Since she was eight years old, Sara has never lived in any country for more than three consecutive years. It is constant moving for her and her ambassador parents. She studied at many international schools, from London to Australia, and she speaks five languages: Italian, French, African, English, and now Spanish. Sara just moved to Salamanca, and in a few minutes, we’ll get to know each other better over a welcome lunch our host-family has prepared. My palms are sweaty and my middle finger wrestles my index under the table, imploring the universe that this girl is likable. After all, we’ll be housemates.
Jose Maria, our host father, offers me a glass of wine. “I only open these on special occasions,” he smiles and pours me some. It’s a reserve wine; Ribera del Duero, I think. Now I have to drink this thing. Jose Maria has been extremely friendly and helpful since the day I arrived in their home. I’d feel bad not to drink his special wine… My eyes struggle to stay straight after the first few sips. I can’t stop laughing either and I don’t know why. Jose Maria is laughing, too, but he’s laughing at me. “Already?!” he says. And now everyone is laughing.
“You’re not used to drink at this time of the day, are you?” says Carmen, the host mother.
“This is my first glass of wine,” I say.
“Ever?!” Sara seems shocked.
“It’s okay,” says Jose Maria, still laughing. “Just sip it slowly.”
Spaniards don’t worry about too many things in life. Carmen says her kids have been drinking since the age of twelve. It’s not much different from some kids in the US, but admitting it is what makes them cooler parents. And, for the short bit I’ve known Carmen, I know she would have smacked her children across the face if she deemed wine-drinking at an earlier age to be wrong. But maybe she did, and doesn’t care now that her kids are in their thirties and turned out to be decent human beings.
I thought Jose Maria must know a thing or two about drinking, so that’s just what I do. I take it slow. The wine makes it easier for me to talk to Sara. If I look like a fool, she’s not giving me any signal. She sounds cultured, and wealthy, and concerned about women’s rights… I can’t keep up. Our lunch is over and now I just want to take a nap. I grab my plate and try to put it in the sink, but Carmen stops me. “No, no, no…you go take la siesta,” she slurs, cigarette in hand. She seems worse than me. I want to insist on doing it, but now the kitchen has turned into a ball of smoke and it really bothers me, so I just find my exit.
Sara walks over to her room first. Then I follow. Our rooms are across from each other, only divided by the shallow hallway. I really want to stop and keep talking to Sara, but I think this conversation will be better when I’m sober.
“I feel really funny and extremely lethargic,” I say, “I think I’m going to take a nap.”
“Yes, yes, you should,” says Sara, always smiling from ear to ear. “I’m going to the park at around six, you know, for a little exercise, if you want to join me when you wake up.”
This girl is something. But now I think she’s crazy. It’s 4:30 PM already; how does she expect me to be up in an hour? This would be my first nap since I came to Spain five days ago. I want to experience it. But, “I’ll try,” I say.
When I wake up, I’m completely disoriented. The blinds are down and it’s darker than inside a sinkhole in my room. The red digital numbers in my black alarm clock indicate that it’s past eight. Never again, I say to myself. A whole day, wasted. I then remember Sara. Oh, no… When I open my door, she’s in her room, her door open, and that signature smile on her face.
“Hey!” she waves full of energy, removing the headphones from her ears.
I’m a sleepwalker though. Rubbing my left eye with my left hand, I raise my right hand and wave back, a shy mortified smile on my face. “I guess I slept in, huh.” We both giggle.
“How are you feeling? I didn’t want to wake you.”
“Better,” I say. Then, I make my way to the bathroom and disappear for a short bit.
It is rather quiet in the house. Carmen and Jose Maria have definitely left for the paseo, as they do every evening. They’ll be home by nine something as we agreed we’ll eat dinner by ten. We don’t normally have dinner that late back in The States, but a late lunch calls for a later dinner.
When I come out of the bathroom, Sara is standing in the hallway. Her tall voluptuous shadow scares the crap out of me, so I jump.
“I thought you were in your room,” I say, my hand over my heart.
She apologizes for scaring me and tells me that she went to the kitchen for a drink of water and got distracted by Carmen’s paintings on her way back to her room. Then, with her ear-to-ear smile, Sara asks me,
“Hey, have you ever stolen anything?”
© Marcia Capellán