The flip side to part 1: Habla Spanglish.
My Spanish teacher in San Miguel de Allende is a cholo.
For days, I curse the universe, regretting my decision to be in his class. I correct the words he writes. My blood boils, the need to ridicule and color what is right. Secretly, I am ashamed for him.
He doesn’t know the word for gecko.
llegaste (did you arrive)....written as yegaste
He corrects my pronunciation, makes me recite 55,555,555 when I think I’m hot shit. He does it gently. There’s no pressure. No malice. He does it to make me better. Does he know he’s fueling the fire that can burn?
What do the tales of the tacas tell on his hands? The other life?
He takes a call on his cell phone during class. He’s waiting for a job. He has a 3 month old girl. It’s tough to have a good paying job here. The call is for a valet, parking cars.
As we review the names of vegetables, he tells of his days as a gardener, growing organic kale and other tasty leaves. A recipe blending…tomatoes, cucumbers, celery and a little jalapeno. You’ll lose 10 kilos in a week, he chuckles. The voice booms with radiance and humor. A gratefulness for the land and the hopeful chance that is given.
We review words describing the elastic cobweb of relationships…madre, padre…ninos. The question arises, how to ask if a child is biological?
By law, all children are accepted as our own…we don’t distinguish by biological. We wouldn’t ask.
He’s my step-father.
The man who adopted me when I was 7. The man who fought in the war against his brothers who wanted to see his country communist. He was imprisoned, a bullet wound on his belly, a long scar I touched when I my hands were smaller.
That’s where you came out.
As if some one like me could ever be mythic, could ever be blown up, bigger than anything I could imagine…allowed to reinvent my own story… the biological father who left me?
After reeducation camp, he taught math. His students called him, thầy…teacher, master in Vietnamese. Then another chance...a new dance. In the US, he traded his calculator for an ice cream truck.
When I was old enough to feel ashamed, I was unteachable by then - my own mother language expressed in fragments, allowing the music to be lost on my tongue.
There is something poetic in this encounter.
I see only petty mistakes…the need for perfection
My cholo master accepts things as they are…no apologies, no need for sympathy
He is my father…God…painting the canvas before me, life does not need correcting, it is already perfect.
I bow, grateful to shake hands, grateful for the chance to learn.
By Mai Brehaut
For part 1: Habla Spanglish.