A relationship that meant a lot to me ceased to be yesterday morning, so I’m sad, reflective, and hoping with all of my being that there’s a minimum of pain on the other side. It’s a long weekend here in Colombia–a weekend that was supposed to be spent on a trip with many wonderful people–and I’ve suddenly found myself with a lot of time to fill. I feel like the first 24 hours and probably the first days thereafter must surely set the tone for what a post-breakup will look like, and I know that this one will not look like my last one. I’ve grown far too much since then to let my life be upended or brought to a standstill by the exit of one person (not a totally fair description; I called it off both times). It was a unique relationship for me, though, with a lot of firsts (and perhaps lasts, or onlys), and I’ll mourn it in a way that gives it its due. As in, short, succinct, with self-respect, and in a way that honors the brief but beautiful relationship–no undignified wallowing in self-pity, doubt, nostalgia, or guilt.
So, how to close the cycle before I let a new, beautiful one begin? Before saying goodbye, many want one last something. You sleep together one last time, exchange one last kiss, a goodbye hug, maybe a meal, a letter, a mutual blessing and expression of gratitude for the time that was shared. Obviously, I’m talking about amicable partings where you still care about each other. I didn’t get any of that; it was a heartrending adiós and then they left, forever. I suppose it was too painful to draw it out and encumber ourselves with any of the other formalities. Just like I did three years ago, I want to write one last blog post. And I want to write it about the words I took from that last night of conversation at his house–conversation with him and his parents. The last words he’ll unconsciously teach me, words that, like so many things, will always linger. I didn’t write any of them down, but I made mental notes and was able to recall most of them later on. I don’t remember the context of most of them. I already knew all of these terms except engramparse and plátano hartón, but they’re not words that are a part of my active vocabulary. Either I’m not familiar enough with them and their usage to use them regularly, or I’d read them but wasn’t sure if people used them in casual conversation. Words have always been my most cherished gift anyway, so in lieu of any received letter or note I’ll see myself out with these phrases and hereby close this sweet chapter.
1. Se engrampa – Engrampar apparently means to staple in Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, and a few other regions (with grampa instead of grapa for staple), but the word has a different meaning in Colombia. The best I can make out is something like to find yourself burdened with some undesirable object, location, or company. In a word, stuck. Or stuck in traffic. Ha, stapled in traffic. Readers?
2. En la quinta porra - This means in the middle of nowhere, in the boondocks/boonies, out in the sticks, in bum****. (Sorry, I self-censor for all moms and grandmothers out there.) A place that’s perceived as far away from the speaker and inconvenient to reach. Porra loosely translates as hell (mandar a alguien a la [quinta] porra is to tell them to go to hell), but this particular phrase isn’t offensive. This is the local variation of the traditional Spanish phrase en el quinto pino, and endless variations exist all over the Spanish-speaking world: en el quinto infierno, en los quintos infiernos, en el quinto carajo, en el quinto coño, en la quinta puñeta, en la quinta chingada, en la quinta hostia. Some of which are definitely not for polite company. Nobody really seems to know why quinto (fifth) is used this way, but it’s emphatic.
3. Ni por el chiras – no way, not a chance. El chiras is probably a name for the devil in Colombia–I actually learned this from a blog reader, edf, a while back. Other Colombian forms (of varying vulgarness) include ni por el berraco, ni por el forro, ni de fundas, ni de vainas, and ni por el putas (ni puel putas). It’s not gonna happen.
4. Cerciorarse de algo – to make sure of something, to assure yourself of something, to ensure, to check. It’s a fancier way of saying asegurarse de algo, but it’s a good word to know and definitely pops up in conversations. Universal.
5. ¡Rebulla, rebulla! – from rebullir, which means to stir a drink (to dissolve the sugar or mix in the milk) in Colombia.
6. Jincho/a - drunk, plastered, wasted in Colombia.
7. Bonachón, bonachona – good-natured, jolly. I always remember that the book The BFG by Roald Dahl (The Big Friendly Giant) was translated as El gran gigante bonachón in Spanish. Sometimes it can also have the negative connotation of someone who’s goofy or dopey. Like someone who always has a big dopey grin on their face and never has a clue. Or, they’re naïve and easily get taken in because they just can’t imagine the possibility of malice in others. The word is an augmentative of bueno, and it’s universal.
8. Se erizó – from erizarse, which is when you bristle and all your hairs stand on end, or, if you’re a dog, your ears prick up and you sit at attention, right before launching into a tireless tirade of barks. The dog in question is named Luna, and, oh! How I’m going to miss her. A hedgehog is called an erizo, and this must be because their quills are always standing on end. Similar to this word from a blog post of yore, both being used everywhere.
9. Un no tajante – an emphatic “no,” rejecting something out of hand, a categorical “no.” Tajar means to cut, slice, or chop. You give your “read my lips, I said N-O” and make a clean slice, a clean break.
10. Con eso me limpio el . . . – this is an example of ellipsis, when a word isn’t provided but the listener is assumed to be able to fill in the blank. That blank would be “culo.” So, the complete phrase is con eso me limpio el culo. I wipe my ass with that, literally, or this is as worthless as toilet paper for me, but probably best translated as something like, um . . . I can’t think of a good equivalent phrase. Maybe you couldn’t tell from this blog, but I rarely use profanity. Basically, you’re expressing your disdain and disgust for something. I don’t know, maybe, what a worthless bunch of crap, or, what a load of bull. We might even have a phrase just like this in English, but I wouldn’t know. The person who used this phrase was just quoting someone else, a mom who was jokingly expressing her contempt for her kids’ reports cards that showed various failed subjects.
11. Plátano hartón – a kind of plantain. A titillating discussion began on the names of the different kinds of bananas and plantains after a bowl of dreary, gray, sludge-like plantain soup that I foisted on my partner at the time. I tuned out because I don’t currently care about adding more nuances to my banana/plantain repertoire, but somehow this one reached me in my indifference. You can also just say hartón.
12. Croquis - a police sketch. I’d read the word in newspapers, but this was the first time I’d heard it in real life. The person was saying that after being hit by a hit-and-run driver, he was unable to give the license plate number or a facial composite of the driver to police because it all happened so fast. Isn’t this word cool? It makes me think of croquet and Iroquois. It’s also used for a general diagram, outline, or sketch. In some places, it’s used for an informal, imprecise map that you might draw on the back of an envelope for a friend. Apparently, the word also exists in English (coming from French): a quick and sketch-like drawing of a live model, or a quick figure sketch in fashion design.
13. De sopetón - all at once, suddenly, unexpectedly, just like that. A sopetón can also be a punch. So, the adverbial phrase conveys the shock and suddenness of a sucker punch.
Not to worry; I won’t be breaking up with Colombian Spanish this time or any such nonsense. Nor are a bunch of despecho posts in the works. I’m sad, but not devastated. Life goes on; Vocabat, of course, will go on. I’ll keep speaking better and living better, one word and relationship at a time. I’m grateful, so grateful, for this and every other person who passes through my life, albeit briefly. And I wish both of us the very, very best.