Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It Was All Great Until...

Nothing starts at the end except really good stories.

So let’s go back to the beginning.

Once upon a time, it was 1994.

I was 25, teaching Latin American History at FSU, had finished all the coursework for my Ph.D., and very very anorexic.

Students who knew me then, later told me that they were distracted by the fact my knees were wider than my thighs.

That’s the thing about anorexia. People are fascinated by it, they admire the courage it takes to starve.

I think they also wonder if maybe it’s something else making that person so thin.

Cocaine, heroine, speed. Maybe for some people it is.

But it wasn’t for me.

I couldn’t afford any of that stuff.

All the anorexics I ever met in eating disorder groups, or at the gym, have been fireballs of energy. Our secret? Caffeine. Diet coke. Tea. Coffee. They all hit you MUCH harder on an empty stomach.

Anyway, so there I was, the first day of classes.

The first day that I would be teaching college, all on my own.
My syllabus, my roster, my assignments, my room.

When I did a walk-through of my classroom I saw that there were no map tacks to hold the map of Latin America up on the chalkboard rail.

The map tack situation was very urgent, in my little world.

I took myself on an excursion to empty classrooms, planning to “reassign” a few map tacks to my classroom and found a whole bunch in a corner room of the first floor in Bellamy Buidling.

I reached. I stretched. Jumped.
Chalkboards don’t look as large when you’re a student. Now that I was right in front of one, it seemed ten feet tall.

Finally, I pulled a desk to the chalkboard and stood on it.

That’s when I noticed my audience.

He was there. With his friend.

Maybe they thought I was laughing at myself, but I wasn’t. I was laughing at them, because I caught them checking me out.


The redhead looked familiar, and I was feeling bold. Warm, powerful.

What went through me wasn’t an impulse. It was more like a command.

I needed to talk to them. So I pointed at them and beckoned them over.

God help me, it worked. They came over.

We talked. His friend left, he stayed.

We exchanged phone numbers, made a date.

I think he looks at this as the worst mistake of his life.

The beginning of the end of his happiness.

He recently told me that his life was better than fiction before he met me.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Eye Contact

Really, I don't know.

It could be an option, it could happen, but I don't know.

For most of my adult life I have thought about it, but not in specifics, just in vague warm satisfying generalities.

"Yes," I'd say.

"Yes," I'd think.

"Yes, definitely, yes, I'd like to see Cuba. I'd like to see it some day.... " and then the conversation would meander and land where it was headed anyway.

And now, things might be changing.

OK, yes, they are changing, but I'm still standing in the same place, my arms crossed, mercilessly biting the inside of my lip, not exactly sure what to think.

Now that it really might be an option, I'm not sure if I'm ready to visit Cuba.

With my heart? OK, yes, undoubtedly.

In books? definitely.

But to really travel there?

Actual eye contact?

That, I cannot imagine.

Still, people ask me.

Today it came up in casual conversation.

He (a grad student) was excited; he was ready to party in Cuba, speaking only English, of course.

I shook my head, our conversation to brief to bother with a polite white lie like "yes, of course I'd love to go to Cuba... How are your Finals coming?"

No, I spoke the truth.

"I'm not ready. I need a warm up..... Maybe I could start in Santo Domingo.... um, they filmed Havana there, so that's something... and after that, maybe, if I need to, San Juan. And after that, if I STILL had time, I might go to Cienfuegos, or the city of Trinidad. I don't know.....Well, actually, I'm going to see my Abuelo in South Florida, and HE is my Cuba. I mean, if he were in Cuba, I'd go find him there, but he's here -- we're all here - and I'm too thankful to ask for anything beyond how great things are right now. You know? (silence, pause, this always happens when I speak my mind )Anyway, How are your Finals coming? Oh, wait, but the way, I have this GREAT idea for my students to earn a little end of the semester cash...."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Feliz Cumpleanos, Abuela Mia*

Querida Abuela Mia,

History doesn't repeat itself; the same thing never happens twice, but here I am, for the second time, telling you happy birthday after I already know how the circle of your life so perfectly closed itself when you jumped into the sky.

Honestly, I don't even think I need to write anything to you because I feel the twinkle of your laugher right next to my ear one hundred times a day.

Since I have nothing to give you -- besides my laughter, companionship, and some stories you'd rather I'd write in Spanish anyway jajaja -- I have a request for you.

Yes, a request, it's a new tradition.

This past December I gave Zack a scooter on MY birthday, so I've decided to proclaim it tradition to GIVE on our birthdays, and so yes, I'm asking you for something.

Your daughter and husband still sit together under the coconut tree in the backyard, feeling the silence of your absence, and wishing (sometimes in silence, sometimes with their actions) for time to move quickly backwards or forwards.

Can you please shake a coconut down on them today, maybe scare them a little?

I know they'll know it was from you (maldita), not from me (sinverguenza).

Te quiero*