What is it like to have dinner with Dr Braver?
I accepted the invitation to visit the Bravers with mixed feelings. On one hand, I could not imagine that a person who I perceived to hate me so much could invite me for a meal. I thought he was looking for an opportunity to humiliate me. He had done that in the front of patients, nurses, his secretary and medical staff. Now, he needed to ridicule me before his family. My other mind was telling me to give him a chance. Maybe he had a different side to his character. A normal aspect outside of work. Other doctors and nurses had been talking about the Bravers’ party for days. All the people that I mentioned it to indicated they would attend.
I was the last guest to arrive. At first, I was hesitant to join the guests. I stood on the front corridor hoping that someone would pop outside to have a smoke or something or a late arrival would turn up and we could go in together. There was a lot of talking and giggling going on. I could hear the chink of glasses amidst the chatter and laughter. Everyone seemed to be in full gear.
“My African friend!” Dr Braver exclaimed with his usual shallow smile, holding a large half empty bottle of Vodka in one hand.
“Good evening,” I said to Dr Braver and his wife. “Thank you for inviting me.”
“Oh, it’s always a pleasure,” Mrs Braver replied. Mrs Braver stood by her husband, smiling warmly as she welcomed me into the lavishly decorated banquet hall. She wore an Indian Satin with a matching heavy gold necklace. Dr Braver was looking really posh in his navy blue dinner suit, I almost did not recognise him.
We had expected to have Chinese take-away for the Christmas party, as Dr Braver had said earlier, because his wife could not cook! In truth, I could not say for sure if Mrs Braver actually did the cooking or someone else did. To be honest, I cared less who cooked the food and whether it was Chinese take-away or Cantonese sit down to eat. All I knew was that it looked good and there was a lot of it. The three long tables had all sorts of food displayed and this jumbo was capped with a large whole roasted pock that stood strategically in the middle of all the other food. I had never seen so much food displayed, even back home in Africa.
“Ladies and gentlemen. I cannot say, ‘feel at home,’ as you are already at home. The only thing to say, is that no one leaves until all the food is gone,” Dr Braver said, as we took our seats according to our names on the table.
I wanted to quickly eat my food and get out of this place. But that would look uncivilised. Besides, many of the food items on the table were strange to me. I didn’t have any problem with the pork and rice but I couldn’t figure out how to combine the various items.
“Here you go,” Mrs Braver said, as she placed the plate full of rice, roast potatoes, diced carrots, sprouts and the shin of pork in front of me. She must have thought that I needed a tonne of food to support my one hundred and twenty kilograms body. And she seemed to know my weakness. Meat. I could eat a whole cow.
“Thank you, mam,” I said. She didn’t seem to mind me referring to her as “mam,” which made me feel really relaxed.
I was struggling with the bone of the pork when Dr Braver stood up. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I have no doubt you are all enjoying yourselves. Everybody seems happy. I am glad. When you are happy I am happy.”
We all clapped. Not really because of what he had said but there had been a lot of ethanol in our brains.
“And my African friend, you don’t have to crack your canines. There is enough flesh. Makes me wonder what you give your dogs in Africa,” he said and sipped from his bottle of Vodka.
“Oh, we give them plenty of chocolate,” I replied.
And everyone broke into laughter. Initially some people did not understand the joke but as the meaning became clear the laughter was truly unending.
“That’s a good one,” he said, after sipping again at his Vodka.
After the meal, we all dispersed into small gatherings. Dr Braver had undone his tie. He was no more wearing his jacket. His trouser was partly unbuttoned. He sat down in one of the settees, humming a tune with his pipe at the corner of his mouth and a newly opened bottle of Vodka beside him. Completely pissed off, he responded, “Yes,” to every question his wife asked him.
I got back to my flat just before midnight, feeling like I had swallowed an elephant. And as I lay in bed, massaging my stomach, I could not stop wondering what to make of Dr Braver. One thing was certain, the food was tasty and I had a lot of it.