27 June 2011

Patio Time with the Landlords

So, our toilet is broken. Again.

The toilet is old and falling apart; its current failings are part of an inevitable string of problems that just come with age. Caitlin called the landlords a few days ago, and he said he'd just order a new one. Today at 4:00, Jose and Justa came to the gate, explaining that the men would be coming soon with a toilet.

Need I remind anyone that my Spanish is limited to present tense?

The toilet men were not there by 4:15, so Jose started weeding the flower bed, uprooting the massive spiky plant that has been dying and frying in the sun outside my window. I offered to help as he clipped dead roses and swept up the lavender, but he told me no, to sit, to study (I had been reading when they came)! Four thirty came and went, and Justa was glancing at her watch, saying that the toilet men were muy malos for not being there yet. I asked if they'd like some water to drink, if they'd like me to help with anything, but no, no, I just had to sit, and did I have a boyfriend, siblings, children? Justa showed me wallet photos of her grandchildren; Jose told me that my name was hard to say in Spanish, that I should go by "Pepita."

It was 4:50 when the toilet man came, looked into the bathroom, and said they'd have to buy a toilet, that they could bring it by in a day or two. Toilet man was gone as swiftly as he came, and there I was, standing in the bathroom, trying to understand Jose's instructions for the next few days, until the new toilet comes: Flush like this. Don't pour water into the bowl. (At this, Justa started laughing like that was the most foolish thing she'd ever heard. We'd been using a pitcher? To get the toilet to flush? It's for milk!)

By 5:00, they were on the way back out the gate, me offering my pathetic muchos gracias for all their help: for the weeding and the toilet-fixing and the generally being really nice as I explained that I had no idea what they were talking about. One hour, off and on. That is a record-breaking conversation in Spanish. And by the end, here's what I knew for certain: The toilet is coming eventually. Their granddaughter speaks perfect English and would really like our little dog. The day is very hot. It's okay to cut the lavender. Justa either is going to bring me a fan from Alcala or possibly just thinks I need a fan, or maybe she just thinks that her fan is worthy of admiration, or maybe she wants me to come shopping for fans with her. And, judging by the frequency of her laughter, I either bring her great amusement or great pity for all those poor Americans who can't speak in past tense.

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