Invitation

Bringing the reader to the author, bringing the author to the reader, at the risk of serving and of betraying two masters: this is to practice what I like to call linguistic hospitality. (Paul Riceour, On Translation)

In walks a new customer, a foreigner, and he looks like a teacher, with a laptop bag full of papers and his hair combed unironically over. I take my time in positioning myself behind the register—straightening out condiments, scribbling on a notepad—so he’ll have time to parse the menu. I should put an English version up one of these days. It would look more inviting, no?

Caramel macchiato, he announces. Odd, the sound of our phonemes in his mouth.

“Hot?” I ask, summoning the word from somewhere.

Hot, he confirms in my language.

I tell him the price, reiterating it with four extended fingers, but he has already extended his card. It’s from a local bank. Maybe he’s been through this before. I give him two sticks of sugar, just in case.