Pero v. Perro: The Carnival Edition
This is a story about a guy.
A 6 ft tall, six-packed Panamanian guy.
I met this guy during my first week in Panama. I was talking to a friend on the outside deck of at Iguana's Surf Bar, letting the sweat from dancing all night evaporate in the cool night's breeze. He finally walked over to me after I'd been pretending not to notice him all night and flashed me the kind of smile that dazzled you into grinning giddily. And that was that. For the rest of the night and the next day, no one else existed on this little island called Bocas except the two of us.
Mr. 6 ft and 6 Packs left Bocas for Panama City two days later with a promise to return for Carnival in February. In the meantime, every few days, he would ask me to come to Panama City for the weekend. Initially, I dismissed the idea, tired of traveling for the moment. However, after a conversation one night, his accent lulled me into acquiescing. When we got off the phone, I text him a date after Carnival and asked if it worked for him.
He never responded.
Nunca. Never. Nada.
Two weeks later, Carnival festivities are well underway here. As I ride my bike around town, the boys are sporting the freshest tapes, designs neatly cut into their hair. Women sit on their porches getting their hair pressed just to dodge the water cannon in the street. Young men get together to put the final touches on their diablo costumes, practicing swinging their whips at unsuspecting passersby. Music and laughter spill from every corner as I feel myself get swept up in the festivities. The sound of drumming takes over the streets.
That night, I'm on the dance floor only half listening as an Argentinian leans over to tell me how beautiful he thinks I am when Mr. 6 ft and 6 Packs saunters through the crowd and walks right up to me like an apparition. Completely ignoring the Argentine, he flashes me his most dazzling smiles and casually asks how I'm doing. I look up at him for a moment and a range of emotions immediately wash over me. Finally, I settled on anger.
I punched him in the chest.
It was instinctive.
It wasn't a hard punch at all given that my knuckles barely grazed his rock hard abs before losing their will to fight, but he winced in surprise nonetheless. I walk away without a word, leaving both he and the Argentine standing together, befuddled, both calling me to come back. He tried to follow me, but I turned and shot him a look so filled with malice that he slinked back into the crowd.
My friend and I make our way back into the streets where rows of stands were selling food and drinks to revelers. For some reason, each and every stand is also equipped with their own DJ, sound system, and someone's aunt wining to the music with a can of Balboa beer in hand. The cacophony of noise makes the scene even more chaotic as people travel from one stand to the next, drinking, eating, grinding, and laughing. We venture into the roped off area in the street where a DJ is mixing soca, kompa, dancehall, and reggaeton, getting the crowd hyped. For the moment, I forget about him and join in the dancing as track after track keeps us on our feet.
When we eventually make our way back to the club, I notice Mr. 6 ft and 6 Packs outside, leaning over to kiss one of the bartenders, a blonde expat. Yes, you read that correctly.
They say the best way to learn a language is to date a native speaker. I would like to amend this to say that the best way to learn Spanish is to find yourself in an impassioned argument with a native speaker (animated arm gestures are required). As the night progressed, I was finally ready to talk and Mr. 6 ft and 6 Packs followed me warily to the outside deck of the club.
Curious to see where this conversation was going to go, I didn't mention to him that I'd seen him with the bartender earlier. He was, however, prepared this time with a litany of excuses as to why he hadn't told me he was in town. Fortunately, I'd just learned how to conjugate verbs in the past tense in Spanish two weeks before (shout out to Habla Ya for the important life skills). I asked him pointedly, "Why would you ask me to come to Panama City and then not respond when I try to confirm a date with you?" He looks around nervously before saying, "I didn't know how to tell you that me and my girlfriend got back together...".
I couldn't even feign shock. "When did this happen,"I asked flatly.
"Like 4 months ago...November."
Say what?! Luckily, I'd also learned to speak in the imperfect tense in Spanish, "We were speaking 2 weeks ago when you asked me again to come see you! Why didn't you tell me then that you had a girlfriend instead of ignoring my text?"
"I just didn't want to see you hurt or angry. Are you angry at me now?! See, this is what I didn't want..."
"You do understand why I'm angry, right? You just told me you had a girlfriend this entire time... Where is she?"
He tries his best to side-step the question, "She's here...in Bocas." As if a light suddenly goes off in his head, he then finds it prudent to add, "She's not really my girlfriend. It's complicated. She wants to work it out, and I said ok, but I don't know...I like talking to you, too. " And, for good measure, he throws in, "You're so pretty." He then looks down at his hands, visibly distraught by his own confession, "Don't be mad at me. I don't want to fight with you."
Unmoved, I ask again, "...She's here but you kept asking me to come to Panama City...Why?!"
"It's complicated, ok? She's just kind of my girlfriend...I don't really know. I'm sorry. Baby, why don't you just come to Panama City next weekend? It would be just the two of us."
I recently learned that in Spanish, there also exists a tense for requests and polite commands, the conditional tense. Please note that the following response is not the proper use of that tense. Instead it is the colloquial American English tense commonly used in the South to invoke the outright rejection of absurd slights and provocations, "Did you just ask me to come to Panama City again?! Are you serious right now?! I wish you would!"
I actually laughed out loud then. I threw my head back and laughed at the absurdity of this entire conversation and the sincerity in which he'd extended this invitation as if he'd long forgotten the girlfriend* he'd admitted to having only a few minutes before. When he saw me laugh, he relaxed a bit and grinned, thinking that he had now eased his way out of his own mess. I stopped laughing and glared at him. His grin disappeared.
"Tu eres un pero," I said.
No," he chuckled at my pronunciation, "There are 2 "R's". You meant, 'tu eres un perro.'"
Again, the look on my face forces him to stop smiling immediately and revert back to his most pleading expression, "But, baby, listen..."
In a moment of clarity, I turned around then and simply walked away, back to the dance floor and the awaiting Argentinian.
Later on that night, I received an "I want to see you" text from Mr. 6 ft and 6 Packs. BLOCKED.
*He seemed to forget about this "girlfriend" frequently during Carnival weekend, making sure I saw him with a different woman every night.