Saturday, November 22, 2008

Julia Suncatcher

Julia Suncatcher

I work up around dinner time, feeling a little better. I think the nurses adjusted my drip down a bit. I'm feeling achy and scratchy, but I think some of the swelling is going down. From beyond the curtains I heard a clatter, then came Julia's voice: "You get out of the way. This is for Captain Ross."

She shoved her way into my bedside and closed the curtain. Her face beamed with exhilaration.  She had started calling me "Captain" a couple days ago when she realized that I actually steer the ship, whereas Queen Carrie always seemed too busy with something or other to help with anything. So Julia dubbed me "Captain" and vociferously argued with anyone who dared challenge her. In her half-Tagalog dialect (Taglish I guess) it sounded more like "Cap-i-tan Wass". I've tried to translate her words as best I can, but I may throw in a few that don't translate well.

"I cooked you a special hapĂșnan [dinner], just for the Captain." She rolled the cart right up to my bed. I could instantly smell the savory aroma of the meats and vegetables. I suddenly realized how hungry I was. I'd been in this bed, almost unconscious for two days.

She uncovered a couple of the dishes. "You will enjoy," she says, not as a question or statement, more like an order.

I would describe the food she prepares as something of a cross between Thai and Mexican food, at least the Americanized versions of those. One dish was a pork stir fry, scented with garlic and tomatoes, some kind of shrimp fried rice, a vegetable-laden soup, and for desert a custard pie. She gave me the names of all the things but I'd have to grab her and have her type in the dish name since it all had Tagalog names I don't recognize.

She sat patiently while I ate. I felt an uncomfortable silence between us. I'd only known her a little over a week, so I didn't expect miracles, but she wasn't like a puppy we adopted. Our intention was to get her back to her home at some point.

"Where's Misty," I asked her.

"Oh, Miss Misty is very busy. Queen Carrie is working her non-stop while you rest. She sent me here to take care of you. You're a very brave Captain. I will take care of you."

"Do you like...'Miss'...Misty?"

Her face lit up. "Oh yes, very much. She reminds me of Manang
[eldest sister] who took care of me after my parents died. She treats me well and never yells or hits. But Captain, if I may say, you must make her a proper woman. Mohammad would not approve of this arrangement. You are good people, you do not want this sin."

"Oh." Oh. Never considered Julia might be a Muslim.

"It's too late for me," she said, eyes downcast. "I have been shamed. I am unclean. I shall burn in the fires of Hell for all eternity."

"Hey, hey, don't say that. You're just a kid. I'm sure whatever happened to you wasn't your fault. Hey, look up, look at me. You're life isn't over, it's barely begun. We all have our burdens to bear. If your god is anything like mine, he's given you burdens to make you stronger, not to punish you. And I think that in the end, it doesn't matter how big or terrible your burden is, it's what you do with it. Does that make any sense?"

She looked around the bed. "I don't know, Captain. Let's not talk of this. It makes my brain hurt."

I laid back a bit, feeling the satisfied rumblings from my belly. "So tell me about this Bo. How old is he? Where's he from?"

She suddenly brightened, talking about how idiotic and annoying Bo was, and providing me a complete analysis of the situation in excruciating detail. I think I finally dozed off after a while, but she had cleaned up all the food and tidied my bed by the time I awoke. She left a couple snacks on a metal table. I really hope we can do something for her, she seems so eager and smart, it would be a great shame for her life to be thrown away.

Posted: Saturday, November 22, 2008 @ 9:47 PM

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments. I'll get back to you as soon as I'm able.