I was sitting out in the little sidewalk café just below our apartment here in Sahagún sipping an afternoon cup of java (actually un cortado, a shot of espresso with just a little hot milk) when I looked up at the young woman who was waiting on us. She is from the Dominican Republic, like all the other wait staff in this little bar/café. There, blazoned across the front of her t-shirt was “Arkansas City” in bold white letters against a dark blue background. I wish I had had a camera, but was not so lucky.
I asked her if she had ever been in “Arkansas City” and she gave me a look of total incomprehension. I pointed to her t-shirt and asked where she had bought it. In an oriental bazaar in León she said. (Chinese and Korean families run these little discount places in every town around. You can get cheap goods of all descriptions in these places.) Perhaps she thought I was asking to buy her shirt, or perhaps . . . who knows.
I then told her that I had been born very near to Arkansas City and she looked at me as if I had just said that I had been born on Mars. (All of this was in Spanish, of course.) It had clearly never occurred to her that the random collection of letters on her t-shirt might actually refer to a town someplace on earth. I don’t know if she thought I was lying to her or if she just chalked it up to the ravings of another foreign customer, but she smiled and put down my second cup of coffee. Anyway, I gave her a generous tip for reminding me of southern Kansas and my early years.
Visions of trips to the music store in Arkansas City where I purchased valve oil for my trumpet and sheet music of various kinds passed in front of my eyes. I also acquired my collection of 78 rpm records in that store. You could take a record into a little booth and listen to it before purchase. BYF trips to the roller rink also came up. If I am out at that café with a camera when she wears that t-shirt again, I’ll take a picture and post it here. Until then, you’ll just have to trust me that it really happened here in the center of Spain to this transplanted southern Kansas boy.