With a mix of pain and confusion he looked into Mrs. Gomez's eyes. At this moment his emotions bewildered him.
He saw the compassion, the deep caring in her face. But what she wanted to do seemed so fantastic! Could he accept it?
When Mrs. Gomez and her daughter appeared at their door he had noticed that she carried a brown paper bag. She offered to provide freedom from the throbbing pain in his jaw with what she had brought in her paper bag. Was her rural remedy in the bag?
She explained, again with smooth caring Spanish that flowed as a whispered breath.
"In my village, there were those that had swelling because of infection. It could be in the joints or the intestines or as in case in the jaw or the teeth."
"If this swelling was not treated quickly, the result would be greater pain and even death!"
As she spoke these last words, she pulled a long Styrofoam tray and on it he could see something white and malleable. With the opening of the bag, the smell of dairy filled the tiny room.
"This is queso panela (Panela cheese) and it has helped in many cases."
Ahhh! The man thought. That's the answer! Mrs. Gomez was going to make him a plate of cheese tacos. He had tried her cooking before - delicious! His apprehension calmed and his voice cleared.
"You are going to make something to eat. Is this the cure?"
She looked at him with an expression of puzzlement. Then her eyes and smile registered an understanding.
"No No - this cheese is not eat." Her voice lilting into a short chuckle.
"This cheese is to be applied to the infected area."
A thousand things shot off in his mind like some many firecrackers. This latest revelation changed his thinking completely. And yet, the emotion and belief in her eyes won his heart and slowly he spoke.
"I see you want to help me. What do you want me to do?"
His wife's eyes widen in disbelief. She had not expected the reaction at all.
Mrs. Gomez was speaking:
"No you do not have to do anything. I will do it all." - pulling a long measure of thin linen from the paper bag.
In short order, she cut the cheese into strips. she applied the cheese from the top right side of jaw just about eye level. She draped it down to the bottom of the jaw and underneath, to rest on his neck. She wound the linen strips around his head keeping the cheese in place.
When she was done she set back in satisfaction. From his linen cheese entombment, the man look helpless.
"You must keep this on your face for at least 12 hours for it to work."
Though he did not know why he conceded, he said:
"I will try my best to do so. Thank you for your help."
She smiled and she and her daughter left with well wishes that he recover. When they were gone, his wife looked at him for some time and then broke out in a fit of laughter.
He laughed as well but sat very still so that he would not disturb the panela wrapped about his head.
He sat for two hours this way. Finally when the oozing cheese filled the room with the fragrance of so many dairy cows that had lost their way. When he felt more like a meal than a man. And when the pain that still stabbed him became unbearable, he had enough!
"Chula, I cannot continue like this. I know Mrs. Gomez said for 12 hours, but this is the end. The cheese is dribbling into my shirt and down my back. I have to take it off and take a shower."
And so he did! But he did not actually do this until another hour passed. He thought he could endure. He unwound the cheese and its linen and showered in hot water with plenty of soap. He tried to remove all traces of the cure.
Exhausted he took two more pain tabs and went to bed. The swelling increased as he drifted off to sleep.
The morning sun entered their tiny apartment and he was awake. But something was strange. He had no pain and no swelling. He touched his cheek and jaw and all was well. This was so strange.
He was able to fulfill is public speaking arrangements. He enjoy the meeting and return to the house to a dinner with his wife - no pain no swelling.
Monday morning he presented himself to the oral surgeon. He told the whimsical story of the little old lady and the panela cheese.
The dentist could no believe what he heard. But an examination revealed that all the infection and flowed away. The swelling was gone and the pain was gone. The dentist were free to fix the tooth that had started this whole situation.
The man learned the importance of taking each culture on its own merits. He learned to not be to quick to judge others or their culture by his own standards.