Rafa nods a welcome
dabbing at a plate of
crackers & cheese
heavy with the gravity of it all
the illness, the age, the getting by
the day and the distance
sliding past the window
through the bare trees
of the leisure centre
and the lit, late, relentless commuter traffic

‘What you want?’ he says
and gestures for me to sit

Later, after the examination
making conversation,
proving there’s more to me
than a stethoscope, a badge and a yellow folder
I ask him where he’s from
‘Where am I from?’
‘Yes. Where are you from? Originally.’
He shakes his head, takes another bite of cheese
‘No. You want clue?’
‘An island in the Mediterranean.’
He waits for me to speak.
‘My geography is terrible’
‘Former British territory’ he says.
He snorts. He and I both know
God can’t help me now
he finishes the last piece of cheese,
puts the plate to the side
and gently smacks his hands clear
‘Gibraltar?’ I say.
‘Gibraltar is promontory’
He stares at me.
‘More clue?’
‘Much destruction in the war,’ he says. ‘British colony.’
‘Guernica?’ I say, thinking of a distressed horse
‘Guernica?’ he says. ‘Guernica is town in north of Spain.’
He mutters something, takes a sip of his tea
carefully places it back on the table
on top of the plate.
‘Although much destruction in Guernica, too, of course’ he says
staring at the cup, the plate, the papers, the mess pertaining
‘Give up,’ I say.
‘Malta,’ he says, turning his eyes back on me
‘Malta!’ I say. ‘Of course!’
He smiles
‘You know, the British, they gave us medal after the bombing.’
He shrugs
holds one fleshy hand out, palm up.
‘The only problem was, where to put it.’

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