English as a Home Language
by Christopher Niemeyer
His last name was Krasowicz. His family was from Chicago though he had grown up in Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and Chile. Because of his dad’s various jobs. An interesting family background for someone who was now a chubby, mostly bald nobody, sitting alone in a seedy bar in the outskirts of Nowheresville, USA. Strangely, he remembered that disturbing incident from his college days. Alcohol was the key to bad memories.
A winter afternoon in Denver. The wind blew so strongly that occasionally the windows rattled. They had been waiting a long time for Adib to see the doctor.
Other people were scattered about the room, sitting on chairs and couches, reading magazines or else watching the TV by the counter.
He and Adib, a Costa Rican graduate student in physics, had been quietly talking about everything from rock concerts to how Mexicans said ‘¿mande?’ whenever they were called on, a term Adib didn’t like though it was obviously the polite thing to say in Mexico. Now, the conversation had drifted to literature.
“…¡y un crítico lo llamó el mejor escritor chicano,” he told Adib, “y ni siquiera era latino!” They both laughed.
He heard it through their laughter. Had somebody said something?
“¿Alguien dijo algo?” he asked Adib.
“Creo que sí,” Adib said. “Pero… no sé.” He shrugged.
“Bueno,” he continued after a few seconds. “Lo que te estaba diciendo … se enamoró de México y de su gente, y escribió cuentos, pero en Ing…”
This time it wasn’t the wind, nor the television. Someone had spoken, and he knew what had been said.
He looked around and met the gaze of an elderly man, sitting on a stuffed chair some distance to their right.
The man had blazingly blue eyes. It was creepy, but he strongly resembled his father. Except that his ears were larger, and so was his nose.
“Excuse me, Sir, but we are having a private conversation.”
“Doesn’t he speak English?” the man asked sharply, gesturing rudely to Adib, who was short and slight, and was now anxiously quiet.
“Yes, he does.”
“Then speak English!” snapped the man.
“Again, Sir, with all due respect, we are having a pri….”
“And by the way,” interrupted the man, “if you’re going to talk about ME, at least have the guts to say it to my face, in English, instead of hiding behind your Spanish!”
The way he said it. ‘Your Spanish.’ Like it was something vile.
So, the guy thought they had been talking about him! How could he have heard them from across the room? It’s not like they had been speaking loudly. “Sir,” he said, struggling to be respectful yet with anger rising in his voice. “I swear, we were not talking about you. We were having a private conversation, and we were NOT talking about you AT ALL!”
Christopher Niemeyer is an aspiring fiction writer who works as a librarian in St. Louis, Missouri. He spent most of his childhood living overseas, especially in Latin America, because his father was a diplomat.