Love, in English(9)

By: Karina Halle

I had a feeling he was right.

The bus ride flew right by as Mateo and I got to know each other.

He learned, as unimportant as it was, about my interest in astronomy and where I lived and whether I preferred white wine or red wine (I told him I wasn’t much of a wine drinker but he only laughed in response, as if I had just said the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard).

He turned out to be a lot more interesting than I had originally suspected. He had a five-year daughter named Chloe Ann. You could tell he adored her from the way his eyes sparkled when he mentioned her name. He showed me her picture from his wallet—she was a pretty little thing with light brown hair and cupid bow lips—but made no mention of his wife. I found that odd and started entertaining the idea that maybe he was separated before I stopped myself. I couldn’t go down that path either.

As for his line of work, it was kind of impressive. He co-owned several restaurants in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville and was hoping to expand to the UK or the US at some point, hence why his business partner thought he should brush up on his skills with the program. He mentioned that he was sent because he was the one who was always dealing with the media because of “you know.” Of course, I didn’t know but by the time I had the chance to ask, the people sitting in front of us turned around in their seats and invited us to chat with them.

I really didn’t want to—I felt like Mateo and I were having our own private thing. Plus, the English speaker of the two was a girl who usually hated girls like me. I could just tell, call it gut instinct. She was rather small, brunette, hair swept back into a ponytail, wearing glitter-framed glasses and a t-shirt that said Espańa on it that was a size too large for her. She had this expression in her eyes that was both judgmental and calculating, like she was already plotting my demise, which, on her make-up free and child-like face, made her look like a female version of Damien from The Omen.

Luckily, the Spanish girl she was sitting with looked a lot more amiable. She had big brown eyes, a friendly smile and a round face with a bit too much blush on her cheeks. She was probably mid-twenties or older and from the slightly desperate sheen to her eyes, I could tell she really wanted to talk to us. It took me half a second to realize it was because of her bespeckled seatmate.

In the Cliffnotes version of our conversation, the Spanish girl ended up being Claudia, who worked in advertising in Madrid, was jonesing for the bus to stop so she could have a cigarette, loved Jared Leto and Thirty Seconds to Mars, was single but had a cat called Rocco, and laughed a lot.

In contrast, her seatmate was named Lauren, who was studying to be a film critic at NYU’s film program, wrote for the university paper picking apart what was wrong with today’s films, lived with her roommate in the Village, was an only child and a vegan. She was also against American Apparel. I learned this because at one point during our conversation she was eyeing my shirt (I kept pulling it up to make sure I wasn’t flashing too much boob) and asked me point blank what I was wearing.

I exchanged a quick look with Claudia, who looked wide-eyed and helpless, and said, “I don’t know. I think I got it at American Apparel.”

Which, was true. I totally stocked up on the basics there before I came.

The look of disgust on Lauren’s face was like I just told her I eat dirty diapers for breakfast. “American Apparel is a horrible company that demeans women by making their employees pose in overtly sexualized ways.”

“Well,” I said slowly, noticing that a vein on her left temple was throbbing, “I gathered that from their ads. But hey, at least they aren’t exploiting children in China.”

She narrowed her eyes. “There have been many sexual harassment cases. I don’t understand how any woman could support a company that perpetrates rape culture.”

I frowned, totally lost at her train of reasoning. “I’m sorry?”

“I must interrupt,” Mateo spoke up innocently. “I think the shirt looks very nice on her.”

Lauren’s beady eyes darted to his wedding ring. “You shouldn’t.”

I felt a flush of embarrassment but Mateo shrugged and said, “No? Is that an English rule, it is bad to compliment another?” Though the look in his eyes was completely innocent, I caught an edge to his tone. I could imagine him as a businessman, trying to be polite but ruthless at the same time.

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