We’ve moved! We have our own place and it is awesome. A pool, a gym, round the clock security and maintanance. It’s fantastic. I spend my days applying for jobs, wondering around in the sun, working out in the air-conditioned gym, and watching netflix.
Yesterday we needed groceries so, instead of Cesia coming all the way back here from work, we decided to meet at the supermarket. I put on my shades and stood on the pavement and ordered an uber.
The guy arrived later than the app said and, after checking that I was his customer, he said he tried to call me but couldn’t connect. I haven’t registered my Mexican phone number with uber yet. I tried to explain that the problem was my fault and that my number is no good.
‘Mi nombre es no bueno.’ I said, in perfect Spanish.
‘Uh?’ He said, in perfect Spanish.
‘Mi nombre,’ I said, ‘es no bueno.’ Again, in perfect Spanish.
‘O.K.’ he said.
While I had been speaking Spanish, and speaking it perfectly, I had not said that my number was no good. Number is Número. I had said Nombre, or name. I had stepped into this man’s car, and told him my name is bad. He had said ‘Uh?’ and I said it again.
The car ride passed in silence, and in the silence, I realised my mistake. It was like he had checked I was his customer by saying ‘Joe?’ and I had said ‘Yes, but my middle name is danger.’ He replied, ‘O.K.’ which is probably the best response I could have hoped for.
I wanted to say something else, not to correct myself, but to let the guy know that I’m not a total moron. I wanted to appear comfortable, as though there was a chance that what I had said was normal, and that he had misunderstood. I wanted to gaslight him.
I could go casual (Gracias, mi amigo) or formal (Gracias, señor) or, even better, I could extend it (Gracias, señor. Buenos tardes) and be both formal and polite.
We were at the supermarket and Cesia messaged me to say where I could find her. I typed a reply and sent it and saw that she had started typing back.
‘Está bien.’ I said, and the driver stopped. I opened the door and, before closing I fired my parting shot.
‘Gracias, mi amor.’
And then, after accidentally saying ‘Thank you, my love,’ to a complete stranger, I put my sunglasses in my bag, entered the supermarket, and considered that interaction one more success on my slow journey to fluency.