--2 With This Pen: Spanish Nights
       
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With This Pen: Spanish Nights

December 13, 2011, 6:00 am
By Jamie Figueroa

He has a way of saying, “Mi amor.” He says it more often than he says my name. In fact, the way he uses it would make anyone listening, including me, believe it actually is my name, “My love.” 


A woman once told me how she finally became fluent in Spanish: “I took a lover who spoke Spanish.” The way she said “take” made me think of something you pick up at the store last-minute, like you would a carton of orange juice or a brick of cheddar cheese. She was the director of a noteworthy Hispanic educational organization, and while she was Anglo and she had studied Spanish for years, it never stuck, not until she crawled into bed with it.

She seemed to always take great pride in correcting me, the poor Boricua who was always having problems with speaking her mother’s native language. Although, to be fair, this Irish woman who was fluent in Spanish, married, said “lover.” They’ve been together for years now and raised two boys. I imagine them all yakking away in that language that just won’t stick to my tongue. This is where you can shake your head at me. It’s shameful. It’s humiliating. I should just wrap some caution tape around the whole Spanish language acquisition mess so everyone knows it’s under construction. It has been for years. 

I didn’t set out to follow in her footsteps and grab that handy Latino lover; it just happened. In fact, I didn’t even know he spoke Spanish when I gave him my phone number, but there you go. There are plenty of bilingual speakers whose English reflects no accent. I know this, but it still surprises me. I guess that’s how I’ll be when it finally sinks in.

If you haven’t figured it out, “He” is the man I’m dating.

I ask him to leave me voicemail messages in Spanish, to tell me stories in Spanish, to read to me in Spanish. All of which he does. I’d like to think that most of the time I know what he’s saying, and can answer back, if not in Spanish, then at least in Spanglish. If he were weighing in; however, it’s possible my score would go down from most of the time to seldom.

It’s just that sometimes my mind wanders when he’s speaking to me in Spanish. His voice vibrates across the couch. I watch his lips shape the words and I compose poetry in my head.

I should never admit to any of this.

Hearing him does something to me. I’ve tried explaining it but fall short every time. It doesn’t happen when I hear other people speaking Spanish. I have many male and female friends who do. And, after all, I live in New Mexico. The only thing that comes close to an explanation is when I hear my dear Chilean/Japanese friend speak Spanish to her two-year-old son—and of course when he pauses from his toy or his book and answers back.

It’s true. I have my inadequacies around being able to speak and understand this romance language that haunts my heart. (Don’t worry. I won’t be complaining for long. I’m hatching a plan to become fluent. Either things will work out with “he” for the benefit of both the relationship and my language goal, or I’ll banish myself to a Spanish-speaking country for a year, at least. In a world where anything is possible, perhaps both.) Still, when I hear it from someone who loves me and whom I truly love, it feels warm and tender, adoring and affectionate; it feels familial, like “we”; it feels like home.  

 

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