Some have asked me to tell more about how Carlos and I ended up together. It is an incredible story or a boring one, depending how I remember it, and how I choose to tell it on any particular day. I don’t mean to take liberty with the truth, but in the tradition of Latin American storytelling, (which perhaps has influenced me over the years), it’s understood that family histories evolve and change over time – eventually no one quite remembers what is truth and what is fiction.
In that spirit, I will tell you about how I met Mr. López.
“Mexicans are always making things up…Don’t ever believe these family legends people have. It’s like how white people like to say their great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess, but worse…Everyone’s family is like that. Everyone’s grandmother drank with Diego and Frida…and everyone’s grandfather rode with Pancho Villa. Everyone’s abuelo can’t have ridden with Pancho Villa, mijos. The Mexican army would have seen them coming ten miles away!”
-“Everyone’s Abuelo Can’t Have Ridden With Pancho Villa” by Andrea Saenz
Te Encontraré – PART I
~Yes, I kiss on the first date~
The summer fresh out of high school with absolutely no direction in life – That’s me, working at a music store while my friends go off to university. My parents encouraged me to go but never pushed. Maybe they were partly relieved not to take on the financial burden of student loans, and besides, things could have been worse. My mother always said she worried I’d end up in a Turkish prison. I think she just meant I had a way of getting myself into trouble.
Living in his brother’s apartment – one block away from the music store – That’s Carlos. He’s been in the United States for a year. He’s recently been given an actual bed to sleep in – before that, he slept on the floor. He makes a living cleaning windows, but some days there isn’t any work, and on those days he goes walking around the city.
One day, by chance or fate, he walked into the store where I worked. I watched him browse the Latin Music section before asking “Necesitas ayuda?” – Those are the first words I ever said to him, “Do you need help?”
Now, I’m not sure I believe in love at first sight. My husband says he knew right away that we were meant to be. I do admit, I felt something strange, like I was looking into the eyes of someone I’d known before.
He asked me in English, “How many years do you have?” which made me laugh. I asked where he was from – he said El Salvador, and I pretended to know where in the world that was, though I didn’t. It seems like in school we memorized the capitals of all the countries in South America, we studied Mexico from every imaginable angle, but Central America? … If you asked me where Central America was, I probably would have guessed Kansas.
Between blushes and glances at our shoes, he eventually asked for my phone number and left with it in his pocket.
The first time he called me was that same night. My little sister answered the phone and then yelled down the hallway that separated our bedrooms, “Tracy! I think it’s for you! It’s a guy who doesn’t speak English well!”
We arranged to meet the next day to spend the afternoon together. At this point I’d very much like to say that our courtship was chaste and innocent, but see this photo? This was taken in a photo booth that first day together. (My sincere apologies to all the other gringas for tarnishing your reputation. I couldn’t help it. He was cute.)
That night we sat in the grass, looking at the reflection of the moon in the glassy surface of a lake. Between his broken English and my basic Spanish, we somehow communicated, though not perfectly. Maybe that’s why we kissed so much. Besos don’t need translating. At one point he held me close and began to sing quietly into my ear. I didn’t understand the words back then, but now that I do, it makes me wonder if Carlos knew something I didn’t – If that day, he really did feel that he knew we were destined to be together.
“Yo te encontraré,
no habrá sitio en el mundo,
donde te escondan te hallaré.
Yo te encontraré,
porque eres mi destino,
aunque seas la aguja en el pajar
yo te encontraré.”
- Te Encontraré / Ricardo Arjona
(…READ PART II…)