Love and Translation

February 10, 2009

“Te amo,” he said, I love you, his eyes bright, glistening, nervous, looking straight into mine, “mi amor,” my love.
“Verdad?” Truly? I responded. “Si, si,” he insisted, and blushed, and laughed.
“Es muy fuerte,” I said, it’s very strong. Amor. Love.
“Si, si, escribelo,” yes, yes, write it.
“Okay,” I said, and turned back to the keyboard and resumed typing.

He had met a beautiful gringa in Morrisville; actually, verdad, every gringa he had met was beautiful, bonita. But this one he had danced with, laughed with, and now I was helping him make a Facebook page, create a Gmail account, and find her, in the confused, multi-noded net of the Web, the world-wide web narrowed to one pulsing axis, Nicaragua to Vermont, Vermont to Nicaragua, beating with music and dance, with youth, energy, and beauty, with the allure and magic of the other, the new, the foreign, that is now holding your hands and hips and dancing you across a high school gym floor in Morrisville, in Montpelier, at U32, in Henneker.

He was in love and I was translating. Would this email find her? Would she write back? Return his amor?

The email (correo, related to ‘correspondence’?) flew out into the night and then we returned to Facebook and his search for ‘Friends’. Facebook is all about Friends, Amigos, searching for them, finding them, confirming, and adding. So-and-so wishes to be your friend; will you confirm? Friends of Friends, Friends in Common, People you may Already Know. Why, just the other day my own wife accepted my offer of Friendship. It should have been a no-brainer, but I was still relieved.

Our Nicaraguan guest is 18 years old, from deep in the campo, the countryside, a good place for camping, a campesino, a countryman, living a full and demanding life in a small casa, house, with a large family, working four hours a day teaching literacy to adultos, adults, walking two hours a day back and forth to high school,  and working for Planting Hope, the organization which central Vermont’s own Beth Merrill created in 2001. He is here with eleven compañeros, companions, (com-pany, someone who eats bread, pan, with you, ‘with-bread’, ‘bread-with’) dancers, ambassadors, bringers of Nicaraguan cultura, both folk and pop, for four weeks in January, in a deep cold spell. He is our house guest, staying in our very large casa, with our small family and multiple cars.

Four years ago Jaimen, my son, and I had gone ‘down’ to Nicaragua with Beth’s first big delegation of Vermonters and gringos for a ten day visit. If I hadn’t been a gray-haired 47 and married I would have been just as taken with the Nicaraguan mujeres, women, as our own guest was now with Vermont girls — verdad, I was, taken with, by, all of them, and the heat and music, the dancing, the food, and the beautiful, bonita, people, the friendly, friendly, amistoso pueblo.

Since then muchos grupos, many groups, of northerners have gone south to Central America and now, finally, a grupo of Nicaragüeñses has come here.

It took two days for the cherished one in Morrisville to respond, but respond she did, and once again I was called upon to translate —  to carry across, to transfer, to move the words from one world to another, English to Spanish. And the word I had to carry? That terrible wonderful word that cuts both ways — friend.  “Good friends,” she wrote, but only friends. “Amiga,” I said to him. “Amiga,” he repeated blankly. “Amiga, no amor.”
“Ah, si, entiendo.” I understand. He looked hurt for a moment and then smiled, “amiga, si”  then allowed as how it would be better to find a novia,  girlfriend, back home in Nicaragua. Verdad.

Amiga, amigo, amor… the funny thing is that they share the same root, the Latin amare, love. At its root amigo  means love, so also the English ‘amiable,’ ‘amicable,’ some scholars trace amare  to amma back to mama, to the sounds of the suckling babe finding and naming its first love, its momma. Friends, lovers, and mothers, one in origin, in etymon, in essence? And ‘friend’ itself, a different word, from a Germanic root, but one with the same loving meaning– frijaz — “dear, beloved,” Frigg, goddess of love, Friday, goddess-of-love-day, a root that also branched into ‘free’. Free and friend and Frigg — same root. To be free is to love and be loved. Love frees. If you love someone set them free. Or dance with them, listen to them, visit them, learn their language, tickle their tongue, translate your self, carry yourself into new places, new rhythms, new friends and loves. Love your mother, your child and lover, and be a friend, to the stranger and your neighbor.

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One Response to “Love and Translation”

  1. fahbz Says:

    Anytime I see Dan Wetmores name I am prepared for some AMAZING. He doesn’t disappoint, never. LOVED this piece, a lot too! In Valentine mode anyway…adds to it! So while it is indeed hearts and flower time I am not all flowery because of the holiday. Dan, you are a gifted writer and you gift me and others by sharing this!!! Thrilled that you are writing, sharing, giving. Yes, prepared for amazing each and every time. Thank you.


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