Summer Love in Spanish…my identity

Nacho Jesús Rodríguez age 16

Nacho at 16 years old in 1987, Spain

I slapped him.  Hard.  We were standing on a beach in Alicante, Spain and he stared incredulously at me, stammering something I didn’t understand.  As I recovered from my own brazen act and he continued to beseech me to listen, I remained speechless.  In all honesty, I did not have the words to explain my behavior nor did I have the vocabulary to excuse myself for not being flattered by his “wanting” me.

Thing is, Nacho had not said anything of the sort, but I had heard “quiero,” a verb that I had learned meant “I want you.”  Even though I had studied Spanish for two years, no one had explained to me that “quiero” is also used to say “I love you.”  So there we were, two lovesick teens in a standoff on a beach over a verb.

It was the summer of 1987.  When I arrived for my home-stay with Nacho’s family, my Spanish skills were paltry.  After a summer of kissing Nacho, I left Spain fairly conversant in basic Spanish—at least the essential stuff.  His parents believed we would marry one day.  For a brief time, I did, too.

We lost touch with one another, but, years later, with the help of the internet, Nacho re-found me.  Since then, we have visited each other, and his daughter Marta spent July of 2015 in Mansfield with my family.  Nacho and I remain close friends, and he has even been an impromptu guest speaker in my classroom.  This past spring, one of my students doubted that there had ever been a time when I didn’t speak Spanish as well as I do now.  I quickly pulled out my phone and called Nacho.  He recounted the episode of the slap on the beach. This time, though, Nacho was laughing.


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