Learning Another Language

Emma Morden

Buenas nachos,” she muttered. It was a farewell we muttered to each other each night. She would say “Buenas nachos,” and I would reply “Buenos dias.”  

We had tried to learn Spanish one night. It was late and we had injected more wine than Spanish. And yet “Buenas noches” stuck. “It reminds me of nachos, that’s why. Nachos in the evening, dias in the morning. That’s how I remember it,” I told her.

We were sitting on the balcony of our ridiculously small apartment. Cats surrounded us, and we could barely see two feet in front of us because of the wine we drank. It wasn’t unusual to feel this way; we did it almost every night and it had become almost a ritual.

“Buenos dias,” I muttered back, the appropriate response from our repertoire.

A few hours later as I laid in bed, with a number of cats surrounding me again, I felt alone. Though we had said our goodnights, it didn’t feel like enough. I wanted a thousand more words. I wanted the words to never run out.

I pushed myself up off the bed, my head feeling heavy and my body feeling weak, and I walked across the apartment to her door, which she always kept ajar for such an occasion. “Buenos dias,” I mumbled as I stumbled across the room. The sun wasn’t up and there was no light in any part of the room except a small beam coming through the crack I had made. I hoped she knew what I meant, because it didn’t exactly make sense, considering I was bombarding her in the middle of the night.

When I said buenos dias it meant more than good morning, and it meant more than goodnight when I said buenas nachos. It meant, “Here, have a part of me. I don’t want it anymore. You belong to me and I belong to you.” It meant I would stick my hand in my chest and hand her my heart, which was not an easy task. After years of bruising and mistreatment from past people, my heart has been well-protected. And yet, as I uttered those words, I felt myself reach into that part of my heart and dig deeper toward the gooey terrain that I wasn’t afraid to explore. How many people can say they’ve gone to the bottom of their soul and found the words, and had been able to speak them to the one person that meant the most above the rest?

Language was such a strange thing we had developed in this world of ours. We never said the words “I love you” or even “I want you;” it just wasn’t who we were. We didn’t need the words to express how we felt.

I still found myself coming to her when I felt most alone. I was welcomed with open arms and would fall right into her, like a security blanket. I could fall asleep only to the sound of her inhale and exhale. The smell of her dollar store shampoo and floral perfume comforted me more than any other scent except for the smell of burnt toast – she couldn’t cook to save her life. One day I swear she was going to burn down our apartment, and it would still bring me comfort because the smell would remind me of her.  

I made it from the door to the bed in one stride. The air was warm but I shivered at her touch. Her fingers were soft against my skin. She ran her finger tips up and down my arms before opening her eyes. She rolled over to face me, pulling me in tightly and exhaling into my hair. Even in the dark of the night I could tell that her wordless actions had so many meanings. The way she rested her chin on my head, and pushed the hair out of my face, and left a finger lingering at my temple to let me know that I was welcome into this solitary space.

We didn’t need to say anything the same way everyone else said things. It was about communication without communicating. At first it was confusing, and I got lost an amount of times, sitting in an isolated state. But as we both got used to our unspoken language and our replaced words, communication became more familiar, and then became more meaningful. And that’s when I realized we had made our own little language.

It wasn’t even just the jokes we had made with the minimal Spanish we knew – because obviously we didn’t invent those words – but more so the way we said them. And the way we remembered to pick up cat food, or bought ice cream for dessert, or cleaned the dishes when it wasn’t our turn. It was the little things. The way we said things with the hint of tease, or when we were apart and didn’t want to get off the phone just yet.

Language is a funny thing. You can be saying one thing, but meaning so much more. I never realized it until we had become those roommates with too many cats. She was once a stranger, but was now the most familiar person I knew.

Buenas nachos,” she responded back to my dias. For the second time that night she had said it to me, and this time it was more than a goodnight. It was her responding to that tattered heart I was holding out to her.

We fell asleep, hand in hand. Her thumb slowly stroked my skin. The quiet lullaby of inhale and exhale – there was never a more comforting song. We both knew that we shared this feeling of comfort and happiness as we said goodnight in so many words, but we were really saying “I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere.”

About the Author

Emma Morden is a staff writer at Inventio. You can read her biography here.

Editor: Olivia Quenneville

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