I did it. Last evening, I invited two gals I’ve met here in our condominium to go to lunch tomorrow. I’ve wanted to do it for weeks, but I’ve been waiting until I learn the language better. Last evening, that struck me as ridiculous. It’s just lunch! We can chat and chew; we don’t have to discuss the morality of taxation or the plight of the Iberian Lynx.

Both Bete (pronounced Betchy) and Monica are taking English lessons during the week, and I’m teaching myself Portuguese by using Rosetta Stone and reading (deciphering) children’s stories…so I’m certain that somehow we’ll manage to make ourselves understood. (I can tell them all about the rats who were starving because of the cat with the brilliant eyes who watched their every move…)

Bete, the one I met first while we were walking our dogs, intimidates me. I don’t know why. But when I’m with her, all my language crumbles in a heap, and I stammer and stutter. It doesn’t help that she finishes my sentences for me, rapid-fire, as I struggle to get my words out. True, I probably sound like a drunken three-year-old. I actually prepared certain phrases the other day (using my iPhone application), telling her that she sends me into a panic and makes me forget my words. She was confused and amused, but I didn’t have the phrases prepared to explain further. It was hard enough getting through what I did say. “It is okay, Anna. Tranquila.”

I think it’s because Bete is so very “put together.” No hair out of place, always precise in her conversation, very controlled and intense. (Granted, she does wear a variety of colors of Crocs, so that is one plus in my favor, style-wise.) She’s quite friendly, and casual, but still, “just so.” And, of course, such stolid equanimity wreaks havoc on my own composure. I don’t think I’ve ever not perspired around Bete, even outside on the coolest day. It creeps up my back, crawls up along my scalp, and then slowly oozes out along my hairline. Good God. But, I can’t keep avoiding her. I like her and want to be her friend. Damn the dampness, full speed ahead!

Monica, on the other hand, is a whirlwind, a dervish of delight. Small, energetic, and full of spunk. I love being with her. We’ve been invited twice to her house, and each time has been great fun, full of laughter and eager sharing of life stories. She admitted to me last night that her heart started racing when she was called to the phone, though. “I am heaving attack of the heart, querida.” I asked why, and she said it was fear and excitement about speaking English (her 19-year-old son was in the background, feeding her words). I said it was the same for me, only for Portuguese. That thrilled her, and gave her the courage to try without Arthur’s prompting. I rarely perspire around Monica: only when it’s hot or I’ve drunk some wine (I turn bright red when I drink wine, as well, so it’s really a scintillating combination).

So, we are all set for lunch tomorrow at one o’clock. We’ll meet out front in the garden, and I assume Bete is driving. To an Italian restaurant. I think. (No wine for me, obrigada all the same.)

As I type this, I have an image of us in my mind: the hummingbird, the rock, and the thermometer.