Just a Girl I Knew - @JaceBDeleon
I promised myself a long time ago that I would never let a woman be the death of me. So at the end of my senior year of college I found myself with no job and in a massive amount of debt and recently loveless. The only logical thing for me to do was to join Teach For America because at least they would help pay off my student loans. I applied, was interviewed, and accepted the offer from the organization to move to Seattle all under the nose of my friends and family. I boarded my flight without even waving goodbye. There was nobody I really cared to hug, give a fake smile to, and wish to see later because just two years ago I lost my person during a clash of philosophy’s. At least that’s what she liked to call our separation. I just blamed timing. We met at the wrong point in our lives. She’d disagree.
I stepped onto that plane a free man, though. I walked past the first class seats all the way towards the back of the plane, sat my carry on in the compartment above, and took a seat. Ever since she’s been gone I have learned to enjoy being alone, not that there was much of a choice, so I was thrilled to discover that the two seats next to mine were empty. But if there’s anything else I’ve learned it’s that nothing ever goes the way you want it to. That’s why when I saw this rushed, worried, young but beautiful mother holding her crying sons hand; I knew my luck was up. The two took their seats to the right of me. I heard the mother ask the young boy if the window seat would make him feel any better. A soft smile rose from his tears as he crawled over to his chair. His mother took the seat next to me and handed her son an iPad to play on. I watched as she scurried through her purse looking for a pair of headphones until she finally gave up and told him she had left them in the car.
“Excuse me miss,” I said, “He can borrow mine.”
“You’re a life saver, thank you.”
She went along and introduced herself to me and the two of us proceeded ahead with the normal small talk that strangers have while interacting on an airplane. Time went along, we took of, and I dozed off.
During that three and a half hour flight I had never felt more at peace. Every single thing that caused me pain back in Austin was going to be left behind. There were no more parents to disappoint and I was leaving behind fake friends who all mooched off the little success I made as a writer. More importantly, the ghosts of my past relationship were being left behind. I felt as if I was going to escape her shadow and there was going to be a purpose in my life once more. I grew up following the Jesuit motto, “Men for Others,” so I had done some work in low socioeconomic schools before and this was my chance to continue my work with the “at risk” children of Seattle. I’ve never been much of a God fearing man (even though I have a cross tattooed on my arm) but I knew I was doing God’s work or at least I was going to try to. I made the decision early on that during my time with Teach For America I would only dedicate myself to that program. There was no room for any games to play or women to chase. I find it funny that I say that because that’s completely what led to our separation. Guess she did rub off on me?
The plane landed. Caroline, the mother whom sat next to me, leaned over and handed me back my headphones.
“Adrian, what do you say?”
Adrian looked up at me with his big brown eyes and mumbled something while extending his arm for a handshake.
“Sorry, he’s still learning his English,” Caroline said.
Apparently Caroline was from Venezuela. I made that assumption because of the flag on the back on the iPad, but then she eventually told me. She moved to the states a little over five years ago with her family. She’s the only member of her family that speaks English, so naturally little Adrian’s first language was Spanish. Caroline was beautiful. She had such long, straight hair, perfect curves, beautiful light brown eyes, a nose piercing and such full lips. I don’t think she stopped smiling throughout our whole moment together.
We went our separate ways after we had picked up our bags but not before exchanging contact info. Everything happened so quickly. Every Wednesday and Sunday night Caroline and Adrian would come over and she’d would cook the three of us dinner. Things just clicked between her and I. I was the only friend she really had, I guess? Yeah sure, we were different on the outside. She came from a family with some money while I came from a lower middle class family. We’ve experienced life so differently but yet when we were together everything was just so easy. We were one at the core. I had felt this before. It was all too familiar. This wasn’t the first time.
Every now and then Carolina would leave Adrian at her mother’s and she’d just come lay with me in bed. She didn’t need anything extra to keep her entertained; just me. We’d talk until the break of dawn about life, death, and everything in between. For the sake of my own feelings I began to distance myself from her and Adrian even though I knew it wasn’t fair for the little guy. It’s something I had to do.
One day I received a random phone call from Caroline while I was at work. She left a message inviting me to a Mariners game. One of her brothers got tickets for the three of them but he could no longer make it. I took her up on the offer. I love baseball. It’s America’s past time and there’s just always something about the past that is so attractive and it just pulls me back.
So here we are, walking through the Home Plate Gate at Safeco Field. Caroline and Adrian had never been to a ball game so all of it was a bit much for them. They pointed and questioned every grown man with a baseball bit in hand. I walked them to our seats and asked if either of them were hungry. Of course Adrian was. There was no way I was going to let that kid experience his first baseball game without a hot dog. It would just be so un-American. I got up and walked up the steps and searched the area for the nearest concession stand. As I began to walk towards it, I could see this woman. She was staring at me. She knew me. I knew her but something was different. It felt like the first time I had ever seen this woman. Was it the straight hair? I’m not sure, but damn she was gorgeous.
“Forget it,” I mumbled. I got in line and waited but she approached me.
“I didn’t know we weren’t speaking?”
I turned and once I saw her face, I remembered who she was but I couldn’t remember her name. And it was the hair. It used to be wavy, I think?. I stuttered but before the words could escape my lips she spoke again.
“Are you going to act like you don't know me?”
How dare she? She cut all communication off and hadn't spoken to me since. This is the same woman who told me, “You’re the only consistent thing I have.” Then she just disappeared.
“I’ve never forgotten about you,” she said while lowering her head.
I reached out and grabbed her hand. She looked up at me. It had been so long. I hadn’t seen her face in what felt like ages but here she was. And here I was. I had been so angry at her for leaving but all that hate could not match the love between us in that moment. But that’s all it was, a moment. Moments aren’t meant to last forever, memories are and that’s all she could be. For the first time ever I watched a tear stream down her gentle face.
“A lot has changed since I last saw you and I think I’m ready for us,” she said.
I jolted up from my seat.
“Please fasten your seatbelt. We will be experiencing some turbulence.”
My eyes scramble and I quickly turned toward the mother next to me, who had the most shocked look I’ve ever seen. She grabbed my hand.
“Wow, some dream, what was it about,” the mother asked.
“Just a girl I knew.”