It was only after he died that she finally learned to speak. He had always trashed her Portuguese and insisted she use English lest she offend his ears with her imperfect pronunciation and atrocious accent. He berated her for her cultural insensitivity, so enthralled to whiteness that she failed to learn the language after fifteen years. He became even more belligerent when she tried to use French. But she loved him because he had shown her herself. He continually showed her herself, in all her shame. He broke apart her personality, de-seeded it like a capsicum, cooked her up in his own meal. She tasted herself anew.
She realised she had learned to speak because she had a conversation. It was not about the price of something, or the weather, or directions, or some other banality. It was a real conversation; a spontaneous flow of ideas, exchanged in words she had learned by rote, but performed with unpremeditated creativity. Finally, she had expressed herself. Two years after he died she said, ‘I think, in some ways, he held me back.’