Not too long ago I was complaining to my friend that today I didn’t seem to be able to speak proper English, nor proper Italian.
I went to the cinema, watched Blue Jasmine, by Woody Allen, and felt like today I was a bit blue too.
After kissing goodbye and waiting for my friend to hop on her tram, I headed to the metro. I got out, and walked to the tram stop.
After a quick look at the board, I walked to the benches and got ready to wait.
A homeless man said something to me. In Dutch, of course. I clearly didn’t get a word of what he said.
In broken Dutch I tried to explain that I didn’t understand what he just said. He repeated it.
Then, feeling bad for the man, I replied in English: “I am sorry, I don’t speak Dutch”.
To my surprise, the man looked at me, and said: “Y hablas Español?” (“And do you speak Spanish?” – Spanish)
“Sì”, I answered.
Two guys were standing next to us, and looked at the scene between idiotic laughs and the fear the man could do something.
Turns out that he didn’t ask for money, nor he bothered me, but he had just seen the frown on my face (due to the acknowledgement that I had to wait good 17 minutes for my tram), and he wanted to know if I was all right.
We got to talk. I learnt he was Portuguese, and he shared some bites of his life with me.
He asked me where I was from, and when I said I was from Italy, he got this semi-sad look, and told me another story.
Although he is Portuguese, in his entire life he had only been to Italy once, for three days, when he was forty-four. He went to Genova.
Then his tram came, he stood up, said bye, said that he had a nice chat with me, and thanked me for treating him like a “normal” person. I smiled at him, “fue un placer” (“my pleasure” – Spanish).
As he opened the door of the tram, he looked back at me and said: “Ahora tengo setenta y dos años, soy viejo! …pero tù no lo eres!” (“Now I am seventy-two years old, I am old! …but you’re not!” – Spanish).
“Obrigada” (“thank you” – Portuguese) I replied. He smiled, happily.
Maybe the only reason today I wasn’t able to speak proper English or proper Italian was just because I was simply destined to speak Spanish… with a sprinkle of Portuguese!