Friday, May 30, 2008

Paquita Logic

If she doesn’t have time to make me anything for lunch besides a sandwich, she should give me wine, to make up for it.

If she has time to make a full meal, she should give me wine, because it’s part of the meal.

On the bright side, my alcohol tolerance has increased markedly.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


This is Paquita's favorite song.

How the HELL did she select something so appropriate without speaking English?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Guess what?

Picasso...was Spanish!

This is not actually groundbreaking, but it does make that time I gave a presentation about him as a FRENCH artist in FRENCH class rather funny.

/Especially because I got an A.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

it always is those two. coffee. chocolate. and every fucking time i wonder if there is indeed some order to the universe because the irony that those are the worst is just so horrific that it makes me bitterly laugh.

and i can't outofpracticemaybe dios mío if you knew what you had caused, please, for the love of God it's too much, stop giving people food. mujer, por favor.

if you knew.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


In the middle of a highly embarrassing (for me) conversation about thongs:

Paquita: "Kati, you have something on your face."

*licks napkin, leans over, wipes whatever it is off of my face*

It's really amusing when the Paquita side of her collides with the mother side of her.

So I leave the U.S. for five minutes

and they go and come up with this while I'm gone.

I can't decide whether to go all American-college-student-OMG-WANT-GIMME-NOW or to go all America-college-student-who-was-just-in-Europe-and-is-now

/I'll get back to you

Monday, May 19, 2008

She tells me that I think too much. If she only knew.

Sometimes I wonder what I would think of Paquita if I had met her speaking English, but it is a thought I suppress because I would have judged her.

She is uneducated. She is sometimes crude. She is stubborn and will never admit if she is actually incorrect. She smokes like it’s keeping her alive. She holds grudges, forever. You could say she’s kind of a bitch, and you wouldn’t be wrong, and as much as she is European, stylish and sophisticated to the American me, in truth, she also might be kind of…trashy.

Before she was sick, she was a secretary, somewhere, I don’t know where, and I can hear the dismissive, sometimes cruel comments that the investment bankers and the lawyers make about their secretaries, how sometimes they imitate the thick Brooklyn accents, and sometimes I can imagine her as the woman they are mocking. The woman that I have also mocked, have seen on the street and have thought that I was better than her.

I didn’t know.

I’m not going to give you some hugely cliché thing right now about how “Oh but I didn’t know, her life was really difficult, I’m so THANKFUL that I was given this opportunity to meet her,” blah-blah-blah-DIVE Day-cakes, put it in your college admissions essay, cariña. Not that she didn’t go through a lot of shit, and not that I don’t respect her, tremendously, for surviving, because life dealt her a hell of a hand, stuff many people couldn’t take, but she did, and she’s Paquita, Spanish chica extraordinaire.

But I don’t always agree with Spanish chicas. Sometimes, in my opinion, they make bad decisions. Sometimes, our values are too different. I was raised to believe that working hard is THE most important thing that you can do, taught to look down on people who don’t, learned to be ashamed if my lack of effort ever even slightly inconvenienced another person. Maybe that’s right and maybe it isn’t I don’t know. I say that Spanish people don’t work, because really, they don’t, but cultural differences aside…Paquita? Not so into the whole working thing. Example: sometimes, she sleeps through her alarm and I don’t see her at breakfast. Whatevs, no passa nada, I really don’t care, the first time it happened she did apologize, asked me if I knew where all the breakfast stuff was so I could grab something before I went out, I did. The mother? Good lord. With her own family, let ALONE a foreign exchange student, if she wasn’t up three hours before everyone else and didn’t make breakfast? I think if she ever accidentally sleeps through her alarm, she’ll die of shame. (No, it’s never happened. Ever. It’s against the laws of physics, I think.)

And that’s what I didn’t know. That I could not agree with someone, fundamentally, that I could judge them, that they’re probably judging me, thinking I’m crazy (verdad), who knows what, that we could just be a completely random pair…and that we could still be friends. Amigas. Juntos.

We are both Aries, something she puts a lot of stock in, and if we go out, if we have a drink, now, we toast las mujeres Aries, stubborn and sort of crazy, and we’re the perfect example of how differently those characteristics can manifest themselves. And I want a picture, because I want to see the scene from outside, the teeny little Spanish madre and her slightly awkward foreign student, in a bar, glasses raised, and actually, no, I don’t want a picture—I want to freeze that moment in time and never let it go.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


It is easy to throw out a quick post about something outrageous, and it is easier still to select only certain elements of someone’s personality and to pick choice quotes and come up with a character in a story instead of a person in your life.

Because there is a lot more.

I don’t know why she has told me. Is it because of the language barrier, the way that everything has to be so simple, or would she tell me anyway? Sometimes it is impossible to pick up on social norms and I cannot tell if she is crazy, Spanish, maybe a little low-class, or all three.

I tell her, “Paquita you have no secrets,” and she laughs, and I am still confused.

This is what I know:

(In chronological order because dios mio how would I pick a way to organize it?)

1. She was born in the south of Spain, second youngest of six children. I have seen a picture, old and black and white. Little Paqui in blonde pigtails, to my immediate surprise, is shy and hiding from the camera. She tells me that she too is shy and I tell her I do not believe her.

2. Her family moved to Catalunya when she was nine. She can understand and read Catalan but doesn’t speak it. The family was very Catholic, very poor. She dropped out of school when she was twelve, to work. I am very careful when I ask her questions about the language now, because she will remind me how she does not know, she did not study. (Nouns are infinitely safer than verb tenses.) She speaks very colloquially and I can now see when her grammar is off.

3. She met Juan when she was nineteen, in a dance club. She was with her sisters, and her older sister liked him too, but the next week he asked her to dance, only her. They dated for six years before they were married. He left 20 years later. She woke up and he was gone. She is still in love him and I would wager that is the reason for the prescription of Prozac she once left in the kitchen by mistake.

4. She has two children. The oldest, Lidia, is almost 24. Pretty (although in my opinion her mother is prettier), very smart, from what I can tell, I’ve only met her twice. She works in Luxembourg, with her boyfriend, of whom Paquita does not approve (I think it’s because he’s Portuguese). Children usually take sides in a divorce and Lidia clearly chose her father, and I have seen her hurt her mother, deliberately calculated, and I have heard Paquita tell me that it does not bother her and I don’t believe a word. And I have done the same thing, and I know that it is different for Lidia because she calls her Mama instead of Paquita but still, I wish she weren’t a bitch like that.

4. The other is named Victor. He is 19. When Paquita was pregnant with him, Juan threw her into a door during an argument, and burned her stomach with a cigarette lighter. I have no idea what my face looked like when she told me that. The doctors told her she would lose the baby, but he lived. He’s mentally retarded but considering the circumstances, very high-functioning. He loves Hillary Duff’s music.

She stayed with Juan, of course, even though he did that, and I wonder if it even occurred to her that perhaps she should leave, escape. It probably didn’t, and she has an odd scar on her jaw that makes me think it has been broken, more than once. And I cannot give you a reason for any of that, but I can tell you that it is the same reason that she is still in love with him.

5. There was a boyfriend, after Juan. José. Former fútbol player, current team trainer, aka A BIG FREAKING DEAL. I’ve met him, he’s a classic sports superstar smooth playa hiding the asshole underneath. She knows that, and now they are “friends, to talk on the phone.” He wants her back and I know she debates just going back, because it would be easy, but she does not let herself. I think.

6. She has worked many, many different jobs, and I think one of them was definitely sketchy—I never understand 100% of what she says but it involved her, in France, with men. She was 14. (For all I know she was selling flowers. Translation errors are an unfortunate reality.) Now, she doesn’t work. She’s sick. At first she told me it was fibromyalgia, and I, the scientist who doesn’t believe in that, was skeptical. Even though I see how sometimes, she is so clearly seized with pain, she will never admit it, will yell at me if I try to pick up whatever it is on the floor so she doesn’t have bend over. But then she tells me, with her little naughty smile how she flirts with the doctor who signed her form for disability payments, and I wonder, I judge her, accuse her in my mind of simply not wanting to go to work.

But there is something else, too, besides fibromyalgia and phantom pain, and knowing how she is, I believe that she would tell me about the “fibromyalgia” and hide whatever it is she also has that is more serious. That some days makes her completely unable to eat. That sometimes makes her vomit, endlessly, even though I know there is nothing in her stomach. I’m sure she thought I couldn’t hear, but I can unfortunately detect that sound rather well and one day worked up the nerve to ask if she was okay. Because, despite her personality, she is still a Spanish woman, and they are so damn SMALL, tiny even. Narrow shoulders, slender wrists, arms, legs—I feel like if I were careless, I might break her. Not that anyone could actually break her—she’d kick your ass first.

This sounds sort of emo, but I had to get all the facts out, somehow. If I don’t say it, it rattles around in my head and drives me crazier.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I wrote a story

so it's in Spanish. Oh well. I like it.

Hay un parque cerca de mi trabajo que me gusta, es donde voy cada tarde para sentarme y para leer mi periódico tabloide, mi actividad ligeramente vergonzosa para el día. Es uno de esos parques que el gobierno de la ciudad construyó cuando el alcalde quería decir a los ciudadanos que él estaba trayendo la naturaleza a la ciudad, para los niños, claro. Entonces ellos metiendo los parques adondequiera había espacio, y algunos, como mío, son tan pequeñitos que parecen ridículos, unas islas minúsculas en el centro del caos urbano, el tipo de trabajo del gobierno que explica porque los contribuyentes siempre quieren llorar.

Mi parque posiblemente no es completamente un desperdicio. Hay solo algunos árboles y la banca donde estoy sentando ahora, no hay bastante espacio para un patio de recreo, pero algunos de los niños del barrio vienen aquí, para jugar. Ellos pueden encontrar espacio para sus juegos, pienso que ellos juegan al escondite o juegan al corre que te pillo o posiblemente otra cosa, no sé exactamente que los niños hagan estas días. ¿Qué hacen ahora ?

Dios, uno ha trepado un árbol. A veces, sus juegos son un poco peligrosos y quiero decirse parar, pero recuerdo cuando tenía siete anos, y no me gustaría una descocida entrometida, entonces, no hago nada pero me pregunto, ¿ donde están sus padres?

¿ Ah, que pasa? Están mirando un pájaro pequeño. Si, puedo ver, el cayó de ese nido a esto cepo más bajo. Esto niño en el árbol está tratando ayudarlo. Él se sale del árbol con el pájaro pequeño en sus manos. Se me caigo mi tabloide y me levanto para mirarlos.

El niño pone el pájaro sobre la tierra. Es lerda, inestable sobre sus pies. Los niños agrupan alrededor del pájaro y lo siguen, el está tratando escaparse, claro está aterrorizado. Me parezco que esté tan pequeña para volar, prácticamente no puede ni correr y—Dios mío. Él corrió en la calle, enfrente de un coche. Que lastima.

Los niños están al margen de la calle, con cinco bocas pequeñas abiertas en círculos perfectos de sorpresa, hasta uno empieza reír. Es uno tipo de reacción, supongo. Tres de los otros empiezan reír también, riendo hasta ellos tienen que sentarse sobre la tierra. Pero uno, el niño quien trepó el árbol, él está llorando.

“ ¡ No es divertido, idiotas! ” él grita a los otros, y huye, pienso para su casa. Hay una parte de mi corazón que quiere seguirlo. Probablemente él piensa que la culpa es suya, pero claro, no es. Culpo el alcalde, o posiblemente los ciudadanos quien votan y ponen impuestos. Yo, por ejemplo.

Doblo mi tabloide, he leyendo solo la primera mitad, pero ahora tengo que volver a mi casa. Los otros niños todavía están aquí, están jugando un juego diferente, quizás ellos han olivado el pájaro. Tengo que caminar cerca del pájaro para cruzar la calle, pobre diablo, y no puedo contenerme de mirarlo. Está más que un poco repugnante, pero mientras miro, yo también empiezo reír. No es divertido, pero es mi mundo, nuestro mundo, que nosotros hemos creado, un mundo donde necesitamos construir los parques ridículos en el centro de la ciudad y no puedo hacer nada para repararlo, pero puedo reír.
Right hand stirring the onions, left hand holding a cigarette and pouring herself another glass of sangria

If I can figure out a way to surreptitiously videotape her, believe me, I will.