Written by Angela Hatcher
Today, the line is especially slow in Boulangerie to “build your own salad.” I wait patiently, staring absentmindedly at my scuffed up shoes, but my solace is interrupted by a cackle.
The girls in front of me are giggling and pointing to the salad bar with long, manicured fingers. I glance around their slender frames to see what all the fuss is about.
I immediately know what they are laughing at — who they are laughing at. It’s so obvious. The lady making the salads.
I watch her.
When people tell her what they want in their salad she points to an array of ingredients: chicken, green peppers, black beans. If they nod at one of them, she tosses it into their bowl.
She says nothing; only opening her mouth and shutting it as she becomes more and more frustrated. She works furiously, moving from customer to customer after customer.
Her coworkers avoid eye contact.
I walk up to the thick glass that is separating us, past all the outraged students in line and say, on a hunch, “Guapa, ¿Hablas español?”
Her sullen brown eyes light up.
She takes a deep breath in, looks me in the eye and nods gratefully as she exhales, bobbing her head up and down.She has a smile playing around her lips as I tell her what I want in my salad.
She tells me how no one she works with speaks Spanish, they can’t understand her and she can barely understand them.
I tell her that she’s hard worker and that I admire her for doing this.
“It’s okay,” she says to me in Spanish, “I know I’m a hard worker.”
She puts chicken in my salad.
I tell her I didn’t pay the extra money to get a salad with protein.
She winks at me.
I tell her that I hope her day gets better, that I’ll be thinking of her. But she’s already back to her station, ready to help her next customer. He says to her in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “Ya don’t by any chance speak English too?” His best friend chokes on his Pepsi as his body shakes with half-suppressed laughter.
The dull light in her eyes disappears almost instantly.