act.
Natasha was one of those girls. (Odd name for a Latino gal.) But, she caught my act big time. She was a laughie lady who put as much in the game as I did, giggling and smart talking over the beef stew and tapioca pudding.
She was an average lookin’, comfortably upholstered, lady of warm, rich coffee and cream color. Interesting to be with in the off hours between meals when the bird group went off sight seeing old buildings around town. I stayed behind to watch the birds, bugs and flowers that mobbed the hotel/motel garden, a shaggy thing no bigger than a mobile home lot,
Natasha sat there too. The servers from the dinning room had time off between meals. They mostly dozed or talked quietly at a dinning room corner table. Natasha found her pleasure in that garden outside watching the birds and bees.
I sat with her a couple of times. No heavy breathing, just laughing and silly talk. She had an engaging way of calling out things in the garden; giving them personalities. Big bomber bumblebees got treated like big mouth, self-important yahoos.
And, the tiny, sugar-birds, (Banaquits): she had a love/hate relationship with them. “Busy-busy little things; catching bugs, raising chicks and all-ah-time redoing the nest. It wears you down just watching ‘em.”
Big blue-black grackles chased the sugar-birds now and then. Natasha cheered ‘em on: “Go, get them busy-birdies, you black whoduz!”
As for the dueling hummingbirds. They got called “sword-birds”, on account of their long skinny beaks. She laughed when they chased one or another from stopping at some sweet blossom, or perching on a commanding perch. She called to different ones, “Don’t sit there, child. You’s sitting on somebody’s doorstep.”
If that someone came zooming up, chattering the way hummers do, she and me would laugh and cheer them on. We laughed lots that way and talked some. Not all that much. There wasn’t so much time between meals.
Jolly times, but sometimes not all that jolly.
After a couple of male hummers got into it with each other one time she said, I remember, “Mens, they’s devils sometimes.”
“I’m a man.”
“Well, not you ... (pause) ... “But, no tellin’ ... even ‘bout you.”
Another time I showed her a trumpet-like, orange flower; wired for action!. A bug would light on the flower and start crawling up the tube. And, whop!, the spring-loaded pistil would slam down and nail the bug on the rump so’s to get the pollen the bug got dusted with somewhere else.
Natasha screamed with delight when I showed her that. “Good on him. Go messin’ with them sweet flower things you get a boot in the butt.”
Then, a nice, yellow spotted beetle got tangled in a spider web by us. Quick now the spider ran out to jump the unlucky beetle. We watched as the spider killed the beetle. Me horrorstruck. She sayin’, “It be murder out here. Kill and get kilt.”
I shivered. She said other upsetting things, too.
I asked her; did she come from the town there?
“Were you a big family, with nice brothers and sisters?”
“Yes. lots of them. eight, nine counting me. Sisters, lots of half-brothers and chilluns with different mamas or papas, two or three, depending on what different mens brought ‘em along. It was a house-full. always someone goin’ around, into mischief. There be no room to rest in that house.”
Then there was silence, long silence except for bird noises and the buzzy bugs.
“They wasn’t all happy, lovie brothers and sisters. The sisters would sometimes fight steal, if you let ‘em.
“And the boys, the men, they try to steal things from you too. Different things, even from the little ones, no more than babies: feeling, touching.
“Here let me kiss you.” (Deeper man voice) “There touch that. … Kiss it.”
And another voice change to a childish voice: “Mama, mama, he always want to sit with me. And touch and do things. Mama, make him stop.”
Deeper mama voice: “Hush chile. That’s the way wit mens. They gots to come on to you. Someday you be happy they wants to.”
I tried to change the subject: “Oh, look. The hummers fighting over the feeder.”
And from her, “I never did be happy at what the mens wants to do. Always makin’ me feel to be trashy. Mens. I hates ‘em. Why do they do like that?”
From the kitchen they called in a sing song way, “Na-TASHA-ah!” And she went off.
Our group left that night to go up country to another place for several days. Four days later we returned, stayed overnight, had breakfast and raced off to the airport.
Natasha wasn’t there. “Natasha be gone,” one of the other server girls said.
Shoot! I wanted to smile, and say good-bye, good luck.
At the airport I picked up an English newspaper to read while waiting for our flight.
The front-page headline jumped out: “Police grab Natasha.”
My God! Hairs prickled up on the back of my neck.
Could that Natasha be “my” Natasha?
The subhead read, “Natasha Something-or-other apprehended by police late yesterday afternoon for questioning in regard to a ten-year spree of serial-style, ice-pick stabbings of barrio men.”
A blurry picture showed POLICIA, pushing a largish woman along; her face hidden from view. She could have been my Natasha. Or, any large girl.
I searched the article for some clue to Natasha’s identity. How many Natasha’s can there be in that Latin country? I don’t know if the paper’s page one Natasha was “mine”.
I'll never know. I don’t want to know. It was such fun talking and laughing with her in the motel garden.
would tear me up if it was my Natasha.
But then, I guess, I’d know how come. DSS
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