Monday, September 28, 2009

Does Anybody Here Speak Spanish?

This woman entered the co-op, where Auxi collects the money for the electric company. She had dyed black hair, heavy black eye liner, a lip ring. She walked in with a reluctance I recognize.

I’m not really listening, once she starts talking to Auxi in slow Spanish in a German accent, punctured by Ums and looks to the side to think. It’s painful. I remember that pain.

Once she’s got her question out, she looks at Auxi while she replies in her quick Spanish, and I know that look. It’s: Should I just pretend I understand, or ask for more clarification, expose my ignorance more? I’ve had the look as I listened, I’ve seen the look as I’ve tried to speak.

“There’s someone else you have to pay,” says Auxi to the look in foreign language. “Another person. Not me.” With a finger pointing away from herself to the other invisible person. “A man.”

Maybe this woman speaks English, and I can save her, but there doesn’t seem to be a moment when I can cut in. And maybe I just want to ignore this live haunting of my painful past.

But Ña. Celia walks into the doorway and suggests she might know English, so I ask. Yes, she does. I ask Auxi what she wants to tell her, then explain in English. She asks me questions in English, much better than her spanish. I explain in my language. Auxi looks between us as we speaj English, laughs and says, in Spanish. “Somebody translate please!”

The woman thanks me and smiles. Ducks out and huffs, back in her own world, having survived another encounter with Spanish that will make her dread the next, as I know. Ña. Celia comes in and starts in Guaraní. “Che aimo’a....” And they recount the story in Guaraní, and I want to laugh and yell “Somebody translate please!”

I’m sitting here with a little pride, having saved, if not the day, a small desperate moment. Being a writer, I’m not used to being “needed.” I don’t think anyone has ever screamed, “Is there a writer in the house?” But now I have one skill that I can use for good, when someone in the future, if not yells, asks loudly and with some urgency: “Does anyone here speak Spanish?”


ThinkingMansUhuru said...

Interesting exchange. How is your Spanish vs your Guarani?

Paulita said...

Ooh, I'd say I'm 80% on my Spanish, and 30% on Guarani, maybe that's pushing it.