SORRY, THE LIGHT WAS ON?
To Terry, my wife
In the mid-'90s I was living in London, England and worked for the maintenance department of the prestigious Southbank International School.
One day I was in one of the classrooms talking to Mirtha, a Bolivian employee who was working for the same department. She was going through a tough family crisis and she was sharing her problems with me. I listened to her sympathetically. In a world where most people spoke English, for Mirtha and me, to speak Spanish was always a good refuge.
At the end of our long chat, as I was saying goodbye to Mirtha from the classroom door, I tried to finish the sad conversation with a phrase in English. I attempted to say, "Life goes on".
At the same moment, a petite American teacher named Terry, who a couple of months earlier had joined the school staff, passed by the classroom door.
She looked at me and assumed I was talking to her. She asked, "Sorry, the light was on?" My English was not good, and because of that, the way I said, "Life goes on" sounded to her like, "The light was on".
I blushed, and in my limited English tried to explain that I was not in fact talking to her but to my Bolivian friend who was inside the classroom (and who Terry could not see from where she was standing).
It was an awkward moment. And I just barely got through the situation... I think.
Since her arrival to the school, whenever Terry and I ran into each other in the hallways or on the stairs, we always smiled at each other with a mixture of affection and shyness.
I remember with certainty the date I said, "Life goes on" (or "The light was on") because it was the first of November, my mother’s birthday. In fact, after my conversation with my Bolivian friend, my plan was to make a phone call to Peru to greet my mother.
But, I also remember that on that day, standing by the classroom door, Terry and I talked for two hours. Another topic, of course, related to this story, would be how a Latino, who could scarcely mumble some English, spoke for two hours with a gringa who spoke only English. But that’s a story for another day.
For now, just let me tell you that when I said goodbye to Terry, I felt like that first of November was "my day". But the real “day” was my mother’s, and I needed to call her on her birthday.
So, I took the train to Earl’s Court, where the Latinos in London used to go to make cheap international phone calls. Once there, I called my mom. “Happy birthday”, I said.
And, as I still had my conversation with Terry on my mind, I added, “Mom, I think I’ve got good news...”
New Hampshire, USA
If you'd like to comment on this post, here is a translation of terms in the directions:
Comentarios = comments
Publicar un comentario en la entrada = write a comment in the box
Comentar como = write as ... (choose "Nombre/URL", then type in your name under “Nombre”, leave “URL” blank)
Vista previa = preview (see how your comment will look)
Publicar un comentario = publish your comment
If you think that these steps are too complicated then write me an e-mail with your comment and I’ll publish it for you: firstname.lastname@example.org
Every comment goes to the editor first before being published)