“I understand you’re not a psychologist, but you’ve got to help me out here.”
The browns of my eyes flicker, and I feel my lids twitch as the vertices of the office grow longer, wider, then compress without warning. I grab the arms of my chair, telling myself, at all costs, WebMD’s not an option today.
“No worries,” I sip my $1.24 half-and-half cup of white chocolate mocha and hazelnut creamer.
“I’m old enough to know that love is illogical. And love makes you do, uh, things that are a bit crazy. And this man, he was a good man, you know?”
“And we were on good terms, so when he called me to say he got engaged, I was thinking, ‘Fantastic, I’m glad, move on with your life!'”
A brief reel of Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt frolicking amongst the sterility of IKEA bed sets keeps my mind off sudden death.
“But I guess he has his senses, you know? After all, it takes way more for a woman and her kids to move down here, but so much less for one man to up and move to that far off country. The one up north.”
“Greenland?” I shrug, and gnaw on my pen.
“No, not that one. I uh, she’s, she’s, oh my Lord…”
“Ma’am, are you alright?”
“Oh God. Just, let me catch my breath.”
“Take your time.” Brevity buys time for prolonged laments to follow.
“Alright. She’s, she’s a whatchamacallit. A, oh God, she’s – ”
“She’s a Canadian. Is that what you call them?”
“But Ma’am, he’s already moved?”
No matter who you are, wailing upsets me like doors closing on bubblewrap cased in styrofoam. As a child, this was one of those things I heard siblings confess to on talk shows, along with wrapping their little brothers in thick Persian rugs, leaving them hotdogged for a good three hours.
“Honey, I’m, I’m so sorry. The whole thing is crazy. And as I’m sure you know, love makes you do crazy things. Mind you, I’m an educated woman. I know how it all works, but here I am, talking to you, calling this girl that I’ve only met once mean names. I shouldn’t be using racial slurs, Jesus, oh, forgive me.”
“Ma’am?” For years, I’d always get, “But where’s your accent?” after I disclosed where I grew up. After a decade of failed mimicry, “Ma’am” was the only word I could say in mastery of the drawl.
“Yes? Dear, I couldn’t tell you where he’s at. But he’s moved to that country.”
“Yes. I can’t even say the word anymore.”
“Ma’am. Canadians are people from Canada.” With the butterknife of forced patience, I lace my words with maple syrup.
“So it’s not a derogatory term?”
“Where does he live?”
“I, I couldn’t tell you. But the Canadian, she speaks French. A little English, but French.”
“It’s a province.”
“I couldn’t tell you. To me, she’s a Canadian.”