She rested her hand, briefly, on his arm. The contrast between the colours of skin did not compare to that of her frail papery skin and his young strong arm. She looked at him with intensity and spoke with passion. Even in the back of the van I could hear her voice as it rose and fell. Something important was being said.
Throughout her story he would glance at her and nod, when she paused he clearly waited for her to continue. He gave verbal encouragers - uh, huh, I hear you, that upset you didn't it. I was amazed at his facility with language. He followed her along word for word, emotion for emotion. A couple of times, overcome, she put her handkerchief to her mouth and paused. A dramatic effect she no doubt used often in her life. Then she was back to the story.
We arrived at a center for the elderly just as she was finishing her story. He helped her out and walked with her right into the building. When he got back in I asked him how he learned Italian. He said, I don't speak a word of it. I looked surprised.
"When I was younger I thought that people wanted to be understood, now I know that most people simply want to be listened to. I can do this for people. Easy."
He then dropped me off at work and again, waited until I was in the building even though I assured him I was fine.
On and off during the day, I thought about what he said. I don't completely agree, there are times when I really do want to be understood - but failing that, it's true, I also like to know I've been listened to.
When I arrived home, Joe dropped me off at the front of the building then went to park the car. One of the older tenants came out and said something to me, I think about the weather, in a language I didn't understand. I smiled and nodded. Clearly encouraged he continued on, said something that struck him funny and he laughed. It was easy to laugh with him. What about the weather isn't funny these days. He waved a farewell greeting and went on.
What did he say? I'm not sure except I'm fairly sure he said, 'I'd like to speak to someone today, I'd like someone to smile at me, I'd like to make my favourite joke about this blasted Canadian weather.' Then, I'm pretty sure he said, 'You're a good boy for listening to an old man.'
But, then I could be wrong. And I don't care. I loved the smile he left our interchange with. Perhaps I speak more languages than I thought.