Mia: Shaken Not Stirred

The true life stories of a NYC female.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I’ve Got Some Real Good Second-person Singular Pronouns For Sale

“The patient can’t be seen here he doesn’t speak a word of English and none of the social workers speak Spanish.” My sensei informed the substance abuse counselor at our weekly staff meeting. “I’ve been saying this all along we need to refer him somewhere else. We’ve wasted valuable treatment time here.”

There was no mistaking that when the counselor said “we” he actually meant “you”.
My sensei didn’t take kindly to that. He ordered the new counselor to write a letter in Spanish no less to the client referring him to another treatment center. The counselor glared at my sensei, “I don’t know any Spanish. No one here knows Spanish.” He muttered. “Just do it.” My sensei replied.

When the meeting was over we all spilled out into the hallway. The counselor was fuming.
I had to do something for him because he's a good guy. He's the type of therapist I aspire to be. I had to do something because time was of the essence for the client seeking treatment. He'd hit rock bottom.

I cleared my throat to get the counselor's attention and motioned him to follow me to the other end of the “L” shaped hallway where it was dark and we were certain to be alone.

“What’s up?” he asked.
I glanced around making sure no one was within ear shot. I didn’t want us to be over heard.

“I can help you with the letter. Write down what you want to say and I can translate it into Spanish for you.” I whispered.

His eyes opened wide, “You speak Spanish?!”

“Shhh keep it down. I don’t want,” I jerked my head in the direction of the program director,
her to know.” I whispered.

“Oh my god”, he whispered back, “you speak Spanish?”

The level of astonishment in his voice made me smile.

“I read it and write it too.”

His eyes were about to pop out of his head.

“You’re bi-lingual!” He said with a huge grin on his face.

He made it sound as if it was something exotic. Hiding in the shadows of the hallway and whispering made me feel anything but exotic, I felt down right criminal.


My eyes darted nervously around the corridor.

“Uh yeah I am. Don’t tell anybody. ”

He gave me a look of pure reverence. I swore he was going to go down on a knee and kiss my ring.

“Shit you’re like gold in this place. Why are you keeping it a secret?”

Several months ago the director rounded up all of the interns with Spanish surnames like cattle and locked them away in the in-take office. The majority of the interns protested that they weren’t fully bilingual they couldn’t read or write it but she didn’t care. If you could string more than 5 sentences in Spanish it was good enough for her. When she approached me my fight or flight instinct kicked in. I had a feeling she was up to something so I fibbed, I said I didn’t speak a word of Spanish.

Look I know it wasn’t right but c’mon I haven’t busted my butt in school for all these years just to sit in a poorly lit office filling out paper work because no one had the foresight to hire bilingual staff to work that department. It seems I made the right choice when I fibbed, the interns with the Spanish surnames haven’t been seen since. Oh sure occasionally one will wander out of the in-take office in search of a signature shielding their eyes with paper cut scarred hands but as of yet not one of them has worked with an actual patient.

“Seriously why are you keeping it a secret?” he asked again.

I arched an eyebrow at him. He looked over to where my sensei and the director stood talking.

“Do you see any other Hispanic intern at this staff meeting; heck do you see any them at any staff meeting? For that matter how many are actually treating patients? ”

His mouth formed a perfect “O”. I watched as his thoughts flittered across his face. Finally it dawned on him.

“Oh shit they’re all doing in-take.”

I slowly nodded my head and smiled.

“It’ll be our secret.” he said. " I promise I won't tell you're bi-lingual."

"Thank you."

We stopped talking when one of the interns walked past us.

"I'll be in touch." he whispered.

I nodded and left him standing alone as I walked away from him and deeper into the shadows of the hallway. Our transaction was done. I felt like a drug dealer. Pssttt oye, mira tu I’ve got some real good second-person singular pronouns for sale.

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