Leaving Hadn’t Been Part of the Plan

You wouldn’t want to leave either.

“No quiero salir.” I used my child-like vocabulary with as much emotion as I could muster. I wanted them both to understand that I wasn’t giving up, he was. “Es que su hijo no quiere…,” I had to think about how to word it. “…que estoy aqui mas dias.”  I knew that wasn’t right.  It sounded babyish, slow, broken.

It wasn’t that I had to leave immediately. It was just that this whole “living in Spain thing,” as I’d defensively begun to phrase it to friends at home, had ended.  I wasn’t living here anymore; I was just waiting to leave. I wanted his parents to know that leaving Spain hadn’t been part of my plan.

My plan had been to make a life in Spain.  I’d fallen in love with the parched streets, the frenetic pace, the half-swallowed language of cafe solo, tapas, and slow smiles that made me blush. I’d sold the Escort, sublet my Cobble Hill apartment, and I’d taken a leave of absence from work, a year. By the time a year had gone, all the loose ends would be snipped and tied. But it didn’t take a year; it took only five months before it was clear that I had less than solid ground in Spain. The man who loved me was afraid of rocking his family’s boat, and Una Americana was far too unpredictable and outspoken for comfort.

Yet, even as I saw the discomfort of my broken Spanish explanation of innocence, it was so important to me that these people not rewrite my role in their son’s life. I was desperate that I not become an example of another loose American dancing along the Costa del Sol. They had welcomed me warmly the year before when I was a tourist, a visitor, an infatuation for their youngest son. But despite the hot sun that chased all but the most die-hard tourists into cool homes or shaded restaurants for two hours a day, their admiration cooled with my commitment to their son.

Now, with half-formed phrases still squirming to get out of my mouth, I saw that no matter how eloquent I was, no matter how much I assimilated to Spanish life, I was undesirable. And the person I had counted on to support me didn’t have the strength – it couldn’t be that he didn’t want me enough – to defy his family.

After that dinner, I realized there was no convincing apathy to become understanding, and I finally let go. I stopped groveling for favor, and I started enjoying time as a tourist. With my newfound freedom, I quit teaching English to privileged children and hopeful entrepreneurs. With my sudden autonomy, I took trips without saying good-bye or asking for directions. With my strengthened confidence, my Spanish improved because I wasn’t worried about sounding ridiculous; I just spoke.

When summer came, I left my mourning in Spain and reentered my deserted life with a sunny glow.

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About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to the car culture, dealing with leaving a career I love, and spouting off along the way.
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37 Responses to Leaving Hadn’t Been Part of the Plan

  1. Aw, how frustrating and heartbreaking! I’m so glad you were able to enjoy the rest of your stay (eventually!). I could really feel your emotions here.

  2. What a great adventure though. I want to hear more; I guess that’s the point, right?

  3. raisingivy says:

    Love this beautiful line: “I took trips without saying goodbye or asking for directions.” I also love the subplot of your learning curve with Spanish, that you self-criticized for sounding babyish while the truth is that talking like a baby (fearlessly and much) is the best way to learn a language. Many great layers here.

    • I long to speak Spanish (and German, actually) all the time, but I’m so timid about trying to. And that is despite having several close friends who speak fluent Spanish and family/friends who speak German. I need some of that MoJo back. 🙂

  4. Mayor Gia says:

    Ah, good for you for letting go!

  5. dalrie says:

    I have never lived in a different country or even province. Sigh. So many people have such great travelling stories. I’m envious. It’s cool though that you got to experience romance, breakup, teaching, travelling and learning a new language all in one year. That’s pretty amazing!

    • It was only six months, actually. And yes, a lot got smushed into that short time! I miss traveling so much now that we have kids. I can’t wait to start dragging them all over the place!

      • dalrie says:

        I know what you mean. It’s hard to get out of the house intact let alone to travel distances farther than the local Wal-mart!! One day!

  6. kianwi says:

    I loved this. I loved the inclusion of Spanish, for one thing. And your phrasing is amazing. For instance, I loved this: “Now, with half-formed phrases still squirming to get out of my mouth, I saw that no matter how eloquent I was, no matter how much I assimilated to Spanish life, I was undesirable.” and this “After that dinner, I realized there was no convincing apathy to become understanding, and I finally let go.” Wonderful 🙂

    • Oh, thanks for picking out those lines. I wrestled with the “squirming” line – I felt like it sounded contrived. But that’s really what the thoughts and words felt like when I couldn’t get them out. 🙂

  7. You expressed so many emotions and insights in this piece – lovely! And good for you for letting go … beautifully told.

  8. outlawmama says:

    OH HELL YES you did. Your writing is pretty amazing. The explanations and the way you convey your thoughts as compared to your language skills. You definitely have the skills. I can’t imagine trying to face down the culture and your novio’s parents. Glad you got to enjoy it. I had a great time on Las Ramblas way back in the day.

    • Las Ramblas is what it feels like now. At the time, it was supposed to be La Vida Permanente. All for the best though. Though I do look forward to taking my family to see La Alhambra, Las Alpujarras, and La Sierra Nevada. 🙂

  9. This was lovely. I spent six months in France, and I remember my final trip to Paris when I finally spoke the language well enough for the shopkeepers to answer me in French as being a defining moment. I could relate to your struggles with Spanish paralleling your discomfort in a strange land. Well done!

  10. HaniSuleiman says:

    Ahoy from an old old old friend…

    Great piece (sorry if I’m late to the party, but you can blame my aversion to ‘social’ media…), I hadn’t realised you’ve been this prolific a writer!

    I’m glad to hear suburbia isn’t as bad as it seems from over here (yeah still in the city), though it’s still a jump I’m way too scared to make.

  11. Amy I. Bloom says:

    Oh, I spent a year in Spain in my twenty-somethings, and really can relate. Lovely story.

  12. TheJackB says:

    There is something quite special about being able to carry on conversation in a language other than your native tongue.

    This was quite enjoyable. I could see so many other stories coming from it.

  13. This was just beautiful, so richly written. It left me wanting to read more…and go to Spain. 🙂

  14. Amazing post, and a well deserved win!
    I wish I had the words to say how much I enjoyed reading your post, but the words just aren’t coming. I’ll just leave it at that, and applaud you instead.
    Not only for your beautifully written piece, but for the courage you showed when your plans crumbled.
    Great work.

  15. Lovely story – I spent a year in Spain in HS, and you definitely fit more into six months than I did in a year!

  16. So you might have had the man, but then you wouldn’t have the story. So much of life is about saying the words without fear – literally & metaphorically. And once you’ve taken that leap, the next time, it’s easier. I loved hearing this memory and I’m curious about all those little trips you took with yourself…

    • They were less exciting than it sounds, mainly because I was car-less. But it was fun to depend solely on myself. More fun was what I did with the remainder of my year-long leave of absence. That’s probably coming up at some point. 😉

  17. Pish Posh says:

    Goodness me. What a heartbreaking story. Your restraint reveals your emotions so well. Your words describe an experience I had when I was young in England – same feelings, dilemma, twisted emotions, loss, similar sounding lover/family.

  18. Pingback: yeah write #70 summer writer’s series jury prize winner | yeah write

  19. shannon says:

    I really loved this.

  20. Pingback: BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo at yeah write—Day 24: on finding one's writing home | yeah writeyeah write

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