English as a Second Language

by Mark C. Wallfisch

With wavy black hair, a neatly trimmed beardstache, and light brown skin common in his native Catalonia, Tomas talked with me at a stuffy reception with animated, if not perfect, English. I couldn’t resist asking him out on the spot. Actually, I could have resisted, but would have kicked myself if I had. He said yes, and we made a date for the following week.

The next several days were busy at my law firm, punctuated by a very polite but careless driver’s ramming her car into mine, which the insurance company totaled. Being chummy with the owner of a body shop that I refer my clients to, I arranged with him to use the insurance proceeds to repair my car instead of sending it to salvage. It had been in good condition before the wreck; I didn’t need a new car.

At the appointed time later that week, I picked up Tomas in an unimpressive loaner from the body shop. Assuming, correctly, that my law practice was lucrative, Tomas expressed surprise at the “unelegante” car. I elaborately told him the story of the wreck and the body shop. Tomas asked why I didn’t just buy a new car.

I told him, “Because I’m frugal.”

He quizzically replied, “Frugal? What is that?”

Flipping through my mental thesaurus, I flooded him with all the synonyms I could think of. “Thrifty, not wasteful, careful with money, economical, uh . . .”

Grinning, Tomas interrupted the deluge. “Oh, you’re cheap!”

His English wasn’t so bad after all.

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