She Got It Right

By Christina Bennett

english spanish


“Will I ever get it right?” Trish thought for the thousandth time.

The young receptionist frowned in concentration, her brows creasing. “Cómo?” she asked. She was trying hard to understand.

Trish berated herself silently, “I am so stupid. What is wrong with me?” All this self-blame flustered her and made it even harder for her to find her words.

Tiene,” she started and then, frustrated with herself, said “Tengo. Tengo que mirar doctora Elena pronto. Es muy importante.” Trish thought about her pain and knew she had to see the doctor soon.

The lady understood her now, but of course Trish struggled to understand the response. Was she telling her that the doctor was coming in at ten or that the doctor was leaving at ten? And there was something about 3 o’clock. Could she see the doctor at ten or three or not at all today? The receptionist seemed to be dismissing her, but Trish was uncertain about the outcome.

Disculpe,” she said. She said ‘disculpe’ often. She had that one down. Excuse me, excuse my inability to speak your language, excuse my stupidity, excuse my awkwardness, excuse all my failings.

Por favor, digame otra vez,” she pleaded. The lady was patient. Though Trish was grateful for that, it made her feel even less competent. She’d been studying Spanish for so long and she still couldn’t conduct a simple conversation at the doctor’s office. Luckily, Doctor Elena herself spoke English.

The receptionist spoke slowly and Trish understood that the doctor would come in at ten but she had appointments all day. Trish could come back about three and “ojalá” the doctor might be able to see her.

To be sure, Trish asked, “Regreso a las tres, sí?” With her pain, that seemed like a long time.

Sí, sí.” The receptionist looked past Trish to the patient waiting behind her, signaling that the conversation was over.

Trish turned to leave and a large woman in a bright floral dress stepped up to the desk to take her turn. She carried a neon blue purse the size of a carry-on suitcase. She clunked it onto the desk and said loudly, “I am here to see Doctor Mario!”

Su nombre?” the receptionist asked.

“Doctor Mario!” The lady shouted back. “I said Doctor Mario!”

The receptionist took a deep breath, “,” she said slowly. “Y SU nombre?”

The floral dress lady’s face started to turn red. She spoke very slowly and loudly. “I told you. Doctor Mario.”

Trish tapped the lady’s arm. “She’s asking for YOUR name,” she said to Floral Dress.

Floral Dress looked taken aback, as if Trish had offended her. She seemed even more agitated. “Well, why didn’t she say so?” She shook her head and looked at the receptionist. “Lorraine,” she said. “Lorraine Carter.”

Gracias, Señora Carter. Un momento,” the receptionist said, and motioned for her to take a seat. Floral Dress dragged her giant bag off the desk and lumbered toward the chairs.

The receptionist caught Trish’s eye and gave her a smile. Trish smiled and turned to leave. Her mind was still berating her for not speaking Spanish well but now it was also running a commentary about how awful Floral Dress had been. What is wrong with people, she thought?

Señora?” she heard the receptionist say quietly. Trish turned back and moved closer to the desk. “Si Usted puede esperar, pienso que Doctora Elena puede verle.”

Disculpe,” Trish said, as usual, and asked the receptionist to repeat.

The receptionist smiled, motioned to the chairs and repeated her sentence. Trish wouldn’t have to wait until three after all.

(Christina Bennett is happy to be living Lakeside and her writing can be found at


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