There are many things that I love and hate about my job. One of the things I love is Jorge.
I never expected that in my life I would form any sort of friendship with a 40-year-old Mexican immigrant. But I have, and now my Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday would not be complete without an appearance from my beloved latino friend Jorge. Every morning when I show up to work, blurry eyed and trying to muster the strength to face the somewhat grueling and often difficult day ahead, and am greeted by my amusing friend. He waits to make a joke about my hair, if it is up in a ponytail then I have brushed it and I look pretty--I get a compliment from Jorge. "Oh, bonita Yacky," he chirps. If it is down, and delicately messed up from the previous night of sleeping I do not receive a compliment. "No se pieno Yacky, you lazy," he laughs and makes fun of me (for no reason) and lives on in a black and white world.
He just turned forty and has been repeatedly approaching me and asking concernedly, "Soy viejo? Si Yacky?" "No, no Jorge, you are a spring chicken," I tell him, I don’t think he knows what I am talking about. He barely speaks English and I barley speak Spanish. Despite his age, Jorge works seven days a week, everyday he opens the restaurant at 6 am, and basically without him, the delicate balance of the little cafe will fall to pieces. He has a strange, gristly mustache and the pores on his face are deep and troubled, perhaps telling the story of his past.
He came to the States from a beach town in Mexico years ago, but almost everyday he tells me a romanticized story about his hometown. He delights in recalling the magic of Mexican women salsa dancing, moving fluidly, unlike the gringas, “muy stiff," he says with a smile. Then he does a little impression of a woman dancing mannishly, moving like a robot, hinges hungry for oil.
Jorge seems to always be in a good mood, decidedly marked by the all-to-common mischievous grin buried under that rough mustache. He has more energy in the morning than anyone I have ever met. He always greets me with a big embrace and a laugh, he knows how funny it is--him, an exuberant 40 year old Chicano and me, a 24 year old gringa--two separate worlds and states of mind, getting ready for work together.
Sometimes, Jorge escapes into his own perplexing inner world. He becomes quite, somber, and unsmiling. He does not want to joke, or laugh, or tell me who is loco and why in our very broken Mexican/English conversations. Then a week will go by. He will cheer up, and make my day at work a little sunnier.