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.

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