by Andrew Madrid
I’ve decided to learn Spanish to earn the respect of my new neighbors.
My new neighbors are a fifteen-person family that just recently moved from Los Angeles, California because they were sick of earthquakes. “How do you know that,” you ask? Because they told me, in English, great English I might add. Yes, that’s correct they speak my language, all fifteen of them. They came over to my house when they moved in, and said, “Hey, were from Los Angeles, California. We moved here because we don’t like earthquakes. We’re your new neighbors. There are fifteen of us.” Then I shut the door, and they left, and that was that.
I’ve never felt so meaningless in all my life. Things are really looking grim at my place these days. I drove home from work the other day, got out of my car, and the father was mowing his lawn. He lifted up his hand, and waved to me. “Hello,” he said smiling. Can you believe that? He waved to me! And to make matters worse, he cut some of my lawn for me, because it was easier from his driveway. I swear a tiny cartoon cloud formed over my head, and soaked me from head to toe.
After dinner the other night, I heard voices in my backyard, and looked out to see the entire family playing soccer together. The ENTIRE family. They were laughing, and smiling, and complimenting each other, on their skill and efforts. And then, in one moment of telepathic harmony, they all turned and saw me in the window. And all be damned if they didn’t sing me a song, right there on the freshly mowed lawn. Their harmonies were brilliant, their moves graceful, a radiant picture of blissful joy, unfolding before my dewy eyes. “You, are so beautiful…to me”, they crooned. Who would have known? Everybody loves Cocker.
That was it. I snapped. My first inclination was to run to the nearest phone book, and find a language professor for immediate tutoring. That idea faded, when the first couple of phone calls harvested the phrases in repetition, “crazy man, and just be yourself freak.” I then went to the nearest office supply store, and asked for “the best Spanish tutorial American dollars can buy.” I found one, and was pleasantly surprised to also receive free of charge, with a $500 rebate: French, and Webster’s Dead Languages. Now I’m set whether Jean Lou David or Nostradamus move in on the other side.
Five weeks later. I open the disc player on my computer, quietly humming a tune from Viva El Amore, (which I know isn’t Spanish at all) and the last tutorial chapter slides into my hand. I move into the bedroom, were an ensemble is waiting on the bed: Large black knee-high boots, red conquistador pants, a yellow tie around sash for the waist, and an airy white blouse from my wife’s collection. I take a look into the mirror, carefully open three of the top buttons to show my cleverly applied tan, and stroke a newly grown mustache, and goatee. The day has come, the time is now.
The front door to my house swung open before me, and I stepped largely out onto the front lawn. Turning to my right I strode with purpose and meaning towards my neighbors house. My kids stopped playing when I passed, but I ignored the stares. Keep your head up, very close now, blood surging, heart pounding…can’t stand the wait, going to finally… I stopped. The sun had gone away. A shadow was now casting itself over my sweet Latino frame. In my neighbors driveway, was a gigantic yellow truck. It was parked el reversed’, in la car porte. I stopped to take in the scene. There were two large amigos moving furniture down a ramp, and bringing them into la casa.
“Es de aqui?” I yelled to the two men. One of them spoke, “what?” I tried again in English, “what is going on here?” “New people moving in, Cambodian family. Nice people.”
You try and do the right thing. You try and break the cultural barriers. You listen to NPR, and you teach your kids about the dangers of racism. But does it all work? Is it all for naught? Let me tell you something. Once the neighborhood kids start calling you Captain Morgan, you can kiss your open-minded views goodbye. Buy yourself a Nascar tank top and start memorizing profiles of pro wrestlers.
It’s over friend. Adios.