I have a friend. I use the word friend because the word fuckbuddy is, as of late, something as ethereal as the beautiful human-unicorn. We’re friends but we’re mostly benefits, so awhile back we did what adult pals do together- we had a play date.
He came over. Our friendship at that point was based on the logistics surrounding the benefits, where we gave each other directions, a brief hug of hello, a little bit of chit-chat. (How’s work? Congrats! Summer’s great, huh?), a beer. I clocked about 15 minutes before his primary maneuvers began on my bra.
Don’t get me wrong. This was on time and pretty rote and what I figured I ordered. Even my current, stupid addiction to sweatshop clubwear bandeau tops didn’t slow our practiced pace.
Before he came over, he asked if I had any special requests. It had been a while since we hung out. By that evening, I hadn’t been able to come up with any sort of menu for us. This meant either I was easy to please, or the amount of shit I was curious about would probably need research on the Internet.
So wham bam thank you ma’am. We played the hits, then moved to the bedroom. We beasted and burdened, and then all of a sudden he said:
“I want you to talk dirty to me in Spanish.”
Now. Okay. My name’s Carmen and look, I know the recent trend is to give cute and open-minded Caucasian babies Latino names but I can assure you, my own is the territory of grandmothers and great-aunties, and once upon a time, yes, a Spanish opera heroine and sex worker.
Later, when we were lying on my mattress and the air started to clear except mine wasn’t, not quite, he said:
“You know, I think Spanish is one of the best languages for dirty talk.”
I stared at the ancient acrylic wall hanging in the bedroom, cross-stitch needlepoint whatever it is that has survived equators, borders, way too many moves and possible apocalypses, so obnoxious my roommate tried to “lose it” in the move, this thing from Venezuela. This is where my name and my family and my veins come from, or half of them, or to get really post-colonial freaky-deaky trippy on you Dutch Guyana, who could even say. I stared and I said, on the subject of romance languages and fucking, “Yeah, you know, I always liked French.” I said this because my Venezuelan grandmother was fluent in it, as well as Spanish and a little Dutch and English, and because I took French for years.
Then I said, “You know, I’m not really, really, bilingual.” I didn’t follow this with the explanation I have down by rote, with different side orders depending on my audience, which is:
“Mi papa es de Venezuela and my hillbilly ma is fluent entonces I understand most things pero, necesito practicar.” (sheepish smile) “Combine con un acento that has shifted from College 101 to familial mimic to yo, I live in Pilsen.”
I watch telenovelas to practice. I see the impossibly beautiful heroines – no seriously, Venezuela is the plastic surgery capital of the world – these women ravished by assholes with mustaches and muscles, or sad-eyed mamas boys. I’ve worked in kitchens and restaurants. A lot. I’d spent the past few weeks watching the World Cup with my best friends, Latino of course, and I could’ve assured you, cabrón, I know the bad words.
So when he asked me to narrate the scene en Español, a few things happened. I thought Are you fucking joking me, gringo, this tired game again? The second was: time travel! I’ll get back to that. The last was that I thought real pinche hard and just started in with, “Ay Papi!” I channeled my old line cook compadres. Verbs, in completely wrong tenses, got attached to the anatomical nouns of body parts, and began to spew. Things like: Pendejo, tell to me, tell me, this feels my belly. Then I ran out of words. And come on, tetas? Totally easily translated and irrelevant, self-explanatory, right? I started pulling in the food I love. I mean, I said it all high-voiced and fast: pupusa, cachapa, pabellón. I thought about dinner. I was annoyed I couldn’t conjugate any of it correctly. Señor, quiero tu taquito, or whatever came out, it wasn’t right and nobody in the room could correct it. I didn’t know how I’d ask for help, like when I’m in a room with that tongue I’m supposed to have or not supposed to have.
Cómo se dice…safeword?
A few hours later, my roommate returned. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Well, did you have any fun?” he asked.
I said, “I think I’m just tired of these games,” and that’s when I remembered.
I’ve had people switch tongues on me before. Because, well, they spoke them. They felt compelled. It’s a neat trick, the real muscle beneath a rolled RRRRR, and my name and all those beautiful nothings that at certain times were literally nothing because I couldn’t translate them fast enough. One of my exes would try and convince me to join in, but I’d panic and distract him.
Yet it seems to be some sort of white dude special to request sexy Spanish chat. When he asked me, a part of me froze and Deloreaned back to when I was younger, and a man with 12 years on me tried to get the same thing. I’d forgotten. I’d forgotten because that thing ended, as the tales of tired, misogynistic, and actually racist and abusive dudes gone by do, which is to say it was awful and abusive and tiring.
Which made it so awful when we were finished. He knew something was off, and I didn’t offer another drink or hug, just said, “Bye.” I sat on my steps, relieved he left, and I thought I should’ve been mad, or definitely said something. But I wasn’t mad exactly, because dude was a pretty okay guy. I guess. I mean, do you know how hard it is to find someone who is okay with no strings attached? The string is always: I can be an asshole! Our fun and games were supposed to be the opposite of tomfuckery and manipulative, threatening, unnecessary hurt.
Don’t get me wrong. There was a lot of rough play. This was one point of the endeavor. The other point was to talk it out, draw lines, and keep everyone in the same playbook.
I didn’t know exactly why it felt so damn awful. Apparently, he didn’t know either. He wrote out the calls in the book so I’d know how to call time-out. I wanted to time travel back to when we hammered it all out. To say this is a no: no subtitles, por favor.
He told me to ask for anything I wanted. I didn’t want to have to ask. I didn’t know to ask for him to never ask that. I didn’t know how to say it. I didn’t want to.
I’ve thought about bringing it up, if I see him again. I’ve thought about texting or emailing him. I’ve thought about, how I should know how to explain this, to educate or translate. But how I don’t want to ask. I just think I don’t have the words for this. I don’t know how to do it right.
He was surprised, I guess, when I said I was passing as bilingual. Maybe to him my name, my neighborhood, how I can order tacos made it fair game. I don’t know. He was surprised.
“Really?” he said, “You don’t speak it?”
C. A. Aiken is a writer in Chicago, IL. Her work has appeared in This Recording, The Walrus, The Billfold, Linden Avenue Literary Journal and inaugural Best American Experimental Writing. She has performed her work at Story Club Chicago, Vocalo’s Music and Stories, and The Marrow.