In walks Michelle. His grey hair curling under the bandanna he always wears on his head. I notice he still carries around his backpack with him everywhere. I’ve only seen him twice before but he still looks the same as the other times. He’s wearing a pullover sweater and another sweater, jacket type thing around his waist. His face is covered with freckles that could possibly be age spots. I’m not sure. As his smile lights up his face, I notice a few teeth missing.
I know the moment he spots me and know what he is going to ask me first.
“Where’s my Muslim sister?” he asks with a French lilt to his speech.
Yup, I knew that was what he was going to ask me.
I stay calm and answer his question. “She’s not here. She’s never here on Mondays.”
I see he’s disappointed. “Oh, she’s never here Mondays? But tomorrow, she’ll be here tomorrow?”
“Yes, she will be here tomorrow.”
“I need to use your phone.”
He always seem to need to use our phone. I grab the phone from behind the computer and hand it to him.
“Can you dial this number for me,” he says, showing me a number on a piece of paper he pulled out of his pocket.
I agree. Looking at the number on the paper, I punch in the numbers and hand him the phone. I hear it beep and know it is a long distance number. He gives me back the phone and I punch in the number 1 before pressing the numbers again.
This time when I hand him the phone, it goes through and he talks to the person on the other end. I turn away from his conversation and continue what I was doing before Michelle walked in. Meanwhile, I still hear everything on his side of the conversation. Sounds like the woman on the other end won’t pick him up and he’s headed to Steinbach for some reason.
After his phone call, he looks frustrated and he lets me know why. “She has a headache. She told me to call back at 3:30 to see if she’ll pick me up but she wants me to hitchhike to Rosenfeld but I’m not going there. I’m going to Steinbach.”
I smile and say a few okay’s and other short words to pretend like I care as he continues on.
The phone rings and I go to answer it, secretly happy for the interruption. “Valley Regional Library,” I say.
“I was just wondering how long you’re open today.”
“We’re open until 4 today,” I answer.
“Okay, thank you.”
When the woman hangs up, I press end on the phone and put it back in its stand.
“Oh, you close at four?” Michelle asks, still standing where I left him.
I respond and continues on with his stories. He once again tells me that he’s going to Steinbach.
“Why are you going to Steinbach?” I ask. I know he wants me to respond more than I have been.
He goes on to tell me that he has a friend there who is from Belgium who is working at the thrift store there. Eventually he asks me what’s new with me and I tell him not a lot except working and finding things to do. He jokingly asks for 700 dollars and I secretly hope he won’t ask for money seriously as he normally does when he shows up.
“Did you give my Muslim sister my message last time?” Michelle asks me.
“No, I forgot,” I tell him. I remember last time he told me to tell her he visited but I honestly had forgotten to tell her. “You could write her a note,” I suggest so I won’t have to tell her.
He tells me, I should write one. I get a piece of paper out and grab a pen. “Are you sure, you don’t want to write it.”
“I’m too tired,” he says as he leans on the counter where he’s standing.
I scribble away on the paper, writing what he dictates. He has me write, Hello my Muslim sister. This is Michelle. I was here to see you the other day but my Mennonite sister said Mondays you’re never here. I’m on my way to Steinbach. Whatever you do, don’t forget about Michelle. Dankeschein.’
He grabs the piece of paper once I’m done writing. “I will sign it and put a smiley face on it.”
I have seen children draw better smiley faces than Michelle but I don’t say anything.
He asks to use the phone again. He grabs the paper from his pocket and I dial the number for him again. He tells the woman she doesn’t need to come.
He asks me to photocopy more pages from the book, I photocopied pages from last time he showed up. I say sure. Maybe I’ll be able to get rid of him faster if I do what he wants.
After photocopying the pages for him, he asks me the question I dreaded but knew was most likely coming.
“Can you give me $10?”
Normally I wouldn’t give money to people who ask me of money. This time I agree though but wouldn’t have if he had asked for more.
I head to the back where I keep my purse and take out a $10 bill. I walk back to the front where Michelle is still standing. I hand him the bill.
“Would you like a Mexican flag?”
I am a little taken aback. “Sure.”
He makes some joke I don’t catch but he laughing. I decide to laugh as well.
He takes backpack off. He surprises me by not opening his backpack but rather takes his sweater, jacket type thing off his waist and reaches into the pocket in it. He takes out a folded up flag and hands it to me. I reach out my hand and take it from him when he holds it in my direction.
A few seconds later, he asks me if I’m married. I tell him no. He then asks me if I have a boyfriend. I once again tell him no. He proceeds to ask me how old I am. I’m confused about where he’s going with his questions but I answer him. “21.”
“I guess God doesn’t have the one for you, yet.”
“Well, I’d better go. Goodbye.”
He turns to walk away. I’m relieved. He stops and turns around. He holds out his hand. He must want a handshake or something. I put my hand in his but instead of shaking it, he holds it and starts praying. This is awkward. I don’t know what to do. Am I supposed to close my eyes? That’s what I normally do when I pray but he has his open. So instead, I decide to look down at the counter.
The corners of my mouth, turn up in a smile and I bite my lips to keep the smile from being too obvious. I feel like laughing at him and I don’t know why. I don’t completely pay attention to what he’s praying about but I hear him say something about us not dying alone or something like that.
“Now you pray something. Pray for me.”
“Okay.” I start praying but have no idea what he wants me to pray about. He occasionally interrupts to say what I should pray.
I go silent once I’m done and he ends up praying again but shorter this time. He lets go of my hand and says goodbye again. He wiggles his fingers in a wave and I wave back. Once he finally leaves, the laughter bubbles up and out of my mouth. There’s never a dull moment when Michelle comes to visit.