I keep returning to the pub that I visited on my disastrous first day in Spain, and it’s become one of my favorite places! I’ve met a good number of regulars, so it’s great for Spanish conversation practice, and the waiters are always very generous, giving me an inordinate amount of free food every time I come by and criminally undercharging me for drinks. Often, I end up staying for hours, talking to the waiters and listening to the loud, slangy Spanish being shouted around the bar.
“Helen, I want you to meet my wife,” said Ángel — a large, fit dude from the Dominican Republic, the kind of guy who would be intimidating if he didn’t smile so much — one evening as he worked as the bartender, filling up cañas, little glasses of beer. He gestured for his wife, who was sitting at the opposite end of the bar, to join us. “She works in the kitchen. Carmen, this is Helen, from the United States,” he said.
Carmen and I gave each other two kisses, a greeting I was still getting accustomed to. I liked her immediately — she was stylish, beautiful, and extremely friendly, like everybody in Spain.
We made a good pair, and the next day we ended up spending the whole evening together, walking around the mall and killing time at bars, eventually returning to the pub while Ángel finished closing up for the night. By that point, it was nearly midnight and I was absolutely exhausted — my brain refused to speak another word of Spanish — but Carmen was more than willing to speak for me.
I wonder which one of these girls has cataplexy???
“Helen, estás haciendo amigos!” Ruben exclaimed when he saw me enter the pub with Carmen. He switched to pidgin English for my benefit. “Makin’ frands!”
“She does speak Spanish, you know,” Carmen told the waiters as they finished cleaning the pub, sweeping the floor and rearranging chairs. I could feel my head starting to bob a bit, and Carmen grabbed my hand reassuringly. “Earlier we were talking perfectly, but I think she’s tired now!”
“She’s going to get a strange accent if she learns Spanish from you and Ángel,” said José, a regular and a friend of Carmen’s. Leaning towards me, he introduced himself in the Spanish way — with dos besos and flattery. “Look at those eyes. Guapísima, joder.”
“Really, though,” he said to Ángel. “She’s gonna start talking like a cross between a madrileña and a South American, don’t you think?”
“I’m Caribbean, coño!” Ángel said. “There’s a difference!”
“We should do something next weekend, do you want to go to el centro? Or to Segovia?” Carmen asked. “Helen hasn’t travelled at all yet.”
The rest of the night passed in a blur of rapid Spanish — I was having a hard enough time staying awake and upright in my chair, I didn’t have the mental resources to dedicate to interacting in a foreign language — but in the end, it was decided: Carmen, Ángel, José and I would go to Segovia.
And the next weekend, we went!