The Milk!

By Ryan Day


It is a Spanish custom that women who appear in films must spend at least half of their screen time topless. My girlfriend is a radical. She spends half her time in a bra.

My girlfriend is an actress.  Recently we attended a screening of a short film in which she plays a woman from India who is held captive by a well-built Spaniard for unknown reasons (unknown to me, because though my Spanish is pretty good, I always miss some crucial plot elements). My favorite part was when she attacked the door with a hammer, screaming in a Hindi accent. My girlfriend is badass, I self-congratulated.

My least favorite part was when she seduced the well-built Spaniard in order to put him off his guard and escape. She really seduced him. She’s a hell of an actress. This is all make believe, like the transpirings on the other side of Mr. Rogers’ magic trolley tunnel, I told myself, squeezing her hand for reassurance.

Let me back up to the moment of our arrival at Barbú, the bar where the short was screened. I’ll translate literally, to maintain all of the awkwardness to the Guirri (that’s the Spanish for Gringo) boyfriend, and to indulge my own inner Hemingway wannabe.

“Hello, gorgeous woman!” says the actor, Pablo, who was soon to be straddled by the person with whom I share a sleeping space.  Pablo and my girlfriend, up on a giant screen, every man in the room psychically projecting himself through the magic of the cinematic suture into Pablo’s position. He grabs my girlfriend firmly by the shoulders and plants two kisses.

“Man!” she says, as if this needs any reinforcing. “Handsome! How handsome you are!”

Here in the bar, they continue holding hands as they speak from a distance of four inches. I linger awkwardly to the side. This is Spanish talking. I learned long ago not to stare straight into a conversation.

“Fuck! Man! How many people, no?”

“Yes! How many people. Fuck. It’s true.”

“Let’s go! And you? How are you? How do you walk?”

“Come on! Good. Good. I go good. I mean, I’m not working with any beauties like you, but it’s work, no?” He makes the ubiquitous Spanish gesture of sliding a hand back and forth through the air, like a salute that departs from the chin, but keeps getting sent back to retrieve additional whiskers.

“Yes. Working with you was the milk. Man! The milk!”

“I know it! This job today, ufff. I shit in the whore ocean!”

She puts a hand to her heart. “What pain that gives me.”

“I shit in everything!”

“What pain!” she says.

“Well, let’s go! There is to find seats and the people they are filing in like one testicle [or egg; readers’ choice]!”



Hands finally part. Two more kisses are exchanged. Guapos and Guapas abound. Venga. Vamos. Nos vemos despues. Vale. Ciao. Hasta ahora. Un beso. Otro para ti. Hasta luego. Adios. Vaya que bien verte, no? Vaya. Hombre. Tia.

Two Spaniards parting can be a lengthy process, even if it is only to cross the room, watch a short film and reconvene immediately thereafter. As a foreigner I never know when to hang up the phone or walk away from a friend on a street corner. I almost always feel as though I’ve cut the other party off before they are permitted one of their customary goodbyes. I think a definitive number needs to be chosen — 3, 5, 7.  It doesn’t really matter, but there must be certainty.

So the movie begins, and shortly thereafter, the passion unfolds.  My girlfriend squeezes my hand, smiles and rolls her eyes to make me feel better. Not that I feel all that bad. It’s more disembodied than bad. Watching the person you know more intimately than any other person in the world change into a violent Indian warrior woman and make passionate love to a muscular, mustachioed member of the Guardia Civil challenges some strange dissonance between what you know to be so, and what is ‘happening’ right in front of you. It’s sort of like free Buddhism lessons. Everything is an illusion. Reality is formless. She tickles my palm with her fingernail. I’m split in half. I’m floating through the room in a meditative bliss.  Well, maybe not bliss, and maybe not meditative.  More like stunned ambiguity. I float to the other side and see the dreaded Pablo. Joder!

What is the writing equivalent? Writing a sex scene? Writing a kiss? Not a fair comparison. While it certainly involves some level of dissimulation, it lacks the embodied bits that make it so disconcertingly real.  I think writers should get to practice their scenes with other writers. At least writers who date actors. It’s only fair.

When the movie ends, Pablo returns to our side of the bar.

“Hello, Aunt,” says Pablo.

“Uncle!” she says.

He ushers a slender fellow in solid black to his side. “He is Javier my boyfriend,” says Pablo.

Still, though…

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Ryan Day is a writer who lives in Madrid. He runs The Toast Cafe, and Roll, restaurants that double as cultural spaces. His articles on arts and culture in Madrid can be found at Vaya Madrid.

36 responses to “The Milk!”

  1. Matt says:


    It is a Spanish custom that women who appear in films must spend at least half of their screen time topless. This is exactly why Penelope Cruz’s Hollywood work will never be as good as her Spanish films.

    I’ve always wondered how the families and significant others of actors handle viewing sex scenes. Normally we get the standard, rather trite response: Oh, everyone’s professional, it’s only acting, it’s just a body. I found it rather refreshing to hear Jennifer Connelly admit in an interview that she’s nervous about the day her kids are old enough to see her movies, and that she’s practiced her explanations for when the day comes.

    And while my Spanish is pretty damn rusty, those literal translations sound pretty valid to my ear. ¡La leche! ¡La leche!

  2. Richard Cox says:

    “Yes. Working with you was the milk. Man! The milk!”

    The whole piece is hilarious but that line made me laugh out loud. And I’m with you on writers getting to practice their scenes with other writers. With that in mind, I’ve got some great scenes I’m ready to write with Scarlett Johansson. I hear she writes poetry or something.

  3. Dana says:

    “He makes the ubiquitous Spanish gesture of sliding a hand back and forth through the air, like a salute that departs from the chin, but keeps getting sent back to retrieve additional whiskers.”

    Perfect description! I had to act it out, but now I get it. (And my office mate thinks I’m a little odd.)

    This was hilarious Ryan. I laughed out loud at “The milk!” too. It’s nice to see your lighter side.

  4. Joe Daly says:

    >>I shit in the whore ocean!<<

    Can’t stop laughing at that line. Good lord, I laughed out loud so many times, I had to quiet down a bit so as not to disturb the office next to me.

    Well freaking done. I’ve wondered what that would be like to have your significant other being manhandled on the big screen- I admire your composure and I’m stoked you shared this story. I know what it’s like to live in a place where the native tongue is not my own, and the struggle to keep up with the language can certainly lead to some anxious conclusions. Your translations here were hilarious.

    Oh, and I never saw the ending coming. Bravo.

    • Ryan Day says:

      The funny thing is when the totally bizarre speech bits become kind of normal. I remember when I first got here I was trying to explain to someone that Spanish was more literal than English and I said, “like, their word for windshield is parabrisas, or literally ‘stop wind'” and the person who I was talking to quickly pointed out to me that the English was already pretty damned literal.

      Yeah, I felt pretty dumb. But, it’s strange how little you notice the contents of words or phrases that you use daily. I’m sure no one really thinks of ‘the host’, as in the church bread, when they say ‘hombre, es la hostia!’.

      thanks for reading.

  5. Sarah says:

    My kids now think I’m crazy and I couldn’t exactly tell my eight-year-old that I was laughing at, “I shit in the whore ocean.”

    I’m trying to picture you standing there knowing you must be getting some of this wrong but confident that you’re close enough that you still want to slug the guy.

    The last line is spot on. He could be gay, ugly, or 85 years old. Still, though…

    • Ryan Day says:

      Ha! That would be a tough explanation.

      I’ve long lost my will to slug. I used to get uptight every time some guy walked up called her ‘my love’, hugged her and kissed her cheeks, but I realized pretty quickly I would be spending an awful lot of time pissed off if I couldn’t adjust to a much different notion of space and affection. It’s much easier to chuckle.

      Constant adjustments.

  6. Becky says:

    Idioms are ridiculous everywhere, for sure.

    I, too, didn’t notice until I started learning Italian and was forced to learn some.

    For example: “In bocca al lupo!” literally says, “In mouth to the wolf!” but means: “Into the mouth of the wolf,” which actually means “Good luck!” but is more similar to the English (and equally confusing) “break a leg!”

    That shit’ll make your head spin.

    • Ryan Day says:

      I think this should be incorporated in English. I like it. “You have an interview, well, in mouth to wolf.”

      I would also sort of like to see a cartoon of someone standing by his or her word. Which word would it be, and would it be shorter or taller?

      Maybe that’s unrelated, but every time I hear it I laugh.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        The appropriate response is “Crepi!” or “crepi il lupo!” which is, literally, “[I hope that] it cracks[,] the wolf!” But that subjunctive is identical to the 2nd person indicative present, so without the bracketed part, I see: “You crack the wolf!”

        But the second definition of crepare is “to croak/kick the bucket,” so it actually means, “I hope the wolf croaks!” or “May the wolf croak!”

        “In mouth to [the] wolf!”

        “You crack the wolf!”

        • Ryan Day says:

          No, you crack the wolf! I cracked him last time and found out he bites.

          Does Italian use the ‘I want you’ model for expressing the ‘I love you’ idea? That is something that has had me all befuddled. I can’t figure it out if it’s a hundred times more honest, or just vulgar. But again, the literal meaning fades from the phrase at some point, and you wind up speaking in some gooey play-doughnic forms that tend towards whatever you’ve pre-established in your head as the thing you meant to refer to anyway… I’m not even going to try and clarify what I meant there…

        • Becky Palapala says:

          In Italian, “I love you,” is wildly complicated. There’s one for familial love, and maybe platonic, friendship love (piacere) which is basically “to be pleasing to,” there’s “amare,” which is the swoony, romantic, Romeo & Juliet kind, and there is a third as well, something along the lines of what you’re talking about, which is a bit more lusty, but I can’t remember if it’s ACTUALLY desidere (to desire) or volere (to want), and in fact, those might be two separate types as well.

  7. Jordan Ancel says:

    I think I like the way you translate better than what it all probably really meant. I shit in everything. is going to have me laughing for days.

    Right now, I’m in New Zealand, and I truly believe that every actress in New Zealand and Australia must go through a right of passage by playing either a hooker, a stripper, a drug lord’s girlfriend or a sexy cop/attorney/mom. All roles which require graphic sex scenes bordering on porn.

    TV is so much better here than in the states.

    • Ryan Day says:

      I wouldn’t have figured New Zealand for such a steamy place. I’ll have to keep my eye out for the next breakout series. For now, I think I’m pretty much limited to the Flight of the Concords, and they offer very little in the way of nudey scenes.

  8. Holy crap I laughed all the way through that… Great stuff. And I’m totally getting in on the above suggestion of using “The Milk!” more often.

  9. Irene Zion says:


    I think if you worked as a translator at the U.N., things might be better off in the world.

  10. Tip Robin says:

    Some vintage Hemingway-leaning and Day-infused dialogue here.

    I think everyone who lives in Spain has to write about it at some point. I sure did, (http://archives.thenervousbreakdown.com/ktobin/2006/10/how-to-dissect-spanish-vulgarity-or-spaniards-shit-on-everything-including-god/) though not nearly to the personally entwined level of yours, including this scenario with your girlfriend. Your dialogue certainly put me back there, listening to two Spaniards go on to reveal much ado about very little except vulgarity.

    Putting the link in above is not intended to be self- (or cross-) promotion, just backing it up. I imagine someone did it first, Hemingway made it more mainstream, then it lulls about, unnoticed for several years until someone brings it back up again, as if it were fresh. Regardless, it has an inexhaustible comic nature to it, the fact that they use these phrases. I know I spent too much time in Spain trying to ascertain if they meant they were shitting “on” or “in” the milk/God/the sea, etc. And why is it they never said, “Me meo en la leche”, which would seem to make more sense since they’re both liquids, although not nearly as graphic or vulgar. Maybe that’s the point – that the act of shitting brought to anyone’s mind is pretty much the basest of all baseness.

    So, thanks for bringing that to mind again.

    • Ryan Day says:

      And I didn’t even add an ‘me cago en la leche’. What’s wrong with me?

      Your’e missed out here. I need a good el cano… I’m almost sure that ends up being innuendo in one language or another… or maybe even both… ouch…

  11. Hey Ryan:

    I agree with Sarah up above. “I shit in the whore ocean” really made me smile. And that’s a lot to say, seeing as it’s Sunday morning, and I haven’t even had my first cup of coffee yet. Cheers.

  12. Ryan Day says:

    Thanks for the read Rich. I’m always glad to deliver a smile. Especially on a Sunday morning, and pre-coffee.

  13. D.R. Haney says:

    This post is the milk!

    Oh, and Jamon, Jamon is the sexiest movie I’ve ever seen. There’s a bit where a woman fans herself while a parrot squawks beside her, and I don’t know how Bigas Lunas, the director, pulled it off, but it’s hot as fuck.

  14. Ryan Day says:

    It is a sexy film indeed.

    I was just looking at Quim Monzo’s website and apparently he co-wrote it with Lunas.

    I love Spain. Where else would such a sex laden script take its title from a cured meat.

  15. Marni Grossman says:

    It’s funny: I too shit in the whore ocean.

    Ryan- I’m glad I got around to reading this. Hilarious.

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