Confessions of an ESL Teacher
YOU ARE: hair askew, cigarette hanging from mouth, sandals on tanned feet. Working out this whole English thing. Writing in your notebook, the cityscape behind you. Coffee to your left.
You’re like a poster of a 60s Latin American radical, a café terrorist. But somehow you make it fresh, make it you. So totally not what it is, a cliché that was tired twenty years ago.
Despite my rapidly growing desire to ditch this whole English teacher pretense and do something interesting, I try to explain verbs. You have no point of reference. Later you ask me my views on love, on one-night stands, on being a nice girl.
I fumble through Spanish constructions, I hate the way my accent sounds, I wish I could just calm down. Calm down.
Sometimes that wiser, more patient self says: No, teach. That is your role. But that voice is hidden so far behind all of the desire, the pace of the conversation, the moment and its’ rhythm, my heart. I know it’s there, I know it’s beating harder and faster than normal, that little heart. What I put it through with my coffee and anxiety.
How often it gives my mind a refuge, a place to rest.
The war is a business, you say. Good! The war in Colombia is a business, you say again. In Spanish: the military, the two militaries, why you didn’t serve.
You’ve spent too much of your life angry. Now it’s time to be at peace.
Bent over verb constructions you tragically misunderstand, because for all we have in common, I cannot teach you to think like me. My legs are crossed, Indian style, and you touch my knee, just for a second. It feels so natural, so totally not what it is, which is to say, a little out of the ordinary. Fuera de lo normal.
Come to Bogotá, you say. You could work, you could have fun, live well.
But I want to be in that precarious place you’re in, that precipice between two different worlds.
Let’s not make plans for me, just now.