Thursday, July 22, 2010

Are you a Mexican or a Mexican't?

I use live in an apartment complex, with a neighbor that spent most of his time outside, talking to anyone and everyone that walked by. If he could see you, he'd strike up a conversation. He didn't have many interesting things to say, so if you were like me, you'd pretend you couldn't hear and walk very, very fast. But usually this would only make him shout at you louder and follow you. This left me with few options. Typically I'd wait until someone else exited their apartment, watch out my peep hole to make sure he was busy chatting away them, and then sneak out. Or, I'd leave at the same time my roommate needed to leave, I could outrun her, forcing her to deal with him. I'm not a people person. For six months I lived like this! Avoiding my neighbor, who I'm not even sure lived in one of the apartments, since he was always outside. 

He was missing enough teeth to make eating an apple impossible, but he didn't smell like booze. He seemed like a nice guy, who I never caught trying to look down my shirt/up my skirt. He really just seemed like a lonely guy who was just trying to be friendly. I just didn't see how we could have anything in common. I like the inside of my apartment, I keep to myself, and I have a job. He didn't, at least not that I could tell. It would be very sweet if I could say that he and I finally did have a conversation, and I realized that we really did have a lot in common. How inspiring would it be if I wrote that I overcame my prejudices and we became friends? THAT'S NOT THE KIND OF STORY I TELL, PEOPLE.

Despite my careful planning, I would occasionally find myself forced to talk to this old man. The conversations, almost always went like this.

Old man : "Buenos dias!"

Me : "Hello!"

Old man : "No, no! Buenos dias!"

Me: "B-when-nose Diaz?"

Old man : "Buenos dias! It means g'morning in Spanish. You speak Spanish." It was a statement, not a question. Every time it was a statement. Never a question.

Me : "No, I'm afraid I don't speak any Spanish."

Old man : "But your father, he speak Spanish."

Me : "No, he doesn't speak Spanish either. Please excuse me, I really need to get to work."

Old man : "Your father, he speak Spanish. You should learn Spanish."

Me : "I know, I should. But I'm going to be late. Excuse me." And I'd run hastily away. Far, far away.

Every time I was stuck talking to this man, who was obviously extremely proud of his Hispanic heritage, the conversation would go the same way. He'd say some greeting to me in Spanish, I'd mispronounce it back to him and he'd feel shame for me. I was not embracing my Hispanic heritage. I should be proud to come from such fine stock, but I was shaming my family and my people by not learn my culture's native language.

 Except the last time I talked to him, I was late for work, and was heading out to my car. He yelled out, "Buonas tardes" (Good afternoon).

I pretended to be hard of hearing and hurried to the parking lot. HE FOLLOWED ME! "You should learn Spanish, your father, your mother, speak Spanish." He was smiling, and I wasn't threatened, I just had to go to work!

"No, my parents don't speak Spanish."

Still smiling, "But your grandpa, grandma, they speak Spanish."

"No, no one in my family speaks Spanish."

He looked smug. He knew what to say to prove to me that learning Spanish was the best way to honor my ancestors. "You are Spanish. I'll show you, what's your last name?"


The smile was replaced by shock. "Anderzen?"

"Yup. Anderson."

He smiled again. "Oh! Then you must learn Norweeeegian!" He chuckled and left me alone for the rest of the time I lived there. He'd still wave at me, and I'd wave back. But he was no longer interested in being my friend. 



Anna Wilder said...

Tee HEE!!
I *love* your lil anecdotes, grrrl!
More! More! :D

Anonymous said...

Wow...a racist indeed. i dispise descrimination in all its forms.

you 'should' have just thrown a borito over a hedge each time you saw him though.

Anonymous said...