life by lb

How to Fall in Love without Talking

Juanito (as I affectionately call him), would come to work everyday with his Wahoo's t-shirt and hat, put on his apron and towels and start prepping for the day.


Every once in a while I would sneak a peek at his strong forearms while he was slicing and then do whatever I could to make him smile. 

You see, when he smiles, all of his teeth harness the power of the sun and you can feel the energy in the room change. His smile lights up his eyes and even the darkest crevices in the day.


We would work together, not saying a thing except what was required for orders since he didn't speak more than 30 words in English.


Every day after our lunch shift, I would sneak to the back loading dock with my *cigarettes, and take a break.


Juan picked up on my routine and one day asked me for a cigarette with his broken English ("give me a cigarette?"). I think he may have rehearsed that line a few times with his buddies before approaching, and it worked! We hung out on the back dock and I pointed to his Walkman (remember Walkmans?!?) and asked what music he was listening to.


Music he understood.


We listed our favorites, or at least some that we knew each other would recognize. Metallica, Scorpions, Guns n' Roses, Pantera, all of which were very popular in Mexico. Those weren't all my favorites, but he seemed to recognize metal so I catered my list. He was listening to more of a techno, dance beat and now I understood why he danced around while cleaning so much.


The memory I have of Juan working will always consist of him dancing, smiling and having fun with his work. I opened the walk-in refrigerator one day to find him, headphones plugged in, sponges strapped to his feet, dancing around the floor and cleaning with each step. The kid has moves.


And you have never seen such a beautiful smile.




And so we, started playing pool together, hiking at Red Rocks and sharing our love for all music during these trips, dancing during the drive to whatever mountain or trail we wanted to explore that day.


I talked all the time but whether he understood or not. Juan patiently listened and if it sounded really important would ask me to re-explain.


I like to say I taught him English by immersion, literally. He picked up enough English in 6 months to become a front of the house manager, so I guess it worked!


The rest was music and dancing and a ton of Faith.

* Cigarettes: a truly horrible habit that forced me to go outside and enjoy the sun, sky and weather - I miss it terribly and hate the fact that I have to make excuses now to go outside. Dog poop? I'll pick it up! The neighbors haven't cleaned their side of the street in weeks? I'll clean it!

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