Written by Christina Schwarz
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All Is Vanity, 2002
Our high school offered Spanish and French, but Margaret petitioned the language department for permission to take Latin at Occidental College in Eagle Rock.
"It’s the root of all Romance languages," she said, trying to convince me to go with her. "Once you know Latin, you’ll pick up Spanish like that." She snapped her fingers. "Not to mention French and Italian."
I understood. It would be dull and sometimes even a little frightening to take the RTD to Occidental all by herself three days a week. But I wanted to learn Spanish. It was the language not of clean and cozy Glendale, but of the real city, Los Angeles. I may have had vague notions of social work. Mostly, though, I was attracted to Spanish because its speakers seemed to occupy a mysterious and, therefore, romantic world behind an invisible but nevertheless impenetrable curtain. When Lottie and I went downtown with my father, who wore a white shirt and a charcoal gray suit and did something incomprehensible behind a desk in a high-rise under buzzing fluorescent lights, we would loiter in the Central Market with five dollars in a little leather box that folded into a flat square. Instead of my prosaic existence, I wanted the life of the girl with the black hair who swayed to the music of the bright horns as she filled paper cups with horchata at her father’s stand. She slipped before the curtain as easily as she made change and then ducked behind it again, turning to the woman I assumed was her mother with a laughing comment in her rapid, rolling tongue. Unlike Margaret, I had no interest in the words of the past. I wanted the words of the future. Also, Spanish was supposed to be easy.
© 2002 Christina Schwarz; New York: Ballantine Book