The Proper Use of Spanish When Visitors Arrive*

CabinMeal

When visitors show up, you need to remember these two words: igualmente (likewise, but easier to kick around) and tampoco (me neither but casual, like uh-uh.) Just say them over and over, and then get ready to drop them as your guests began to talk.

“I’m so glad to be home,” someone says. Actually, I just got home, too, but that’s not foremost in their minds. “Igualmente,” I should have said, but I would have listed off locations of towels and coffee filters, and then scurried around to make sure they were where I had said they were.

“I need some exercise,” I hear. “Igualmente,” I should have said, I really should have, but I put away dishes, or started laundry, or did some other responsible task.

“Long day. Sleep’ll do me a world of good.” “Igualmente.” But this time, I have the option to do what the other person asked for. I love that word—it’s like a mirror. He or she wants sleep? Hold up the mirror. Say “igualmente,” and whatever he or she said reflects back to the speaker.

But even though I bounce the statement back, sleep won’t come. I am jet-lagged. I have so much to catch up on. It garbles in my head. Garden and work and home projects and husband and dogs and veterinarians and caregivers. “Igualmente,” I say, because it is true. Sleep will do me a world of good. But I don’t sleep.

And when I get up, the plaintive moan from a visitor: “I need a cup of coffee before I get going.”

“Igualmente.” Just say it, I think. They know how to make the coffee. I told them where the filters were. But I make their coffee (caf) that they can sip over the comics, and then I make my coffee (decaf), feed the dogs, get the sprinklers going, unpack another part of my suitcase, clean for the cleaning person, pack my backpack for work, and then finally, sit down. The coffee is cool enough to gulp and I finish it before the comics are done. My stupid fault, I guess.

Work piles up. For everyone, when they’ve left their home regime. A guest beats me to the claim, though. “I can’t talk right now; I have a call have to make,” he or she says, or “I need to disappear to work for a bit.” “Igualment,” I should have said, but of course I didn’t.

“Can’t pay attention at this moment,” he or she might mutter, eyes on a cell phone screen. “Tampoco,” I could have said, but of course I didn’t.

~ ~ ~

But I got a little sleep, got a little hot decaf, disappeared for some work, got some exercise. The present turned to past. I wake up to a new day—and the guests are almost gone. I apologize, tell them where I was. Tell them where I am now. I am so sincere. “Igualmente,” they say. With that phrase, my heartfelt emotion is accepted and their heartfelt emotion comes back to me.

I tell them, “Let’s get going, paint the town red–or more like us, hike, cook a nice meal, hang out, mull over the Supreme Court situation. Let’s talk about near futures and distant pasts.” I pause. “Let’s just be,” I amend. “Let’s hang, dump the agenda, be ourselves. Be together. Estar–occupy our state. Ser–flaunt our essence. Existir–reside in the present.”

This instant is. The next instant may never be. “I don’t want to pass this chance up,” I say. “Tampoco,” each of my guests will say.

And we are. Someone makes cookies batter that we eat raw. Someone cooks a tray of cookies that we eat cooked. And we are models of inefficiency. We wait for one another in different groupings than we had planned, in different places than we had expected. We spend more time than imaginable to get out of the house, to buy a phone, to go through the storage locker. But no matter. The “more time than imaginable” is part of the instant that is. And the next instant that is. And the next instant that is. There is no other place to occupy, flaunt, reside.

And when the instants are up, I will say “Awesome visit.” I will want to laugh. I will want to cry. “I’m going to miss you so much,”  I will say. “Igualmente,” my guests will agree.


*Literally, any visitors–I’m not calling out Spanish speakers!

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