My friend Natalia has just left us on our own, to take her bus back home, in front of the farmacia, so I can buy tampons. It is a necessity that cannot be avoided, and, as my Spanish teacher for many years, back when she was living in San Fancisco until she moved home to Madrid, where we are now, two years ago, Natalia undoubtedly felt this would be the best moment for me to put myself to a true test of immersion.
However, there are no boxes of tampons to be seen anywhere on any wall in this farmacia.
I never expected a test this difficult. I don’t know if I could handle it in English, in fact. We just pick these things up from the shelves and put them on the counter back home; we never have to actually discuss the contents.
“Excuse me,” I ask the one woman employee. “Do you have any, ahem, feminine products?”
“I’m sorry?” she says, meaning I will need to use more words.
“You know, for women, when it’s that time of the month?”
“Oh! You mean tampons!”
“Yes!” I say.
“You have to ask my partner,” she says, referring to the guy at the cash register.
We stand in line as I accept my fate. My heart rate increases, and I feel myself developing a cold sweat, and I wonder if it might have been easier starting with maybe coffee or maybe a bocadillo.
Within a minute, I hear someone whisper, “Hey!”
I look, and she winks at me, having left a box on the counter.
It’s been over 100 degrees here in Madrid, I think, since we got here, more or less. The only thing that makes it bearable is that there are plenty of trees and that we have come to an unspoken agreement that we will walk very slowly and stop for cerveza or sangria when the moment appeals to us, which has been, at least today, several times.
It is for this that today’s post shall be very short. But I must state for the record that I am in bliss, for a couple of reasons, and today’s reason is that I have been reunited with my friend and Spanish teacher Natalia. After my first visit to Spain five years ago, I came to the painful realization that after months of Pimsleur tapes and Rosetta Stone, that I really didn’t speak Spanish at all. So I answered Natalia’s ad on Craigslist, and for the next two or so years, for an hour once a week, sometimes more, we met in some hole-in-the-wall cafe in San Francisco, to talk about anything under the sun, always in Spanish. It was cheaper than therapy, and somehow, without even becoming too aware of it, I simultaneously became at least somewhat fluent in Spanish, at least fluent enough to buy tampons.
I promised her I would visit her in Spain, when she moved back nearly two years ago. I never knew when that would happen, but I meant it. I thought it might be many years from now. Then came the other reason why I am in bliss, who shall, for the moment, at least, remain anonymous, but here we are, in Spain, and we have two more weeks left, and I will keep you updated. You know me. I can’t help it.