Spanish cropped up in their discourse in a very predictable way. Their relationship was established in English — her first language, his second — and Spanish tended to couch the more intimate sentiments. For her, it created distance — both from the topic and from him — when they traipsed into territory that was rife with vulnerability, con dudas.
—Pues ¿por qué crees que te sientes así?
Spanish, in case asking directly about his emotions was too big a threat to his masculinidad, to the machismo of his culture. Spanish to distance herself from a fair question, but one that asked for vulnerability from a new partner who maybe wasn’t ready to give it. Spanish, porque tenía miedo.
She used code-switching as a buffer, a way to protect herself when she took a tentative step into the thick haze that was an infinity of potential futures for them.
It was different for him.
—Te escondes con mi idioma.
He didn’t fear that haze. The lack of clarity was something he simply accepted as inevitable, even beautiful in its incertidumbre. His Spanish was meant to pierce it boldly, shoot it through with light — aunque efímera — so they could both see, at least for a second. See each other.
The contexts overlapped almost perfectly. If you didn’t know them — as individuals, as partners — you might think the role Spanish played for each of them was identical. You had to have a much more personal perspective to see that what allowed her to hide was what most allowed him to show.
From the author: “What spoke to me most about the photo was the haziness of the image and the reflections. I linked the lack of visual clarity in the photo to the uncertainty of the future shared by the two characters, which they approach in different ways. The idea that a reflection appears identical to the source it reflects without actually being the same is connected to the fact that the characters use Spanish in the same contexts but with very different intentions.”