Yes, that's me, five years ago. I was pregnant with Danny, and this particular picture was taken during a visit to Charleston, WV. This picture was also taken during the second trimester, when I usually feel great, gorgeous, sexy and, dare I say it, adventurous.
I remember strolling thru a beautiful part of the town, and I loved the flowers, so I just sat down in the sidewalk and begun to pose for the camera, not caring at all about the people walking next to us; not even caring that some people had to stop and wait for my hubby to take the picture.
Not at all like the usual me. Even thinking about it now brings out a nervous giggle.
Contrary to what many think of me, I'm a rather a shy person.
At least now, at this time in my life. I mean, I enjoy company when I have it. I can talk 'till you are blue in the face, I love to hear other people stories, but for some reason, I'm having a hard time getting out of the house to accomplish that.
What I'm trying to find out is if I have always been like this but never noticed it, or if this is a byproduct of all the changes I have undergone in the last fifteen years of my life.
I've always had this image of myself as a social butterfly, but try as I might I couldn't come up with more than a handful of friends (and I'm not using the word 'friends' very loosely here).
Even as far back as elementary school, I only remember being very close to only one or two people. I specifically remember my buddy "Pelos". Well, that was his nickname; it means "hair" in Spanish, and we call him that because his arms were very hairy; I mean, you could comb those arms if he would've let you!
He was my friend; we spent many years together and our friendship lasted for a few decades; we went to kindergarten together, then elementary school, same classroom for the whole six years, and amazingly, three more years after that at secondary school, still in the same classroom. So he was a constant presence in my life until about ninth grade. Then we went to different high schools, but we still remained very close and saw each other often. After I moved a couple of times we lost touch, but we would search for each other from time to time to find out the latest news and then loosing contact again for awhile.
But we always found our way back to each other.
Now it has been about thirteen years since I heard anything about him. I hope he's ok. I hope he's happy. I hope he has a beautiful life. For some odd reason, I miss him today.
After that I had another close friend. Her name is Veronica. We met in Monterrey, Mexico while we both worked at McDonald's. It was an instant and deep friendship. We were two peas in a pod. We worked together, we spent our days off together, we went everywhere together.
She was an only child and although I do not know what type of job her mom had, I do remember they lived in a very nice, fancy and comfortable condominium overlooking the beautiful and majestic mountains of Monterrey. I think she owned a couple of real state properties and she rented them out, but it was not the fancy things they owned that made me be comfortable at their house; it was the fact that I felt so welcomed and loved.
The thing I remember the most is how comfortable I was in their company; having grown up with an emotionally unavailable mother, I treasured the way my friend's mother would spend her time with us, and how she embraced me and welcomed me and loved me, just as my friend did. For her it was as simple as this: my daughter's friends are my friends.
Would you believe me if I tell you I can't even remember her name? I'm not sure I ever knew her name. I always called her "Señora".
Veronica moved to California following a guy she thought she would spend the rest of her life with, but we kept in touch thru phone calls and letters. A few years later I moved to Wisconsin and we reestablish our close relationship, as we could talk on the phone more often without having to pay for international long distance. By then she had left the guy she came to United States with, fallen in love with another guy, moved in with him and ended up marrying him in Las Vegas.
They were struggling financially though, so as soon as I had a good job and a promising opportunity for her to join me, I invited her to move to Wisconsin and try her luck over here. The plan was for her to come, start working, and secure an apartment while her husband remained working in Los Angeles; when the apartment was ready he was going to move here too and we would all work together and live happily ever after.
After she moved in with me, she and her husband went thru some rough times; I remember being in the middle of the storm, somehow feeling that everything was my fault; that by inviting her to move to Wisconsin I had torn her life apart.
But I needed her so much. Having her around felt like a lifesaver had been thrown at me, just in time to save me from drowning, for I too was enduring the most unfortunate situation.
See, I had managed to get involved with the wrong guy and by the time I realized it it was a little too late. The relationship had turned sour, but this guy would not take a hint. Things turned violent and I was terrified at him. I wanted so desperately to get rid of him, but was afraid to get beaten again. So when she moved in with me and I told her the story, something came over her and her words and encouragement gave me the final push I needed to end that relationship.
The thing is that the guy would not get out of my life without a fight and I ended up in St. Luke's hospital, bleeding from two wounds, one in my head and one in my left hand, after the breakup got physical. All I remember is being in a cold, emergency room cubicle, crushed and beaten physically and emotionally, and she was there. She was holding my hand, kissing my forehead, washing away some of the blood in my face with her tears. And despite all the ugliness around our love life, we felt safe, having each other around.
Eventually she got some sense back into her and decided to give her marriage a second change; her husband welcomed her and she moved back to California, where he was waiting for her. Last I heard they were doing fine, raising a little daughter named Grecia. But that was ten years ago. We lost contact and right now, I don't know where she is, where she lives or if she's ok.
There was also Raquel. We became friends while working together at a School; she was part owner of the private school, but her job was to teach a couple of computer classes. I was the receptionist. We both were free, meaning we didn't go on dates, had no formal boyfriend, and I might add, not even many friends. Veronica had moved to California leaving me with a big hole to fill. Eventually Raquel took the place Veronica had occupied and life was busy again, going out with her and spending time together at work and off work too.
Our relationship was different, as she was several years older than me. I liked her a lot and really enjoyed her company, but she felt more like an older sister to me. With Veronica I was the grown up. I was not only the older one of the two, but also the more serious, the more wise, if you could ever use that word to describe me. The roles were reversed with Raquel; she was the older one, and by far the wisest one.
Eventually our relationship took second place in my life though; I fell deeply in love with a boy and all I wanted to do with my life was to spend every waking moment with him. I'm sure she felt left behind, but eventually we survived the initial infatuation and strike a good balance between my love life and our friendship. The boy also felt like he was neglecting his friends so we decided the we would spend every other weekend with our friends. So it came to be that on certain weekends we would be together, inseparable and blissfully in love; and other weekends we would take a brake and cultivate our friendships and spend time with our old buddies.
It was good to have that balance, although I'm sure I bore Raquel to death, because all I could talk about had to do with the boy I loved; our talks about politics, the economy, celebrity gossip and even our own future were gone, replaced by talks about the latest adventure the boy and I had embarked on, or how I skipped class to be with him, or about our escapades in the middle of the night, when he would come to my house just to kiss me good night because he could not fall asleep thinking of me, or even about the night when we talk for so many hours over the phone and both of us fell asleep holding the phone to our ear.
Then there came the day when he was gone; in the blink of an eye he was gone. A drunk driver ignoring a red light is all it took, and he was gone, leaving such hole in my heart and in my life. Raquel was by my side as soon as she heard the news. Her hands held mine during visitation and during the church service and her arms held me together during the burial process; my whole body shook like a leaf during the final moments, and I even felt her pulling me back when almost unconsciously my body wanted nothing more than to jump into his grave and die with him.
Suddenly my days and nights were empty; there were no more phone calls, no more middle of the night escapades, no more to talk about. The only thing that was consistent for me was a deafening silence and a crushing absence. Emptiness. Anger. Bitterness. Sadness. Rebellion. All those and more came crashing down into my world, making it impossible to function. The God I once believed in became the object of my blame and frustration; talks about His love for me were like poisoned arrows that penetrated deep into my soul; most days I felt like a volcano, ready to explode and vomit a bunch of burning lava and destroy everything within my reach.
Raquel was there.
Despite the abandonment she suffered when I found love, she was there for me. Our meetings had lost the vibrancy and happiness and giddiness. All there was left of me was an empty shell. Many times we sat across form each other, unable to speak; she would watch my tears roll down my face and fall into my coffee cup; she would stretch out her arm and hold my hand; never told me not to cry; never told me it would get better; never told me she understood; she was just there for me, as if her only intention was to remind me that I was not alone, despite my firm belief that life was not worth living anymore.
After the tragedy another unexpected friendship begun to develop; thru the boy I loved I had met a guy nicknamed Polen; they had some shared interests in music, the arts and philosophical thinking, so we visited with him a couple of times. I liked him. And somehow I could feel that he liked me too. I don't remember how close we were before, but I guess we were close enough, as he was the one who came to my house to deliver the news of the boy's accident and death. He drove me to the funeral home and kept me company until Raquel arrived. He was relieved to hand me over to my friend, I'm sure; I know if there was something he disliked, funerals were it.
Because Raquel and the boy I loved never developed a friendship, my connection with Polen grew almost overnight; he knew him; he knew his likes, dislikes, dreams. So Polen became my connection to him after his death; talking to Polen was like talking to him in a way. That relationship became my lifeline. Literally. Polen kept pulling me out of the dark holes I would sink in. He had this far out idea that the spiritual world runs parallel to our physical world so, according to him, my lost love could see all my suffering and in order for him to be at peace, I needed to be at peace also. I wonder now what was he smoking.
Eventually his hard work paid off; gently and patiently, him and Raquel were successful at nurturing me back to life; I began to breathe again, to feel the warmth of the sunlight again; the dark clouds that had surrounded me for so long begun to dissipate and a little ray of resignation began to settle into my soul. But it took months.
I can tell you, without the shadow of a doubt, I would not be alive today if it weren't for them.
And that's as far as I get when trying to recall lasting impressions. I do have other friends now; there are a few people that I love, but life seems to have gotten so busy or I seem to have gotten so lazy, either way we don't see each other that much.
There's Teresa, for example; we met while living far away from what we knew to be familiar, and our husbands worked together and were friends too, so it was effortlessly that we became friends too, enjoying each other's company all the time. If they were not at our house is because we were at theirs. Simple as that.
But now back in Wisconsin, family, work, different schedules and a slight agoraphobia on my part have gotten in the way and we don't see each other nearly as much. I do hope they know we love them, even if we are too lazy to really get involved as much as we used to.
There's also what Nathan likes to call "church hallway friends". People we go to church with; people we like and care about, but with whom there's no real connection outside the church. But they are loved and liked. They are the ones we look to for prayer when in need; and we hurt for them when they struggle thru the hardships of life.
All of this by way of saying that perhaps I am not who I thought I was; I'm not a social butterfly; I'm not the life of the party; I am not the most popular either. But one thing is for sure, I have been greatly blessed by the friendships I have enjoyed throughout my life and I can only hope that I have been a blessing to them too.
So, to all my friends, old and new, whether you are a very close friend or an acquaintance, past or present, I'm thinking of you today; and I am missing you.
It must be the weather. Something happens to me when the sun doesn't come out.