Episode 2: Sin miedo

When Belén Fernández Llanos turned 28, she decided to move from Chile to Argentina with her boyfriend of ten years to start a new life together. Belén was ready for an adventure… But the one that awaited her in Buenos Aires would turn out very differently than what she had imagined.

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Transcript

Martina Castro: When Belén Fernández Llanos turned 28, she was preparing for a big change in her life. She and her boyfriend of ten years, whom we’ll call Martín, were planning to go on an adventure.

Belén Fernandez Llanos: Éramos dos jóvenes chilenos, enamorados, profesionales. Queríamos estudiar, aprender y vivir un tiempo en un país diferente.

Martina: So Belén and Martín decided they would move from Chile to Argentina, where they would study, save up money, and travel. Martín got to Buenos Aires two months before Belén, to get settled. Belén was so excited, but the adventures that awaited her would be nothing like what she had imagined. Welcome to the Duolingo Spanish Podcast, where we bring you bilingual stories of travels with unexpected turns, plans unraveled, and destinations unknown. The Spanish in this story is for intermediate level learners, but if you get lost, don’t worry, we will be chiming in throughout the story. We join Belén’s journey on her birthday — June first, 2014.

Belén: Antes de ir a Buenos Aires, mi familia organizó una fiesta de cumpleaños. El día de la fiesta, en la casa había muchos niños, familia, música y comidas. Celebramos el viaje y la nueva vida que iba a empezar en Buenos Aires.

Martina: As she blew out the candles on her birthday cake, instead of fortune, or long-lasting love, Belén asked for something else:

Belén: Sin miedo.

Martina: No fear, in other words, fearlessness. She wished for that as she embarked on this new phase of life because for some reason that she couldn’t understand, Belén was afraid. Once she arrived in Buenos Aires, Belén went directly to the apartment she and Martín had picked out online. But in person, it didn’t look at all like it did in the photos.

Belén: Cuando llegamos al apartamento, nos dimos cuenta de que el lugar era pequeño, horrible. Solo había espacio para una mesa, un armario para guardar la ropa y una cama. Las sábanas eran viejas y sucias. La cocina estaba llena de grasa, y había cucarachas detrás del horno.

Martina: Yes… cockroaches behind the oven. And the bathroom wasn’t much better. Under the sink, there was a leak that every now and then would leave a huge puddle that covered the floor. As if this wasn’t enough, the furnace barely heated their living space.

Belén: El viento entraba por las ventanas y dormíamos con frío. El invierno estaba cerca. El peor invierno de nuestras vidas.

Martina: The worst winter of their lives. It was coming. But not yet. That night, Belén and Martín enjoyed a nice dinner for her birthday in their new home, and he gave her a special gift.

Belén: Para mi cumpleaños, Martín me compró un libro. La historia era de una mujer de Buenos Aires que tenía un blog online, y escribía sobre su vida y su familia. Yo pasé mis primeros días en Buenos Aires leyendo el libro todo el tiempo — en el desayuno, por la tarde y antes de dormir.

Martina: Belén spent her days and nights reading the book Martín had given her. She immersed herself in that world, almost as if to escape the one she was in with Martín.

Belén: Leía el libro todo el día para no aceptar la verdad — Martín y yo no estábamos bien.

Martina: This became obvious to Belén when she got to a certain section of the book. The main character, a woman in her fifties, had been married for almost 30 years.

Belén: En un momento, su hijo mayor le hace una pregunta:

Martina: In the book, the son asks his mom, “Do you still love dad?” And the mother doesn’t know how to respond. She thinks to herself, “how do you tell a twenty-something kid that one day you’re going to wake up with someone who doesn’t desire you anymore, but you’ll still feel like you’re nothing without him?”

Belén: Esa fue la única página que marqué y después lloré. Lloré y me sentí de cincuenta años porque para mí el amor era un poco eso.

Martina: Belén cried because she could sympathize with the character and her relationship.

Belén: Estuve con Martín por casi diez años. En ese tiempo, para mí el amor fueron las noches cuando Martín me decía dormido “te quiero, corazón.” Eran las cosas simples, de todos los días, las cosas que hacíamos juntos. Para mí, eso era suficiente.

Martina: But soon, Belén would find out that what had been enough for her, had not been enough for Martín.

Belén: Después de quince días en Buenos Aires, Martín me dijo que no había pensado en mí, que no me extrañó durante los dos meses que él estuvo en Argentina solo. Dijo que habíamos estado mucho tiempo juntos y que quizás ya era tiempo de crecer, separados, solos.

Martina: For Martín, the relationship had reached its end, and it was time for them to move on — to grow, but each on their own.

Belén: Teníamos que crecer, sí. Pero la verdad fue que él no estaba solo.

Martina: Long after, Belén learned the real story behind the breakup. Those two months that Martín was waiting for her in Buenos Aires? He was living in a hostel that she had recommended to him. There, he met a French woman. Belén never learned the details, but she supposes they fell in love during that time and that Martín didn’t know how to tell her once she got to Argentina. The worst part is that Belén discovered this when she saw photos of them on Facebook. After the break up, it looks like they traveled together across Latin America. They even went to the same places he had planned on going with Belén.

Belén: El día que lo descubrí no lloré, no le escribí, y no hablé de mi tristeza con mis amigas. Me quedé en silencio, sentada frente a una ventana, mirando un árbol que estaba a punto de florecer.

Martina: Days after seeing those photos, Belén finally was able to write to Martín to let him know what she had discovered. A few hours later, she received his reply. Martín said he was destroyed, full of shame, and felt desperate. He explained that he hadn’t planned for any of that to happen and that he had never meant to hurt her. She didn’t write back.

Belén: Días después, me volvió a escribir. Esta vez, Martín me mandó una carta larga y muy triste. Hablaba como salido de una telenovela. Y cada día recibía nuevos mensajes de él — fotos, canciones, películas.

Martina: So one day, Belén rolled up her sleeves and decided it was time to give Martin the response he deserved. One that would once and for all put an end to the drama.

Belén: El email que escribí era violento pero hermoso. Leerlo era como recibir una tortura. Imaginaba a Martín triste después de leer las primeras líneas.

Martina: But by the end, Belén’s words grew in their precision and finality. She imagined him literally dying of sorrow as he read her poetic and detailed goodbye.

Belén: Era el crimen perfecto. En mi fantasía, los diarios argentinos dirían esto: “joven chileno muere por causas misteriosas”. La autopsia encontró su corazón roto por la mitad.

Martina: His heart split in two. No external injuries. Martín’s death would be classified a mystery. This was Belén’s fantasy as she wrote this weaponized letter. But…

Belén: Nunca envié ese email.

Martina: She never sent it.

Belén: No quería continuar nuestra relación, nuestra historia, por internet. Nuestro amor era sobre nuestros cuerpos, el sonido de nuestras palabras… ¿por qué nuestra historia iba a terminar en frente a un computador?

Martina: So instead, Belén told him they should meet face to face. When they saw each other, the conversation at first was more practical. Who would take what from the apartment. How to settle their bills. But at the end, Belén couldn’t help but ask him:

Belén: ¿Y ahora qué vamos a hacer? ¿Cómo vamos a seguir nuestras vidas?

Martina: They embraced, and cried. Heaving, deep sobs…because they both were wondering how life would be without the other. It was cathartic. And once they let go, it was over.

Belén: Los días que siguieron fueron más o menos así: fumar mucho, ir a mis clases en la universidad, vivir con gente nueva y hacer nuevos amigos. A veces lloraba un poco en algún parque, o en bicicleta o antes de dormir.

Martina: And then she started going out. A lot.

Belén: La conquista del hombre argentino era muy rápida. Después de bailar solo dos canciones me preguntaban “¿A tu casa o a la mía?”. Así de rápido. Así de vacío. Acepté muchas de esas invitaciones, no sé a cuántas.

Martina: Belén got caught up going to parties and meeting other men — it helped distract her from her pain. And then one night, instead of the usual reggaeton or cumbia, the DJ played an unexpected song.

Belén: Cuando escuché la batería, supe que era la canción Billie Jean de Michael Jackson. Empecé a cantar y cerré los ojos. En ese momento, después de tanto tiempo, me sentí bien por primera vez.

Martina: Belén thought about the many times when she had danced with Martín but had really wanted to dance alone. That night, she let herself enjoy that freedom and the space around her —

Belén: Hice unos cuantos pasos ridículos, subí los brazos, me solté suavemente el pelo…

Martina: Belén felt as powerful as the king of pop himself…as if the floor were illuminating beneath her steps…

Belén: Me sentí sola, sí. Pero sin dolor. Sin miedo.

Vocabulary

miedo: fear
suficiente: enough
florecer: to flourish
brillar: to shine
vacío: empty
cumpleaños: birthday
armario: closet
sábanas: sheets
sucias: dirty
grasa: grease
horno: oven
detrás: behind
corazón: heart
tristeza: sadness

Credits

Sound

The story includes recordings by dobroide, tilllt, and audible-edge under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License from FreeSound.org.