Our last day on the island we took a deep collective breath and decided to spin the real estate wheel one more time.
Flipping through the local rag that morning, Michael noticed that one of the island realtors professed to being “gay-friendly,” so we decided to see if the company’s abiding commitment to social equality included a willingness to sell houses to people more than willing to buy them.
I made the call. A perfectly nice woman named Melinda answered. I described what we were looking for. “Sure, I’d be happy to meet with you this afternoon,” she said. “I can think of a couple of things off-hand I’d like to show you.”
No put downs. No one-liners. I could barely believe my ears.
“I appreciate your call,” she said. “Let’s say three at my office.”
We were almost giddy with excitement.
Everything seemed different now that we were practically landed gentry. We viewed the ubiquitous litter along the side of the road with outraged disbelief (“How dare they trash our island!); we felt a new sense of comradeship with the sullen woman in the bakery who’d never shown us the slightest glimmer of kindness (“Who knows, maybe she’ll be our neighbor someday.”) We walked through town with our heads held just a little higher.
Being an insider really does give you a whole new perspective.
We arrived at Melinda’s office at 2:55, although “office” is a generous term for where we found ourselves—“lean-to” would be more technically accurate.
The interior was dark and fetid, and when we stepped inside our eyes took a few moments to acclimatize to the gloom.
At first the place looked deserted. Complete silence reigned, except for the forlorn, homely sound of a clucking chicken near the front door. Then a movement from near the back caught my eye.
I squinted and was rewarded with the sight of a small, squat woman sitting in an aluminum lawn chair eating an enormous sandwich with admirable concentration.
“Hello,” I said, then remembered that I was practically a local now. “Hola,” I amended.
The woman, chewing furiously, didn’t answer. We stood in awkward silence and waited while she masticated the two or three pounds of cold cuts she’d crammed into her mouth.
“I hope this isn’t Melinda,” I said to myself.
“I hope this isn’t Melinda,” Michael said out loud.
It wasn’t. After another thirty seconds of chewing and swallowing followed by the consumption of a gallon of iced tea, the woman swiveled in our general direction and said, with a friendly-enough smile, “Melinda, she not here.”
I glanced instinctively at my watch. 3:05.
“We have a three o’clock appointment,” Michael said politely.
Eyeing the remains of her sandwich precisely the way a dog regards a juicy bone, the woman laughed philosophically, nodding her head.
“Is good,” she offered, not unkindly. “She come.”
We glanced at one another. “Have you talked to her?”
“Oh yes,” the woman said. “One hours ago she call. She say one hour and one half she come.”
“So she’ll be here at 3:30?”
The woman looked at me with obvious merriment. “Quizá,” she said. Maybe.
We looked around the wretched hut. There was no place to sit. Additionally, our hostess’ sandwich had attracted an extended family of large green flies now dive-bombing our ears with unbridled delight.
“Let’s go for a walk,” Michael suggested.
“We’ll come back at 3:30,” I told the woman, who nodded absently as we fled into the warm, bright afternoon.