The first time I met John he yelled in my face. It was the night I began volunteering at St. Catherine’s, and I was nervous. I stood outside the convent soup kitchen, unsure, but the waiting homeless men seemed to know what to do, and one of them rang the doorbell for me.
The door swung open, flooding the dark courtyard with light.
“Huh ah yee?” barked a heavily accented voice from the brightness.
There was a pause, and the waiting homeless men shuffled around the cobblestones.
Their previous chatter subsided at the sound of the gruff voice.
“My name’s Emilie. I’m a new volunteer.” My voice sounded unusually high as I forced a too bright smile.
My eyes were beginning to adjust to the light. An elderly man stood before me in grey slacks, a white button-up shirt, and a misshapen navy cardigan. He had a white beard and hair, and a ruddy complexion. His most distinctive feature, however, was his gigantic glasses, which magnified his eyes to three times their normal size – giving him the general appearance of an insect.
The man looked me over and rolled his eyes towards heaven. “Naw eh bluedee Ehmerican,” he grumbled.
I flushed. There were some snickers from the men outside, but they silenced when the man looked sharply at them.
“Weel get en wi’ ye then,” he ordered and stepped aside in the doorway.
I walked in to the hallway and he closed the door behind me.
He made a series of guttural sounds, which I met with an incomprehensive stare. He raised his voice to repeat himself and this time I got the gist of something about a “bluedee coot” being inadequate.
If he hadn’t tugged at the sleeve of my thin pink jacket I wouldn’t have understood. Miscommunication was to become a theme between us.
“I suppose it is a bit impractical…” I began.
This elicited a new ejaculatory response, coupled with several bushy eyebrow raises. When I again was unable to respond, he stopped talking abruptly and walked swiftly down the hall. I had no choice but to follow.