Love in the Present Tense

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y Spanish is limited to seven days of Spanish School in Antigua, Guatemala and my novio Mateo’s English, a lifetime of American movies, so, needless to say, we don’t talk very much. Which isn’t a bad thing. Like David Sedaris has said of being an Anglophone living in Paris, when you don’t speak the local language, you might as well assume that whenever anyone says anything to you its always something smart and interesting — advice, which, I have to say, lends itself well to a barely billingual romance.

I talk to Mateo as if he is a character in my Spanish primer (“You, your father is being a baker?”) and he does the same (“You, you are staying in Antigua long?”), both of us watching the other in awe whenever we run into friends who speak our respective native tongues. “Tell him this can never work until I at least learn another verb tense,” I tell his best friend Juan, who learned English on a high school trip to Amsterdam. But Mateo laughs off what I say before Juan can even translate and then looks me straight in the eyes to say, “Love is always a little bit more perfect when you only have the present tense.”