Wednesday at the Home Depot parking lot was a bit unusual as I was the only Spanish student/English teacher who showed. I felt a little uncomfortable being there by myself, but I know that I need to practice Spanish, so I hopped out of my car and began speaking with three of the men there. One was particularly interested in class.
His name is Juan. His first question was, “How much Spanish do you know?” That is an impossible question to answer and is usually asked by eight year-olds. I said I didn’t know how to quantify my language. He said, “We’ll see.” I got even more nervous as if there’d be a test at the end of the hour. There was.
The day was hot, and Juan was in a hoodie with the hood pulled up and a pair of sunglasses. He didn’t want to stand, so we huddled on the curb. People driving by seemed to pay more attention to us on the curb than when we are standing around talking.
No matter what it still seems strange for all of us, this talking to strangers in languages that feel strange to our mouths.
So we talked, switching from Spanish to English to Spanish again. When we did not have the words, we’d do our best to describe what we wanted to ask for. We took turns failing to find the right words and gently correcting. Juan helped me know when to use “idioma” (language) rather than “lengua” (tongue). I helped with the past tense, translating verbs from Spanish to English, delivering a little lesson on both past and future. Juan taught me several tongue twisters (trabalenguas); one went like this: Sal perro, te descorazonaré. It is essentially: Leave, dog; I discourage you. Descorazonaré is take away your heart.
So 4 p.m. came, and Juan asked me for a favor and another of the guys asked me for ten cents. I didn’t have a dime to spare, but I did have time for Juan’s favor, a ride home.
He only lived a few miles away. During the ride home, he said that he thought I knew 90% of the Spanish I need to know. I thought this was super generous.
As we were sitting on the corner of his street and busy 47th Avenue, he looked at the cars whizzing by and asked: “You’re married, right?” I confirmed, “Yes.” He asked, “What would your husband think if he saw you here with me right now?” I explained that he knows that I hang out in the Home Depot parking lot for an hour on Wednesdays, and I was reminded of the freedoms I have, freedom to live life independently, and especially freedom from jealousy and suspicion.