Speak Spanish to me

I’ve been listening to a lot of Spanish music lately. Mon La Ferte and Bomba Estereo both came out with new albums this year that are fun and funky and that’s where I started but then I kept going. Back to Julieta Vanegas, Juanes, Manu Chao, Calle 13 and Shakira–the Spanish-singing stars of the aughts. That was what I listened to when I lived in Spanish-speaking countries. I’ve been thinking about that time a lot recently–for a whole convergence of reasons (darkness, churches, youth, love, how we learn, why we leave). Between 2009 and 2011 I spent most of my time not in the United States. And one of the funny things to me now is how I spent the last few years not thinking: about how I can speak Spanish, how I spent a lot of my young adulthood navigating a different country and a different language. I forgot.

Maybe that explains why I’ve been feeling so heavy with age lately. I feel so old. Forgetting feels old and I’ve forgotten entire places that I’ve lived. Languages that I speak. People that I loved. Yes I’ve forgotten them. I go days, weeks, months–could it be more than months? Yes it could. More than months without a passing thought of a place that once meant the world to me–a place that was my world. And if this can happen in thirty-three years of life just imagine–the things I could forget should I live to sixty, seventy, eighty?

*******

I’m forgetting New York. I’m forgetting the blocks I used to walk. And the tiny grocery store where I used to shop and how it was always full of people. How if we didn’t have eggs I just had to walk half a block to get some. How the humidity made my hair curl. How I was the only person speaking English in the barber shop. It’s not just forgetting. I don’t even think about it. And anyway it is past. And I am older. And it’s scary I don’t wear the same clothes anymore. And scarier still I don’t know if I believe the same things.

But someone wise and dear to me recently talked about how you can tie knots to tether your past self to your present to your future to help you not lose yourself. And what better tool do we have for tying knots than language? It’s like my subconscious is tying knots for me. As if to say, time is a circle. As if to say, yes sometimes the future seems a terror and sometimes things will be lost. But not everything will be lost.

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