Puerto Rican Experience XX


 ~Al crucero problemático y a todas las entidades problemáticas; a Rob por el "push"; y a Rebollo por el "trim"~


En abril 2017

Pues yo lo que quería era un trago.
La siguiente situación ocurrió en inglés:

—Una sangría, por favor —ordeno, mientras entrego mi tarjeta del crucero.

El primer mozo me mira y sonríe. Me pregunta si soy de edad y le contesto. Sin actitud, aunque quisiera.

—¿Y a quién le pertenece esta tarjeta? —me pregunta.

—La tarjeta es mía y soy de edad.

Me digo que está haciendo su trabajo, que igual que me interroga a mí interroga a todos, hasta los que son hombres, hasta los que tienen piel más blanca. El mozo se disculpa y comienza a servir lo que le pedí.

—Oye, ¿y de dónde eres?

Le contesto, con el pecho inflao, que soy de Puerto Rico. Sonríe otra vez mientras continúa sirviendo mi bebida, esta vez hablándole a un compañero a su lado.

—Wow, nunca había escuchado a alguien de Puerto Rico hablar inglés tan bien.

Mi orgullo cae al piso, no porque siento vergüenza, pero porque siento furia. Por muchas cosas, por él, por el comentario, por el hecho de que no ha sido la primera vez.

—En Puerto Rico, el inglés se habla abiertamente. Somos territorio de los Estados Unidos —le contesto, no con orgullo esta vez, pero con reconocimiento de una verdad.

—No, lo sé. Pero... —mira a su compañero como confundido, pero chistoso a la misma vez.

—¿Tú habías escuchado a un puertorriqueño hablar el inglés así de bien?

Mi expresión horrorosa no los interrumpe. El compañero "shrugs" y niega con su cabeza mientras limpia unas copas. Al yo no decir nada, el que me atiende siente la necesidad de continuar.

—No es que no lo hablan, pero siempre tienen un acento.

Me retiro. “Un acento”. Retomo la conversación en mi cabeza. En ningún momento había pensado dos veces sobre el acento del mozo; no porque no estaba ahí, pero porque no me importaba. ¿Pensó que me estaba alagando de alguna manera? ¿Piensa que tener “acento” le quita al hecho de que hablen el idioma, punto? ¿Por qué él pensó que comentar sobre un acento era necesario, cuando en ningún momento yo me atrevería/quisiera comentar sobre el acento que carga en su propia boca?

El 26 de abril de 2016

It’s Monday and you went to sleep too late the night before, or, would it be more accurate if you called it that very same morning?

It’s Monday and you start your day at 9 in the morning. You already dread the day ahead, except for lunch, when you get to sit down and eat and have some nice conversation.

It’s Monday. Monday’s are for people who don’t have jobs or don’t have class or don’t have any unhappiness in their lives.

It’s Monday and you dread the day ahead because your last class ends at 5:20 and you work at 6:00. Plaza Las Américas, "el centro de todo". Who wants to go to Plaza on a Monday? People who don’t have jobs, don’t have class, don’t have any unhappiness. You sit in the very same seat you sit on every Monday and Wednesday from 4:00 to 5:20, and you pretend you know what the professor is talking about even though you don’t. You left early the last class, because fuck it. You felt bad about it, even though the professor was nice about it because he tells you to have a good day when you leave at 5:00.

It’s Monday. You tap your foot on the ground impatiently because it’s already 5:25 and the professor hasn’t stopped talking. You have anxiety and you know you’ll have less time to slip into the uncomfortable uniform you have to wait tables with. You get off class and it’s raining, but you got a new jacket, so it’s not that bad. You drive to the 20-tip shift that awaits you. You tie your hair and you can already feel how the pizza smell is clinging onto the hairs of your skin. You say hi to the men in the kitchen, your supervisor does his usual round of pretend-anger that he’s stuck with you for another Monday, even though it’s been two months since you’ve been working that shift and you’re a fucking Godsend. You get a table quickly, and you look like shit because it’s Monday, and you have a job, and you had class all day, and you have much unhappiness in your life, and you don’t look that good in a ponytail.

Buenas, ¿cómo están?

Not many people answer that. They usually look surprised you have manners. This particular crowd watches you with wide tourist-me eyes and you know they’re gringos before they even open their little pink mouths.

—Hi.

You tell your brain to re-wire itself because you have to switch to English. It bothers you that your English fucks up when you have to perform with it.

—Hi, how are we doing today?

It doesn’t sound as good as “Buenas, ¿cómo están?” It bothers you that when you give them their food, you won’t be able to say buen provecho. You guide them through the menu and you try and tell your tongue not to get caught in the words, because you usually think in English but speak in Spanish, but now you have to speak in English and you’re thinking in Spanish. Your brain is a fuck. You don’t feel your usual bout of anxiety, because waiters don’t have the time to feel anxiety. You don’t register how their sky-blue eyes set against their paper-white faces widen slightly in surprise at your English, even if your Puerto Rican gets caught in the middle. If you could blush, you would when you forget appetizer is the English word for aperitivo.

They ask about beer and even though you have all kinds, they always go for the Medalla, because Puerto Rican experience. Medalla sucks. You serve them well, because you’re a good waiter and you like to please your customers, especially the gringos, because Puerto Rican experience. They divide the checks into two. The most gringa of them all pays with an American Express. Of course. When you bring the receipts back for their signatures, they stop you and tell you that the American Express gringa was wondering about your English, because you speak it so well. You smile, because you want to please the gringos. You don’t think about getting angry at the insinuation that their surprise means your English is supposed to be bad, because Puerto Rican experience. You tell them you’ve been learning English since first grade. You don’t tell them English is religiously taught side by side with Spanish in most schools on the island. You don’t tell them you graduated from a bilingual school and you’re studying literature in English at one, if not the best university on the island. You don’t tell them you’re a writer, a poet, a reader. You tell them, instead, that you’ve always watched a lot of TV and film in English, and they nod as they write your tip down on the receipt. They marvels at how impressive you are, you third-year college student waitress with pizza sauce splattered on your apron.

The sweat gathers on your brow as you wonder if the performance is done. You thank them, because they complimented you, because they’re impressed with you for being more than what they expected from a Puerto Rican waitress in a pizza restaurant. As you walk away with the 13-dollar tip clamped between your teeth, you wonder if you should keep tally of how many times this has happened to you. You’d take the cardboard back of your order slips and write: "Puerto Rican experience, IIII IIII".


Lista de imágenes:

1. Judy Onofrio, brooche
2. Judy Onofrio
3. Judy Onofrio, "Voyage"
3. Judy Onofrio, "Delicate Balance"

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