I Remember: Sea water is salty

I used to be very close to my father’s family back when I was younger.

I loved them dearly, and even though we only saw each other on holidays, I had very intimate relationships with my cousins.   They were like a bunch of brothers and sisters that I got to play with when school was off.

Most of the time it was me going to their town and staying there though, very few times they got to come to my house and stay.

All of them (my father had 12 brothers and sisters) came once one summer.  They stayed over, all of them, so we could all visit the beach together – something that only happened that once.  And I remember when we ran to the shore, from my house – I live a couple of streets away from the beach and we couldn’t contain our excitement, so we started running as soon as we went outside my home and just did not listen to any of our moms yelling at us to stop.  We kept going until the waves touched our toes.

And then we stopped.  One of my cousins had never seen the ocean before.  We all stood there for a few seconds experiencing the ocean’s grandness and our smallness together, in awe.  Then we ran some steps back to have more impulse to run forward.  I can still hear the laughter of all of us splashing our way forward.

When we were deep enough we started getting closer to each other, still laughing in glee and that’s when my cousin – that one that had never been to the ocean – looked at me, eyes wide open and exclaimed “it’s salty! This water is salty!”  

It had never occurred to me, since the beach was my patio, that someone would not know such thing.  “Of course it is!”  I spat back at him, before one other cousin came and asked him to have a  swim race.  I only realised that he had never been to the ocean decades later.  And it made the moment much bigger, so much significant.

 

I Remember:  The Night I learned boleros are universal

My father’s side of the family is mostly Protestant Christian.  One of my uncles is a pastor and he converted almost all his brothers and sisters, and they were thirteen to start with so, it was a significant amount of people. 

Most of my cousins grew up in that religion, which in their case strictly prohibits dancing.  It was frustrating to me as a youngster to go to one of their weddings and sit down all night long.  I was used to mundanely dancing the night away and having an alcoholic beverage in my glass for the toast. 

One night I found some of those cousins in the wedding of a distant relative and one of my friends.  They were catholic and there was not only music, but a real freaking band playing.  My shoes went off pretty early that evening.  What I remember though is the moment I saw one of my cousins and her husband hugging by the end of our table, while standing up;  only to figure out a few seconds later that they were swaying to the rhythm of a classic bolero.  And just as my mouth was beginning to regain composure two other cousins – a brother and sister, to make it even more weird because why not – started dancing too! 

I just about had a heart attack.  

As soon as the song was over I started firing questions how, when and why.  And they just looked at me all cool and basically said what? We have feelings too. 

And that is the night I learned when it comes to love and boleros, everyone feels the same way. 

I Remember: The woman with the covered face

What I remember about this moment is feeling like I loved her.

I remember wanting to hug her tight and her careful way of trying to give into my hug.  I remember I was sitting in her lap, which I know almost never happened at all.  I remember looking into her eyes and knowing exactly how she  felt because she carried it all there.

I also remember the way her face was covered from the nose down with a skin toned type of mask.  And I remember that her voice was very sweet, but very sad.  I don’t remember anything she said.  I know I asked my mother what happened to her and mom said “she had an accident where she got burned.”

I was six or seven and couldn’t imagine the extent of that explanation.

Fast forward to my first week in my first lab job.  We had meetings with groups from all the areas we were going to have contact with.  At one point we were in the room with guys that had been working there for twenty years.  Guys that were part of the emergency brigade.

And they had a go-to story for newcomers about the time when they had to rescue people from a fire in a nearby company.  The emergency brigade had a fire truck and a group of trained personnel rushed at the sight of fire and the emergency calls.

They remembered one woman jumping from a second floor to avoid burning to death.  It was the scariest thing they’d ever seen.

It was only a couple of weeks ago, when I had this flashback from my childhood that I realised I remember her too.

I Remember: the couple passing their chewing gum in the halls

I remember it as if it was a movie scene:  the light hitting them perfectly, the crisp uniforms, a perfect space around them as if the moment was just theirs.

They had the longest kissing sessions I had seen yet between each class period, always standing in the same spot.  That day she was hugging him and his left arm was resting in the curve of her butt.  They were kissing and I could see their tongues going back and forth.  She was chewing a gum every now and then in between the tongue action.

When they finished, he had the gum.  For some reason they were really proud of that feat.  I was totally disgusted and kept asking my best friend why they did such a thing.

“You’ll understand when you have a boyfriend” she said.

Dude.  I’m thirty six and I’m still disgusted at the thought of that scene.

I Remember: Showering in the street in college

Hurricane Georges went through Puerto Rico in 1998.

I was in my second year of college,  still navigating the new lifestyle of being far from my family and,  well,  college.

It was the town of Utuado, deep in the highest mountains of the island and up there the water service didn’t came back for months.  We carried drinking water and our dorm owner had a rain water collector that was used for the toilets and other non-cosumption purposes.

Most people didn’t had additional water to shower with, for example.  So one night someone broke into our college campus and plugged a hose to a working water line – some parts of the campus were hooked to a cistern – and that hose was long enough to go back out, into the street.

What I remember is the line of people waiting with their towels and change of clothe in hand, talking agreeably.  Someone brought music  – I think it was a car – not loud and obnoxious but as background sound.  People were getting showers in groups of three to five, some were courageous enough to wash their hair – in those temperatures.

Everyone was friends that day.  People were sharing flashlights (no electric power either), all groups were talking, no one cared what sorority or fraternity you belonged to;  we were all the same.

The camaraderie that I remember from that day gives me hope.

I Remember: The day he chose me

When I was in third grade – the second time (I’ve explained a bit here) – I was a bushy haired nerd invisible to boys.

I think this was key on my attitude towards men now;  I had a lot of time to observe from the sidelines and developed a good sense of how boys behaved, their likes and preferences.  Afterwards, when I was in college and muster enough courage to begin talking to guys, I knew how to do it.  I could talk cars, movies, I knew boys really like to see a girl laughing sincerely, having fun, a smart fact every now and then is absolutely necessary.  I was never intimidated by a man, no matter his position or knowledge (and I’ve met some extraordinary men).

But it all it started when I was in third grade.   No boys from my classroom every talked to me, unless they were making fun of my thin legs.  Until Francisco came along.

Francisco was easily the most handsome boy among the three third grade groups.  He had black hair that was always perfectly styled, even after he played basketball.  His face was perfectly contoured, he had beautiful dark eyes and really long eyelashes.  All the girls were crazy about him.  Older girls were included.  Heck, even the teachers would tell him how cute he was.

My best friend was talking about this a few days after he started in the school when I told her I knew Francisco.  We had been in the same school when I was in preschool.  OMG she said, or whatever was equivalent in 1987.  I was so lucky I knew him.  Except he, as every other boy in school, never talked to me.

One day though, while we were waiting for our classroom to be opened something amazing happened.

Francisco was standing on top of the stairs with two other boys and most of the girls in our classroom, including me and my best friend, were sitting in the steps beneath them.  One of the boys asked Francisco “so, which girl do you like?” He said he didn’t know, he liked a few.   (Oh, yes, Francisco was quite the womaniser from an early age.)  “which one do you like most?”

And Francisco stood up and looked down.  I gazed straight into his eyes, which I now think was something bold for a girl who had no communication with boys.  He smirked and pointing at me said “her”.

Everyone started oohing, my best friend pushed me to him while I refused.  I smiled softly at him and returned to my place in the steps.

A few moments later our teacher opened the classroom and everything went back to normal, but for a few moments I remember being the girl that the cutest boy chose.  It taught me that could happen.  Little did I know the story would repeat itself later.

 

I Remember: Her wet hair

What I remember the most is the back of her uniform being wet from the middle of her back down and her hair dripping on it.

Every free moment we had she ran to the bathroom to wet her hair in the sink.  It started with just running her wet hands through her hair but in a few days she was dipping her head into the open faucet.  It meant that her uniform was wet pretty much all day long.

She would rather walk around as if her head had just left a shower than have her natural curls be dry and free.  She topped the look with red lipstick.  One that she needed to remove before every class because we weren’t allowed red lipstick at our school.

Wet hair, red lipstick and a tough attitude.  That was her thing.

She was tough enough that guys teased her about liking girls – even though she was making the biggest efforts to appear attractive and easy to all of them, often throwing herself at them – and she spat a slew of dirty remarks back at them with such speed and ease that it was clear their words couldn’t make a dent on her.

She took that spitting part pretty seriously too.  In fact, the most famous girl fight in my entire ten years in school (and probably for a couple of years afterwards too) featured her spitting the face of her opponent (another very tough girl who could never see that one coming) and ending up the fight with both girls writhing in the floor pulling their hair.

I have something from each one of my classmates edged on my memories, having been with most of them for ten years.  What I remember the most about this girl was that the way her hair was dripping on her reflected how much she wanted to be accepted.

Enough that she walked around looking like someone hosed her head.

I Remember: The day she taught me about healthy breakups

Ivette almost never cried.

She had a policy of not crying in general, but specially for boys, while we were all crying our eyes out during those first college years when we knew nothing about how to manage heart breaks, she was blowing it all off with a clear “fuck it”.

So I was pretty shocked to see her barge into my dorm room and throw herself, pretty devastated and literally bawling into my pillow. I asked her what happened and her answer was one single word: Juanma.
I fell on my knees too, of pure SHOCK.

Her boyfriend of about six months was going away to another campus and they had broken up on the last day of classes. I have to give it to her though, she was devastated, but still very much in her mind when it came to making a clean cut decision; she was not trying a long distance relationship. I mentioned it as an alternative to being a mess of snot in my pillow and, sobbing as I had never seen her before (and I knew her since ninth grade) she shook her head and very clearly, almost loudly said “that wouldn’t be fair”.

With the same force that it took her to flop into my bed and collapse in a fit of tears, she suddenly picked herself up, dried her face, re-did her hair in front of my mirror and very calmly walked out to meet the rest of the world again. Poker face on, strong heart mode.

I never heard her complaining about that again.

She talked to Juanma again and we even visited him once. They were very much friends and that, I remember, was what I found the most incomprehensible. It took a lot more strength and courage to remain friends with someone you so wanted to be with than to just put him in the past and never talk about him again.

I’m certainly not as strong in the romantic side as Ivette.

Separating from the father of my daughter is the first instance in my life when I can’t do as usual and soak the past in gasoline and then walk forth after throwing a lighted match over my shoulder. It feels like someone’s filing my teeth with metal; not unbearable, but obviously not pleasant.

Something amazing happened the other day though. I reached out to Ivette, told her I would like to see her and give her three month baby boy a little thing. She was all “I WANT TO SEE YOU!” It had been something like thirteen years since the last time we had seen each other.

Well, we hugged and talked about half an hour (it was the only half an hour available in her day) and coming back home I felt that connecting with her connected me with a very solid part of myself, one that I desperately needed to “see” again. The outgoing, silly and curious person that I was in college suddenly was very present.

And that made me feel stronger.

I Remember:. Against All Odds

Our first kiss shouldn’t have happened.

Given the circumstances, it’s debatable if pretty much everything that came afterwards shouldn’t have happened either, but, I am not a fan of what if’s and the only thing I know for certain is that the first kiss should not have happened. 

He had been looking for a concentrate jar all day. Carried the paperwork to return it to inventory back and forth the hallways as if that would magically accio it to him.

We used to help each other unconditionally all the time and I felt pity for the papers that, during our lunch break, lay crumbled with wet spots in an empty cart, so I picked the papers up and pushed the cart to the cooler.  

I hated the cooler. If he ever doubted that I love him, that should’ve been enough to prove him otherwise. I might’ve not done a lot of other things, but I sacrificed where it mattered.
 

My nose had already gone numb when he entered the cooler too. It was a five feet by twelve insulated north pole, with three fans blowing 28º air directly to our faces. I really hated those coolers. He asked if I had found it already “no, but I will”. “I doubt it, I’ve searched for it all day. It’s not here.” he responded. “It doesn’t walk. I’ll find it.”
And of course I did. He couldn’t believe it so he picked it up and held it up to his glasses, frowning a little from the effort of reading the tiny letters. “Oh my God! You found it! Come here…” And then, as the song says, he kissed me. 
He had to grad my head in place because I was not in a position for a kiss, I wasn’t expecting that. I laughed though. Because I did thought it was funny. I must have been blushing like crazy when I opened the door and stepped out, and to hide it, I almost ran back to the lab to complete my shift.
Before going home he called me to apologise. It was a horrible apology, but I could see his good intentions of not making my angry so I waved a hand and explained that it was all good.  
“Did you like it?” he asked. Because his ego is that big. 

No.” I answered. I’ve always been known to be honest. Brutally honest sometimes. 

Oh! You didn’t like it?” he was baffled. Given the fact that pretty much every woman in that building threw herself at him at least once a day, it must have been a huge shock. Poor thing. 

“No. I didn’t. I like other type of kisses. Like, ones where I know I’m being kissed to begin with, just to mention something. And there were other details. The hands on my face where nice though.” I was talking too much. My honesty was not hiding my nerves. 

I’m gonna have to work on that then.” he said with a smirk.  
He went home that day. Surely enough, he did worked on getting better. And we ended up together, against all odds. 

I shared this story on My Trending Stories (new mobile editor doesn’t want to make a link!)-https://mytrendingstories.com/article/against-all-odds/ .  You can follow me and other authors there. 

I Remember: Racing in my favorite car

Tony and his car.

That was the combo.  We used to watch him racing when we could.  Clandestine, dangerous races in bad places of mostly stupid college kids that could do very bad things when inebriated.

I had the luck of being light enough (around ninety pounds) to be a passenger in his car.  He was also around one hundred pounds and between the two of us the weight was pretty much that of a normal man.  So I raced with him a few times.  I didn’t enjoyed anything more.  Not alcohol, or dancing.  I was still a virgin, but racing was way better than sex.  Nothing was as amazing as racing.

It wasn’t even the adrenaline, I felt pure joy.  Before the race, when we would speak very softly as if not to stir the luck awaiting.  During the race when we would both purposefully fully relax our bodies and let go both because we were letting the energy flow in and around us and because in case of collision it gave our bodies the best chance of survival.  After the race with our hearts beating fast, while I was screaming and cheering, fist pounding in the air.

It was my very favorite thing, racing.   And I never told him.   In all our years in college together, when he started working in the company I worked years after.  A few months ago when I saw him a Sunday in church – of all places -, with his three beautiful kids and his mom, all sobered up and serious.  I never said anything about how he gave me some of the best memories I have.

But I do remember.