They all spoke the language, but none understood the context

Lidia was a strong woman in her early twenties. In her household, just like her life generally speaking, everyone was invited to have a moderate opinion about why things were presented a certain way, whether the issue was the boots near the mirror and the make-up collection or the bird cage she kept for remembering how she always wanted to take care of someone small, and a little spark of joy would glow in her eyes each time she touched it, having memories of how she was greeted by its gentle pitch, flying over her shoulders and circling the bedroom. She wouldn’t feel sorry for wanting the past to stay alive in her new place, but having married a father of two, she enjoyed the thought of simple tasks being all it takes to be responsible for another living creature.

Jill had the same blue eyes. Three big wolves running down the backyard — two of them were her sister’s, the other one her stepdad’s — took care of the house. She lived in a city that had most of its economic activity based on a beer factory further down the long road where she lived, tourism from other parts of the state and a few immigrants who came to visit for the architecture, which reminded them of how it used to be before they had to move and look for another kind of life. Their family ran an upper-class, fancy bar in a peaceful island up north, packed with people who had seen travel tips online and locals who appreciated the specialties in cuisine. For Jill, the future was about connecting long reviews of businesses with ads and messaging, but she couldn’t help feeling down when her true situation came to light, looked around and found nobody who shared the same interests, especially at 19, with a distant hope of persuing higher education in another region.

Billy spoke Spanish, French and wanted to learn German. He didn’t have to read the news to understand the economy, since his mom worked with advertising and his older brother lived next to a soccer stadium, travelled south every week to work for an international logistics company, and every year, during holiday season, told everyone where he was going next for his long-awaited vacations. But he had an interest in philosophy, and had been writing his sketch of a literature study on Spanish writers living outside of Europe, comparing Marques, Borges and Allende through the lens of immigration and gender, exploring difference and identity.

Nathan knew about many cases of people who were trying to make a living while their family went sick and became unable to face the market competition. His plans had been crushed time and time again, and while he was forced to look at his own history and choices he wasn’t supposed to make blowing candles and wishing the next one was the right one, 24 was definitely a new phase, and running against the clock had officially been made the new normal. He saw his neighbor smoking by the window every afternoon, waving back as if he knew it was up to him to put faith in his new project, which was always a work in progress, though it should be an experiment to tell others about in a public speech. He admired good speakers, followed American politics with an interest for how they used language, but could only enjoy a moment of relief looking at videogame reviews and popular memes to empty his crowded mind.

The four of them knew that in everything you do, it’s harder to see a change once it becomes a ritual, but habits can bring people together. Three continents separated them, entire nations, tradition and policy; not just roads and bridges, but weather conditions and currency, documents and laws. But they were trying to reach the same conclusion: when life gives you lemons, you have to change your taste. If we fail the test of balancing expectations and reality, culture and society will only tell stories about money and users, and we won’t get the chance to meet the people who are waiting to enter our lives and change them forever.

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