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  • Thursday was Angie's birthday. It was also the day we needed to go downtown for a rather early appointment in the student visa application process. On top of this, we would each be giving our first-ever presentations in Spanish class that day, a rather intimidating event for which to prepare.

    Angie had gotten very little sleep the night before; I had gotten none. Stumbling into the kitchen at 6:45 in the morning to find a huge bouquet of flowers and a birthday cake before our tired eyes, then, was a lot to process. Matilde stood glowing with pride, looking remarkably well-rested despite her dislike for early mornings, and cheerfully greeted Angie with "¡Feliz Cumple!" and a kiss on the cheek.

    Fishing some matches out of the drawer, she lit the single red candle on the cake and stood singing "Happy Birthday" to Angie first in Castellano and then again in English. I offered what I could in both languages, but definitely struggled to make it through either. Both songs finished, Matilde carefully sliced the cake and gave a sort of grand wave toward the table telling us to start breakfast. Then she turned and headed to the kitchen sink to wash a few dishes.

    The candle still burning in the center of the plate, Angie looked at me both very happy and confused. "Do I get to blow it out now?"

    "I don't know, I guess so," I said, feeling genuinely conflicted myself.

    Both of us looked over to Matilde in the kitchen, willing some sort of response from her as she stood, back turned to us. It was clear that we were on our own with this one. "Just go for it," I said. Shrugging, Angie leaned and blew out the candle quietly. We both turned to our now very familiar plates of mini tostadas in relief, finally ready to just eat breakfast like any other morning.

    Moments later, however, Matilde turned at last to face us again, and noticing the extinguished candle, immediately threw up her arms in frustration. Shaking her head and pointing to the ceiling fan, she turned once more to the kitchen to search for the matches. Now certain we'd guessed wrong even with such generous one in two odds, Angie and I were completely dismayed. Collectively, we uttered some bizarre combination of unintelligible sounds, attempting to explain what had happened. "Lo siento ... No se ... En los estados unidos ... ¿Come se dice ..." all almost certainly slipped out.

    Thankfully, our faces must have said everything necessary; Matilde smiled in recognition and replaced the match she had poised to strike. Laughing, Angie turned to me. "Well, want some cake?"
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