The Man from Argentina and His Ugly Brown Suitcase

It was late in the evening on a Wednesday night when I had just entered back into the men’s locker room after working out with my training partner Mel. As I entered into the room I nearly collided with a man carrying an ugly brown suitcase. His “excuse me“, was ladened with thick syllables and a hearty laugh as we passed by one another.

The door closing behind us as I spun ever so slightly to see the man dressed to the nines walking quickly towards the staircase. Without hesitation I wandered off to where my locker was and stripped down to my skivvies then wound up in the showers before sitting for a half-hour in the jacuzzi.

Many weeks later on a Tuesday night as I entered into the locker room I bumped head long into the man with the thick accent and his ugly brown suitcase. Again the pleasantries were exchanged and we departed our separate ways.

Hey Mel, do you happen to know who the guy is with the ugly brown suitcase? This is the second time I have nearly collided with that guy as he’s departing the locker room.” Mel stood looking perplexed at me with his brown eyes and wavy black hair. “What did this guy look like?” I laughed as I’d never really looked at the guy just this ugly brown suitcase that he’s carrying.

Honestly, I have no idea what he looks like, but he’s always carrying that ugly brown worn down suitcase and he’s always dressed to the nines.” He stood nearby thinking over whom this member might be whilst stripping down to his skivvies to hit the showers.

A few weeks after the last encounter I was jogging on the 500m track when an older guy moved to his left to avoid the slower person coming up in front of him, as I slowed we bumped into each other. We exchanged pleasantries and I noticed the thick accent then asked where he was from? “I am from Argentina,” he replied, “and you my friend. Where are you from?”

I studied the man’s eyes the creases and veins popping out around his sunken green eyes. He peered slightly up at me as I stood a few inches taller than he. “I am from a place called Oz,” I lied. The man studied me then continued his interrogation. “You do not sound like a man from Australia, nor do you look or act like one,” he smiled as he recognized my lie as a game and replied, “you are a funny young man. You think you can deceive Herbert, but you are wrong!”

His eyes continued to wander across my being assessing everything about me then in his thick accented syllables, “you dress like you are younger perhaps in your thirties. However your crow’s feet give away you are older than that. Your accent is different. Something strange about it. I cannot place it. I am certain you are an import, just like Herbert.” His eyes continued searching my face, clothing and stance as we moved off the track to talk. “I do not believe you are English, as your words are not perfectly tossed, and you are not from Southie as you did not speak Affrakens. No, you are from more near than that,” he smiled spun on his heels and wandered off down the track.

As Herbert, wandered off down the left side of the track his thick dark fingers began wagging and pointing upwards towards the ceiling. At first it appeared he was expecting the rafters to provide him the answer to the question longing at hand. Where was I from?

Before jogging off, I slowly jogged along behind him listening to his conversation except it was not in English and I was unable to make out the language. “Enjoy your rounds, Herbert,” I said then sprinted off as the corner we were coming out of turned into a long straight-away.

Several hours later I sat in the jacuzzi tub feeling the heat spread across my sore body when I heard a splash in the pool. Opening one eye to see whom had joined me in the tub, it was the man from Argentina. His face smiled with recognition and said, “we meet again. At least this time you are not bumping into my ugly old brown suitcase.” He gave a dark thundering chuckle.

Herbert, right?” I said closing my eyes again. “You are a man of many mysteries.” I did not open my eyes and stayed seated listening to the silence. Then Herbert says, “You are correct my lad, I am.” Neither of us said much after that.

Around a month later Mel and I, had just returned to the building from one of our 16-kilometre jogs in the river valley, when I noticed Herbert standing at the bottom of the staircase looking up the stairs longing to make it to the top. His face was flush with anticipation or indifference, I wasn’t really sure. As we neared him, I said “good day kind sir, how are you today?”

Herbert looked up at me but today he did not recognize my face.

Are you the young man the front desk has sent to assist me up the stairs?” he said looking at the sweat dripping from my face and out from under my soaked toque. “Herbert, its me. James. We keep bumping into each other. Do you not remember?” He slowly nodded no.

“No worries. Here I can assist you. Are you headed upstairs to the nice locker room?” I said just trying to get a measure on if he was actually doing okay or if this might be an episode of some sort. My first aid training kicking into high gear assessing all the signs of possibilities.

And you are?” he asked pointing a finger over at Mel. “Agh, that’s Mel. He works here. You’ve probably seen him around,” I said. Then I repeated, “I am James. We have bumped into each other quit a lot over the last couple of weeks. Usually it happens when one of us is entering and the other is exiting the locker room.” His green eyes starred at my words in disbelief and he says, “young man, would you care to help an old man up the stairs? I just can’t seem to hold onto this brown suitcase today.”

Without hesitation I picked up the ugly brown suitcase for him and offered my right arm to him to assist with the slow climb up the stairs. As we reached the top of the stairs, he looks over at Mel, then back at me with a very large grin overcoming his features.

James,” he began with, “I believe you are an American, disguised as a Canadian, who once lived down-under in a land called Oz. This is why it is extremely difficult for someone to determine where you are from. Your accent is not quit clear enough, as you tend to use words and sentences from a variety of cultures and languages.” He smiled than continued with, “I like you James, and I look forward to our next encounter.”

He smiled at us both and picked up that ugly brown suitcase then strolled onward towards the locker. As Mel laughed and laughed at what had just transpired.

~ James Curtis