Andrea Routley is the editor of Walk Myself Home: An Anthology to End Violence Against Women (Caitlin Press, 2010), and the editor and founder of Plenitude Magazine, Canada’s queer literary magazine. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as The Malahat Review and Room, and in 2008, she was shortlisted for the Rona Murray Prize for Literature. She plays piano, accordion and sings with Born in Cities, a Vancouver Island Music Award nominated roots duo. She lives in Victoria with her partner/bandmate and their ferocious cat Travis.
Learning another language is when you go to classes at a place called a cultural centre or a cultural institute, but in that other language, like “centro” or “instituto,” like in Peru, and you sit at a desk in a classroom with no glass in the windows because it never gets cold enough, and white paint on stucco walls and tile floors that look sweaty in the afternoon, and there are other people in your class, but in this class—maybe because it’s the sweaty afternoon—there is only one other classmate and he is from Denmark and when he speaks Spanish it sounds bouncy and relaxed, not like you because you are always trying to be so precise, because you are competitive and in need of praise all the time because you are so fundamentally insecure. The instructor has longish curly black hair and a vest over his button shirt because he is used to the heat, perhaps, or perhaps there is a dress code at the school, you don’t know, and you don’t ask about that, because maybe you don’t care, or maybe you think it would be rude, because asking the teacher why he wears a vest implies it is an odd thing that needs an explanation, or if it is an odd thing, even in Peru, perhaps he has something to hide, something physical like pectorals that look like breasts and he won’t want to be asked about it. The teacher thinks up topics for his class of two people to debate. You will need to disagree to have a reason to talk. Are we for or against gay marriage, he asks, but not like that, in Spanish, and says something about homosexuales. You feel annoyed, and also dread and ready-to-fight because you are a lesbian, a tortillera a Chilean acquaintance once chided you (not only Chilean, but also sassy, also fag, also German grandparents), and tortillera means a woman who makes tortillas but also a dyke, in some places, and his Mexican friend who you are having coffee with blushes when he says this, not from embarrassment, but horror, because she is a dyke, and she doesn’t think that you are and the Chilean’s comment maybe implies that she told him that you were, which she probably thinks would make you uneasy because she is a refugee-claimant because she was beat up by police in Mexico City and ended up in the hospital and was afraid for her life.
But the man from Denmark only shrugs, laces his fingers behind his head, and says, “Está bien, ja” because this is not a controversial thing in Denmark, and now the instructor must turn to back-up topics.
"The Brain, within its Groove Runs evenly -- and true -- But let a Splinter swerve --" Emily Dickinson
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