Before anything else, there’s the taste of sand.
El gusto de la arena, in Spanish.
Even though I’m sitting in front of my breakfast, my tea getting cold, my feet all so curled up, freezing, on the tiled floor, that’s the taste of sand coming back before anything else when I launch the Spanish app on my phone.
It’s strange how my brain seems to divide itself into two
Lessons, conjugations, repetitions. Si ella pudiera correr. Si sólo pudiéramos. In the background, and it’s completely beyond me and keeps on surprising me, it feels like DuoLingo is some sort of Proust’s Madeleine, giving me this taste of sand, while I’m keeping up the flow of my exercises, one after the other, and still I’m thrown back to that Summer in Ecuador, that Summer that hurt me, so bad, so bad it made me come back to France earlier than I ever planned.
As I’m making some progress in Spanish, my memories are coming out of the woodwork, every single day. Sometimes I have to stop the lesson before finishing it, something’s wearing me out in those flashbacks. The slope is slippery and here comes my old buddy Melancholy who’s pushing me over the edge. Boum. Head first into the sand.
Some old feelings are flowing back like the high tide on the beach of Puerto Cayo. How proud I felt when I could manage to build up my first sentences in Spanish. The confidence it gave me, because from now on, that meant it’d be easier to live and travel in Ecuador. Easier to meet, to share, to laugh. I couldn’t roll the ‘R’ properly but slowly understanding how Spanish worked seemed like a bunch of keys that could open every door on my way.
Every door? Except for the one that made me fly there from Taiwan. There would be no ‘us’ after that. I was gaining confidence, those foreign words were already rolling on my tongue of my desire to leave, to leave this place that was burying me in the sand, in despair, this ‘us’ which was not tangible enough.
Spanish is tickling my throat while I’m walking in the sand with the dogs, next to the ocean, under the grey sky, it’s whispering to me about mountains and volcanoes, legendary forests. It wants to conquer spaces, and all the language’s asperities. It wants to grow, to expand, to thrive. It’s impatient, like a terrible kid, it’s hopping around, getting all excited of the possibilities to come.
It needs to leave.
Spanish is unshackling me.
I am like an ostrich finally raising its head from the sand.
It appears that we change our memories every time we pay them a visit. It’s upsetting me more than I can admit. It makes me dizzy. My precious memories are losing their tangibility. Bits of their truth, their authenticity are lost every time I have an episode of bulimic nostalgia. What about this taste of sand? Is it more intense now than it used to be back in Puerto Cayo?
Am I soothing my painful memories, one Spanish lesson at a time? Until the picture of the blade on my legs wear off and until I end up believing it wasn’t that bad after all, that person, over there, full of despair, wasn’t really me, it’s not happening that often anyway, the blade situation, it never occurred in more than 3 years before that… Before.
Am I smoothing my Ecuadorian story over every time I learn a new word in Spanish?
Past Simple, Past Perfect Simple, Imperfecto in Spanish, imperfect. All those pasts I’m not mastering, but mixing up, confused. Those pasts cleaning up my former tears, repressing angers, furies, attacks. The sand is burning my eyes. Imperfect, cuando yo vivía en Puerto Cayo. We lost the habit of telling each other stories from the chore of our beings while showering, we lost the habit of singing out loud Dany California. I was still braiding your hair with dedication, you started to forget to brush mine.
The Imperfecto of our imperfections: we were too impatient, estábamos demasiado impacientes. We weren’t thinking too much about our linguistic and cultural gaps, where had our benevolence gone? I’m losing myself in time and tenses, tearing my hair out of my mistakes: back then I promised myself I wouldn’t leave Latin America before I could be fluent in Spanish.
We could have loved each other in Spanish, can you picture that? We could have had many other ways to express ourselves, some other words, some other sensitivities, some other sensualities. I’m repeating the same sentences all over again in order to comprehend the matching of tenses but in this sandstorm everything’s blurry, I loved him, I had loved him, lo quería, lo he querido, but this romance was doomed from the beginning, no matter how many languages we could have tried to love each other with, that hope of matching was just smoke and mirrors.
It’s snowing here. My tea has definitely gone cold. I keep up on taming Spanish, my feet on the Alsacian ground.
Will I ever forgive myself to have let him down in those sandy streets? Will I ever forgive him not wanting to conquer those dreams of wild places with me?
We were making Korean hearts with our fingers as a goodbye when the bus drove away from Puerto Cayo. It looked to me that we would have ended up seeing each other eventually.
I was only mastering the present tense in Spanish at that time.
(It was a farewell.)
It seems to me that I came all the way to Ecuador to break up our hearts.
I still can’t roll the ‘R’ properly.
I’m better at using the future tenses than the past ones.
The taste of him will pass. El gusto de el me va a pasar.
(Don’t know about the freaking taste of sand, though.)