Before school started I signed up to have a conversation partner. A conversation partner is someone who speaks a different language and you’re supposed to meet with them for an hour a week. I met Rebeca last Wednesday. It felt kind of like a blind date. The only thing she said beforehand was, ” I will meet you at Lerner. I will be wearing a trackie. By the way, it could be good if I write in english and you in spanish. This way we both learn.” I spotted her instantly. She had exercise clothes on and she was smoking a cigarette. It’s strange the associations we have with smell because her cigarette made me miss Spain. I knew my partner would be a girl, I knew she’d be from Spain, but I didn’t think she would be 38. I seemed surprised to see her, she seemed happy to see me. She talked about her sister in Madrid who was “how do you say nerviosa in English?” anxious. She talked about her brother in Sevilla who was very cool. Then she asked what another word for cool was because she says cool “so many”. I told her to try awesome.Then she talked about her boyfriend in Nicaragua, her apartment in NYC, her teachers, and so on. I told her the difference between being a graduate student and a graduate. It confused her so much that it started confusing me. I told her about two of my friends named Rebecca/ Rebekah. I told her the exam I took on Don Quixote was the hardest test I’ve taken to date. I told her my mom lived in Atlanta and my sister lived in D.C. which she thought was really “cool”. Every time I said a city she said the state after. Atlanta…Atlanta..Georgia! D.C…Washington! Okay Okay keep going. I told her I learned about her hometown in my Spanish classes then immediately regretted it because the only thing I knew was about ETA, the terrorist group from there. She didn’t care.
I told her about my life in Spanish and she told me about hers in English. I wondered for a second what people thought of the two of us. Me, wearing sunglasses, a dress, and riding boots, practicing Spanish. Her, in a “trackie”, smoking a cigarette, practicing English. Then I remembered we were in New York and people don’t have time to concern themselves with others. Not always in a bad way, just in a “I have other things to do” way. After talking for over an hour Rebeca said, “how many time do we have left?” I explained to her that she should say how much time not how many time. Some mistakes we let slide, but then sometimes we cut each other off. She didn’t want me mixing up verb tenses when I spoke and I didn’t want her walking around saying many when she meant much. “Oh yes. My teacher told me that. Because you can’t count much, but you can count many right?”. Yea, something like that. She had to go to her English class. She asked if we would meet at the same time next week. I told her we’d play it by ear. “Cool” she said. Then she turned around. “Robin, what is it you say…play it ear?” “Oh! Play it by ear. It means we will decide later.” “Cool.” She said. “And the other word that is the same?” I almost forgot what she was talking about. ” Awesome” I said. “Okay, awesome.”
*The other day my friend, Nona, asked if I recorded conversations. No, I do not. I do take out some things for length reasons. And I have a memory like an elephant.