20

I stood and waved to Nowell as he entered Las Puertas. He was wearing the same outfit he wore each day at work, including his signature suspenders.

“Nice to have you join me here, Nowell. I'm sorry we haven't had a chance to connect personally before this.”

“Hi, Mr. Billings. Thanks for inviting me.”

Ava greeted Nowell in Spanish, and I sat, amazed, as the two of them had what seemed like a very pleasant exchange. Nowell spoke Spanish with a highly unanticipated fluency. It sounded quite beautiful.

She recommended the chef's special, camerones en cerveza. “It's delicious.”

Different had definitely been on the menu recently, so I asked if it would be possible for the chef to come out and explain the dish to us.

“Oh, I'm sorry, compañero,” she said. “He's very shy and prefers to stay in his station.”

I tried to look back into the kitchen to see if I could catch a glimpse of him. He must truly have been shy, as I didn't remember ever having seen him. Nowell ordered for us in Spanish. I wasn't sure what was ordered for me, but I had other things on my mind and waited until Ava walked away.

I first asked Nowell the meaning of the greeting. He said it meant “partner.” I thought that was a very nice way to greet customers, but I didn't feel much like a partner, as I barely remembered her name and actually knew little to nothing about Las Puertas.

“Nowell, what do you know about this place? Why isn't it ever busy? Who is the chef?”

He looked a little confused. I wondered if I had ...

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