Point of View: Speaking in Tongues

    There is a fellow who often has his hand out for a ride from Damark’s to the village on Thursday morning at the time I go to work, and perhaps he’s begun dreading the sight of me pulling over to give him a lift, for it gives me a chance to practice my Spanish.
    “Ah! Ahora puedo practicar mi espanol!” I said in opening the passenger side door for him this morning.
    He asked me my name and I asked him his, though it took a while for him to get his across. When he said ‘Roberto,’ I said, cheerily, “No puedo oir!” And when he then printed the letters on my sun-block tube, I said, “No puedo ver. . . . No puedo manejar tampoco!”
    I hope he took that as the joke it was meant to be. I’ve been cautioned in Spanish class not to play too fast and loose with the language, that in doing so I may risk putting my foot in my mouth. Of course I run the same risk in English. But I sweet potato what I sweet potato, as a Japanese character transplanted to California in a T. Coraghessan Boyle novel once said. I yam what I yam.
    At any rate, I told Roberto that I thought it was a fair exchange (intercambio) — to wit, that in return for lifts, he would have to put up with my butchering his native tongue. I hope he doesn’t come to think of me as a bit of a bore, as in Evelyn Waugh’s “The Man Who Liked Dickens.”
    If he does, I may be the one beseeching him as he stands across the street from Sam’s holding a cup of coffee in one hand and sticking his thumb out with the other.
    “I hope I’m not imposing, Roberto, but could I give you a ride to the village?”
    “Are you going to speak Spanish?”
    “No, no, ni una palabra.”
    “You said you wouldn’t speak!”
    “Oh, lo siento. I mean, I’m sorry.”
    “No, no that’s it, that’s it.”

    “To Round Swamp then?”
    Of course I’m imagining all this, but I am determined to one day be insufferable in two languages, maybe even three, not just in one.
    I was practically speaking in tongues, in fact, when, after six days without it, LIPA restored our power last week. It was so exciting to resume our wonderfully boring lives that, to celebrate, Mary did three loads of laundry, restocked the refrigerator and freezer, cooked a gourmet meal, and ran the dishwasher as I sang “Que nadie sepa mi sufrir” over and over again in the shower.