It was late in the evening on a Wednesday night when I had just entered back into the men’s locker room after working out with my training partner Mel. As I entered into the room I nearly collided with a man carrying a brown suitcase. His “excuse me”, was ladened with thick syllables and a hearty laugh as we passed by one another.
The door closing behind us I spun ever so slightly to see the man dressed to the nines walking quickly towards the staircase. Without hesitation I wandered off to where my locker was and stripped down to my skivvies then wound up in the showers before sitting for a half-hour in the jacuzzi.
Many weeks later on a Tuesday night as I entered into the locker room I bumped head long into the man with the thick accent and his brown suitcase. Again the pleasantries were exchanged and we departed our separate ways.
“Hey Mel, do you happen to know who the guy is with the brown suitcase? This is the second time I have nearly collided with that guy as he’s departing the locker room.” Mel stood looking perplexed at me with his brown eyes and wavy black hair. “What did this guy look like?” I laughed as I’d never really looked at the guy just this ugly brown suitcase that he’s carrying. “Honestly, I have no idea what he looks like, but he’s always carrying that ugly brown worn down suitcase and he’s dressed to the nines.” He stood nearby thinking over whom this member might be whilst stripping down to his skivvies to hit the showers.
A few weeks after this last incident it must have been a Thursday night when I bumped into a guy on the 500m jogging track. We exchanged pleasantries when I noticed the thick accent and asked where he was from? “I am from Argentina,” he replied, “and you my friend. Where are you from?” I studied the man’s eyes the creases and veins popping out around his sunken green eyes. He peered slightly up at me as I stood a few inches taller than he. “I am from a place called Oz,” I lied. The man studied me then continued his interrogation. “You do not sound like a man from Australia, nor do you look or act like one too,” he smile understanding that we were now playing a game of “guess where I am from”. His eyes continued to wander and assess everything about me then he says in his thick accented syllables, “you dress like your in your thirties, but your crow’s feet do not hide the facts that you are actually older than your appearance says. You are not from here. No not originally. You are an import, just like Herbert. I do not believe you are from the mother-land of the English nor from the southern tip of Africa. Otherwise you would have spoken Affrakens and have a strange accent of English as do I. No, you are from more nearby than that,” he smiled inwardly then outwardly and didn’t say another word.
Then man from Argentina, the man named Herbert, wandered off down the left side of the track as today was counter-clockwise day on the track. His thick dark fingers wagging in the air as he expected an answer to fall out of the heavens.
At first I kept pace to see if he was speaking to himself, like I sometimes do but Herbert was only agitating his limbs whilst having an internal conversation. Then a burst of speed hit when we came out of turn one and I sped off on a slow jog leaving Herbert to wander where I was really from?
Several hours later I sat in the jacuzzi tub feeling the heat spread across my sore body when I heard a splash in the pool. Opening one eye to see whom had joined me in the tub, it was the man from Argentina. His face smiled with recognition and said, “we meet again. At least this time you are not bumping into my ugly old brown suitcase.” He gave a dark thundering chuckle.
“Herbert, right?” I said closing my eyes again. “You are a man of many mysteries.” I did not open my eyes and stayed seated listening to the silence. Then Herbert says, “You are correct my lad, I am.” Neither of us said much after that.
About a month later I was headed out the door of the locker room after a quick morning workout where Mel and I had been jogging in the River Valley. Upon reaching the stairs I noticed Herbert standing at the bottom of the steps. Jogging down them and up to him, I said, “good day kind sir, how are you today?” He looked at me like we should know each other but was unsure if we had met before. “And you are?” he inquired. Funny thing, I don’t think I had ever actually introduced myself to him in all of the times we bumped into each other. “I am James. We bump into each other quit a lot around here. Usually when one of us is entering or exiting the locker room,” I replied. His green eyes starred at me in disbelief then he said, “young man, would you care to help an old man up the stairs? I just can’t seem to hold onto this suitcase today.” Without hesitation I took the brown suitcase from him and assisted him with the slow climb up the stairs. At the top, he thanked me and said, “James, I do believe you are an American, disguised as a Canadian, who lived once in Australia. That’s why its so difficult to determine where you are from. Your accent is not quit clear, but there are words that you use which truly explain where you originated. I like you James, and I look forward to our next encounter.” He smiled, picked up the ugly brown suitcase and strolled away unassisted.
~ James Curtis