I used to eat at this restaurant down the street from my place everyday called Amarelinho. It’s one of those classic places where you have the same workers that work the same shifts, the regulars sit in the same seats, and people generally kinda don’t give a fuck. I remember it once received 73 health code violations that was published in a national journal, but business didn’t falter a bit, well, at least it didn't stop me from going there.
Back when I frequented the Amarelinho, I used to always get my food to-go since I always liked to watch something with my meal and their ketchup was just really, really, horrible. But one day, for whatever reason, I decided to eat lunch inside the restaurant, and while nothing important really happened, it is a day I remember.
I get my typical, I mean literally, I get the same thing every time I go there: a salad of lettuce, beets, carrots, corn, raisins, avocado, quail eggs and mango doused with olive oil with a side of sweet potatoes and fried eggplant if they got it. I sit down and the waiter comes and asks for my drink order. Orange and carrot juice without sugar. The thing is, the word for carrot in Portuguese, “cenoura”, is frustratingly close to malpighia emarginata, otherwise known as “acerola”. I spend a good minute trying my best to accentuate the words so I get the right juice. As soon as the waiter leaves, I see a thin girl sitting across from me. She looks just like Krysten Ritter and I’m strangely attracted to abnormally skinny girls. Me and Flora aren’t dating at this time, but we’re talking, kinda. Technically, it wouldn’t have been outside of my bounds to make a move, but hesitate for a bit. After a few seconds of thinking I decide to try at a conversation, just to see, hypothetically, what would happen, and if I still had it.
She’s sitting there reading some piece of paper and the best line I can think of is “What are you reading?”
“A dance schedule,” she says.
“Oh, you're a dancer?”
“Yup, classical ballet.”
I try to ask her if she’s seen the movie “Black Swan”, but falter on finding the word for “swan” in Portuguese. She finishes the title for me in perfect, fluent English.
“Woah, you speak English really well,” I say to her.
“Yeah, I noticed you were having trouble pronouncing the word “carrot”, so I figured you weren’t from here. I love carrot juice by the way. I was so happy to hear you order it.”
“Yeah, thank god for carrot juice,” I say. I immediately want to kick myself as the words leave my mouth.
“Where are you from?” she asks.
“The United States,” I say.
“I love the United States!”
We get into a conversation about why she loves the US and why I love Brazil. It’s funny, we agree on everything that we like and don’t like about our respective home countries, but all the things we don’t like about the other are things we’re willing to put up with to be there. It’s like we should switch citizenships, right then and there. That or get married.
“I LOVE the US,” she continues, “the people there are so friendly!”
“Really?” I say in sort of a surprise. “This is based on Americans you met here?”
“No silly! I’ve been there. I’m going to Utah next year.”
“There are a lot of mormons in Utah,” I say. That’s about the only thing I know about the state, that and the Utah Jazz, but fuck John Stockton, and definitely fuck Karl Malone.
“I’m mormon!” she yelps.
“Oh my god, really?! High-five!” I say. Our palms touch above the center of the table.
“Oh my god! Are you mormon too?!”
“No, I just think it’s really funny that you are.”
The last sentence sits kinda awkwardly, but for some reason I don’t really care. I move on to something that I can’t remember and we eventually reach a point where it seems natural for the conversation to end. I look down at my watch and 45 minutes have passed. I see her pulling out her phone from her bag.
“We should stay in contact,” she says to me.
I think about it for a minute. I think about what I know and feel about Flora at that point, and the potential I feel in our friendship. I think about the course of exchanging contacts with a Krysten Ritter look-alike and having her number constantly staring me in the face from my phone, then me eventually giving in to sending a text, and what the following texts, or lack of texts, might bring. I pull out my business card instead.
“Yeah totally. You can find my Facebook on the email here,” I say to her.
She looks at the card for a moment, then gives me a smile, pockets the business card, and rises to leave. I rise with her.
“It was really nice to meet you, Nick,” she says, while giving me the tiniest perfection of hugs.
“You too, Julia.”
I never heard from Julia again, and given the way things turned out a few months later, I’m really glad I haven’t.