Today was long and fruitful. About 13 years ago, I was so poor I didn’t have two nickels to rub together and didn’t want to ask anyone for help. I thought I had something stuck to my front tooth, and with no money for dentistry, tried to pop it off with a knife. In my infinite wisdom, I realized right after I’d done it that I’d actually knocked off a piece of plaque and most of the enamel. I’ve been walking around with the nerve exposed, worrying hysterically that it was going to fall out, every day since… until now.
My dad looked at my teeth and did some research, finding out that not only had my in-home surgery fucked up that one tooth, taking Lamictal this long was making my whole mouth worse, and it would continue to deteriorate, because I do not have the luxury to stop the medication that keeps me as sane as I can achieve.
He got on the phone and found a dentist that was open today, and she filled all my cavities, closed the open nerve on my front tooth, and rendered me into a puddle as I genuinely smiled for the first time in years without hatred of it. Her work is beautiful, and I feel almost glamorous. I say “almost” because I’m not sure that tomboys ever get all the way there. I suppose I am closer to dapper, what with my nerdy black Ira Glasses and black leather shoes, which I had shined at DCA.
I actually love to shine my own shoes, I was just running short on time. I asked the woman how much it would be, and she didn’t speak any English, so I flipped into Spanish. “Ocho,” she replied. The man in the chair next to me said, “how much did she say it would be?” Out loud, I said, “eight.” My inner monologue said, it’s been a long time since SOMEBODY’s watched Sesame Street. Additionally, this experience was my first in DC as a white person where a Spanish speaker didn’t look at me like I had three heads when they heard Spanish coming out of my mouth. It makes sense. In an airport, lots of people are going to be able to speak lots of languages. When I’ve been in shops that cater to the Hispanic community or, once, talking to a janitor in a mall, the surprise has been almost tangible. I get the feeling that Maryland, DC, and Virginia are more segregated that way. In Texas, it’s so much easier to get by if you at least know a few basics.
I took two years of Spanish in school, but that’s not really where I learned it. When my father was a pastor, there were people in the church who’d been organizing mission trips to Reynosa for years, and I went with them three times… two summers in a row and a winter break in between them. Nothing helped me more than immersion. After that, I began shopping in stores and eating in restaurants in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods, because otherwise, I didn’t have anywhere to practice. Because of these mission trips, I’m one of the few people in my Houston crew that can order at a taqueria without using the number next to the picture. 😛
One of the funniest things that’s happened to me recently regarding speaking Spanish is that I was chatting online in a room that wouldn’t allow special characters….. so I told someone that I’d studied two anuses of Spanish in school and now had 40 anuses…. that’s because in Spanish, you don’t say “I’m 40 years old,” you say, “I have 40 years.” So, for future reference, grammar nazis, ano means “anus.” Año means year. The difference in pronunciation is “ano” and “anyo.” Tengo cuarenta años, pero tengo solamente uno ano…. luckily. No one has ever managed to literally rip me a new one.
Having a family that lives in Texas is a beautiful thing, because even though I don’t live here, I still get opportunities occasionally to flex my Spanish-speaking mind. I actually prefer it to English, it’s just that I’m not fluent in Spanish and have to resort to English. If you are wondering why I’d say something like “I prefer Spanish” as a native English speaker, it’s that it’s so much simpler. All verbs are conjugated the same way, so the conjugation of the verb also contains about whom you are speaking as well, whether it’s yourself or others. Everything is pronounced exactly like it’s spelled- there are no silent letters or any of the other oddities we put up with in a language that comes from everywhere else. For instance, Honore de Balzac said that “60 percent of English is French badly pronounced.” And even though I prefer Spanish, I thank God I was born an English speaker, because I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to figure it out later. I’d stare at a word like “knife” for hours before throwing up my hands and screaming.
It’s a life goal to become fluent in Spanish, because I’ve often thought about retiring with the 17,000 other gringos in Enseñada. But that was before I moved to DC, and haven’t thought about moving anywhere since. As a poli sci major, it means something to me to be in the same city as the original Supreme Court. In terms of the United States, I live where Eddie Izzard would say “the history comes from.” It means something to me to live inside the national news.
I do, however, enjoy Houston in small doses. Being a Texan is, for me, akin to having brown eyes or being gay. It defines part of who I am…. and not quite the same as just being Southern. Texas was once its own country, and we have never forgotten it. For instance, I doubt you ever really have to ask someone if they’re from Texas. It’ll come up in conversation quickly.
This trip, I haven’t done anything uniquely Texan except drink soda from H-E-B. Oh, I take that back. I did remember the Alamo yesterday.
Today, after my hours of dental work were done, I went with my dad, stepmom, and one of their friends to see The Last Jedi. I’m going to have to see it again, because I honestly have no idea how I feel about it. I was high on pain meds and distracted by all the activity around me because we were in one of those theaters that serve food, so there were literally waiters walking in front of me while I was trying to concentrate… and the couple next to me just WOULD NOT SHUT UP. They were just aggressively white, treating the theater like they were in their living room. People like this are the main reason I go to movies when no one else is going to be there and don’t take anyone with me. I like to watch movies in complete silence…. and just like my mother, I will grin and bear it in full theaters right up until I just cannot even, trying in vain to get people to stop talking with an authoritative stare. The reason I try The Look™ first is that sometimes actually saying to people that you wished they’d stop talking is more trouble than it’s worth. They’ll start talking louder just because they know it annoys you, they’ll get confrontational, etc. Very few people, in my experience, are humble about realizing they’ve inconvenienced someone else.
As I get older, I find more and more things that make me feel like I’m turning into my mother, which was mortifying while she was still alive and priceless now.
Speaking of my mother, my father is taking me to meet my sister at the cemetery tomorrow morning, both because I don’t have a rental car and because he’s never seen her grave site. Lindsay wants to decorate Fred (the tree next to her headstone) for Christmas, and then we’re going to go see a movie or something. Death and grief don’t seem so bad in the cemetery, because it really does make me feel closer to my mother to be there, and the place itself is soothing and serene.
Then, at some point, I need to wrap the presents I bought. Because there are so many kids in my family (four of us, all with spouses except me), we do secret Santa. I got Mathew, Lindsay’s husband, and he is hopefully going to flip his shit. I am so excited to give him his gift that it will take every bit of strength I have not to shove it at him as he walks through the door. Giving presents is my favorite thing in the whole world. I love it 20 times more than getting them. I enjoy the hunt, the thing that will make people say, “how did you know?” or “this is totally me.” Though I realize how useful Amazon Wish Lists can be, especially because you might get someone something they already have, I sometimes think it takes away from the moment someone else realizes that you actually do listen to them, know them, etc.
I also really enjoy giving books now, because e-books always arrive on time and you can buy them the day of. Plus, you don’t have to have a physical Kindle. Kindle is also an app for every mobile device.
Sometimes I give people books I haven’t read, but have read the synopsis and think it would be something they would like. Sometimes I give a copy of my favorite book of the moment, just to be able to share it with someone else.
Alternatively, Kindle is the most dangerous of all shopping experiences, because in a lot of cases, a book series starts with a free “dime bag” and when you’re in the moment of “OH MY GOD! WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!” a pop-up will appear saying that you can buy the next one for $4.99. There are two series I’ve binged that way this year- The Face on the Milk Carton and Fat Vampire. I am sure they won’t be the last in the coming years…. although right now I am really into documentaries and it’s taking away a lot of my time from reading. It goes in cycles. Sometimes I need the TV on for “company” and sometimes I crave complete silence. I just don’t want to watch junk TV. I want to learn something, because I like Knowing Stuff.™
It makes me smile, the kind where my beautiful teeth show.