Just FriendsWednesday, December 01, 2010
|Me, left, and Enrique Serna, second from right.|
I woke up one Sunday morning in a very hot place with strange sounds. The trip on the Aerolíneas Mexicanas DC-3 and subsequent car to Nueva Rosita, Coahuila was like a bad dream. The next morning I was in school in the 8th grade with five other boys in a classroom which also included the 7th and 6th grades. My mother was our teacher. I knew this was not going to be easy. It wasn’t.
The five boys in my class, two were cousins, had been friends all their life and it showed. I was the interloper but they were still quite friendly.
On the other side of the aisle, to my right was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my life. She had a heart-shaped face with huge black eyes that had a slight Oriental slant to them. She emphasized it with brash eyeliner makeup. She stared at me (probably wondering from what hole I had emerged from) from the other side of the aisle. To me she was the very personification of Estella from Great Expectations. Her smile had a little of the perverse of Estella’s (this is something that I understand only in retrospect as I was much too naïve to know that then).
A few weeks later a school dance was held and the Estella-like Ana María Ramos told me names had been put into a hat and that she was to be my date. I was tongue-tied with embarrassments and shyness and worst of all I could not dance if I wanted to. I became blood red in her presence. I have no recollection of the dance and the subsequent moments of sheer terror.
For close to a year I admired Ana Maria from afar but finally got enough nerve to accompany her after school. I shared this with another admirer, and my fellow classmate, Enrique Serna. The two of us would walk with Ana María down to the edge of the hill (the school and where the engineers lived, including he American Hotel where my mother and I had a little apartment were all on the hill). Below was the small town of Nueva Rosita. Ana María probably (I don’t remember exactly) went to her father’s office (he was the company doctor) and from there he must have driven them to their home in the nearby and even smaller town of Cloete.
At the edge of the hill we were relieved by a slightly older young man called Romeo. Probably his name did not help to endear him to me. I had a complete dislike for him. How could Ana María fall for such a dolt?
The fact is that after a year of admiring Ana María from my desk in which my imagination had me saving her from a fire breathing Romeo I was sent to a boarding school in Austin, Texas.
In 1970 I had been married to Rosemary for two years. My mother, who lived with us one day said, “Alex I am going to visit Ana Maria at her house. Can you pick me up later?” I did not have to ask as my mother volunteered, “She married her Romeo.”
I picked up my mother and got to see Ana María. She was a bit on the chubby side but her face was exactly as I had remembered it. She smiled at me and I felt like I was back in the 8th grade and I was tongue-tied.
My granddaughter is in the 8th grade and she has received a communication by phone text (that sounds mildly pornographic) that her would-be Romeo wants just to be friends. My granddaughter is sad. Perhaps I can sit down with her over coffee and ameliorate her grief. Nothing has changed even if the methods of communication have.
Someday she will come to understand of the bittersweetness of a loss never had.