how native is your tongue

Two small Hispanic men walk onto the 2 train with a guitar and accordion. Their faces turn into spotlights beaming happiness, as their fingers begin pressing keys and plucking strings.

I have no idea what they are singing about, but it doesn’t matter. It is 9:28 am and I am being serenaded on my way to work in one of the most beautiful languages: Spanish.

I have fallen in love with Spanish tongues, slurring curled letters into my ears. When I speak, I don’t always pay attention to where my teeth go or if my tongue touches them or if my lips grow into a tiny circle instead of a pushed back parallelogram.

When I am on the subway, my metro card turns into a passport and I become a world traveler. I hear Portugese and Mandarin. I hear Patois and Hebrew. I hear slang and hybrid variations. I wonder if I stayed on long enough, if I could learn enough to call myself trilingual.

I have swallowed a lot of almosts. I almost learned how to properly play clarinet (though I really wanted to learn drums). I almost went to culinary school. I almost got married. I almost lost my life a few times. I almost went to Germany. I almost memorized a poem. I almost fainted the other day. I almost left Brooklyn (again).

In high school, I almost learned Spanish, but I was too preoccupied with trying to die and learning how to understand the directional pattern of my awkwardly growing body and some stuff about my mom and … and … and …

I’d like to practice my tongue roll. I’d like to learn how to read Neruda’s original work, without its English translation. I’d like to sit on the 2 train toward work and not only hear these men singing, but understand them as well.

I’d like to be bilingual.

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