When Worlds Collide

Michael and I arrived in Asheville 48 hours ago. And ever since then, the universe has been gently saying, “This is still your place, kid.”

The morning walkers took me back into their fold like I’d never left. On that walk, I was delighted to see a new Little Free Library in the neighborhood — the third within a few minutes walk of my house. (The closest being the one that stands at the edge of our own front yard.)

I went to tutor two of my local students in person. The family dogs remembered me (or are just excited when anyone comes to visit). And for a moment, life was as it was back in January, 2021.

And then there was last night’s supermarket run.

Upon realizing the only food in our home was microwave popcorn, I knew more food was needed. And somehow we’d managed to invite our across-the-street neighbors to our house and we had nothing with which to quench their hunger nor thirst.

As I plopped two red peppers into my cart, a man approached me. Mid-thirties, stocky, only a little taller than me, a kind, please-help-me look on his face, his phone thrust towards me.

“Excuse me? Can you help me find this?” he asked in slow, accented English.

His screen showed a picture of two watermelons: one oval and one cube-shaped. Beside the normal-to-me watermelon was a check mark. Beside the cube-shaped watermelon was an “X.”

“Hm,” I said, putting my index finger to my lips. Can you even get watermelons this time of year? I wondered. And what’s up with the cube-shaped watermelon? Do those even exist?

I abandoned my cart and looked around a little, delighted when I spotted half-a-dozen in a bin. I showed the man the pre-cut cubes nearby, but he looked confused. I wondered if he even knew what the inside of a watermelon looked like?

He thanked me and I went back to my shopping.

I saw him again by the bread. I asked if he needed more help. He said something in what sounded like Italian, and then Spanish.

Hablas español?” I asked him.

Sí,” he said, smiling,

Hablo un poco de español,” I told him. His face went from a little bit stressed to open and relieved.

I asked him where he was from.

“Ukraine,” he said. I said I was sorry about what his country was going through. I asked how he knew Spanish. He said he lived in Madrid for three years, and then Marabella.

We parted ways but when it was time to check out, he was at the end of one of the lines. So, of course, I joined that one. I wanted to know more.

¿Por qué aquí? ¿Por qué no Nueva York o Florida?

He told me there were too many people in New York. He liked the calmer lifestyle here. I meant to ask how he ended up in Asheville specifically but I couldn’t get the words out and didn’t want to seem too nosy.

I heard the woman ahead of him say to the cashier, “And I want to pay for his stuff, too. He’s from Ukraine.”

Our Ukrainian friend didn’t hear her, so was a bit confused when his money was refused. I pointed to the woman and, in my broken Spanish, explained that she paid for him. His smile grew wider. He put his hands together in a prayer position and nodded his head. “Thank you, thank you,” he said looking from her to me and back again.

The next morning, I grabbed the Spanish version of People magazine that one of our AirBnB guests had left in our home. I flipped it open and a half-naked man caught my eye. He looked somehow. . . familiar.

I read the paragraph on the facing page and then it clicked. (No, he wasn’t the man I’d just met in the supermarket–but wouldn’t that be funny?) He was, in fact, the star of the telenovela (a Spanish-language soap opera) that I was watching regularly last month.

Okay. Let’s be honest. He’s not just the star. He’s the only reason I keep watching it.

Oh. Yeah. And I learn some Spanish, too.

So tonight I thought it was time to continue watching the series. And then I realized that Café con Aroma de Mujer is not available to US Netflix users.

So I’ll have to go back to Spain.

I love you, Asheville. Thanks for showing me your Spanish side.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Barbara Winter says:


    Welcome back. Thanks so much for sharing your adventures. I’ve loved traveling with you.

    Cheers, Barbara

  2. Ann Linton says:

    What an amazing post.. love it.. take care, lets get together when you return when will that be?

    Sent from my iPad- Ann Linton


  3. Dominic Bonavolonta says:

    Love this story! Made my day.

  4. Marion Postlewaite says:

    Hey, Rebecca. Lovely story. Enjoy your posts. Marc and I are in town for a couple of weeks. If you have time we’d like to catch up with y’all.

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