She was sixteen and beautiful. The young Air Force fellow stopped in his tracks when he saw her through the department store window. He and his buddies were roaming around looking for souvenirs in Guadalajara, México. This was the last thing he had expected to find.
“Man…come on. We’re in a hurry. Why are ‘ya standing there staring like a dufus? “
The Airman seemed paralyzed. “Wow. Just look at her. That’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
Raucous laughter and innuendo burst around him like fire. He whirled around with a look on his face they had never seen when he set out on his usual conquests of a female’s attention.
His voice sounded strange…even to him. Something big was happening he did not understand.
“I’m going in there by myself. You can wait, or go back to the hotel.”
He did a brisk about-face and marched through the door with an unexpected resolve.
The gorgeous Senorita was standing at a table, folding scarves. She looked up to find him gazing at her as if she were every Christmas present he had ever wanted. She gave him a dazzling smile. He felt helpless. His mouth was dry but he managed to squeak out the one word he was sure meant Hello.
The decency and sweetness enveloping her was new to him. Her beautiful countenance was something he had never witnessed. This was surely a treasure. She returned his greeting, and then asked him…in Spanish…if she could help him with a purchase. He had no idea what she said.
He shook his head and gesticulated as if she were deaf. He pointed to his mouth and repeated, like a broken record, “English, English.”
Her musical laugh made his knees so weak he was sure he would faint. She pointed to her own mouth and mimicked him. “Espanola, Espanola.”
He shrugged his shoulders and held out both hands, palms up. She turned around and ran to another employee. He was afraid he had scared her. In a few seconds she returned, nearly dragging the older woman with her. He had no clue what the staccato conversation meant.
The lady stopped and addressed him. “I speek little Anglish. What is eet you need?”
He wanted to shout, “This beautiful girl,” but remembered what his Captain had told them about showing respect to the sheltered young females in this country.
“I…er…I just want to ask her name and if she will go with me to a dance tonight.”
After a short interpretation, the delightful girl with long dark hair and creamy skin answered.
“Me llama María. Como se llamo?”
He figured that had to do with his name. He managed to remember enough to tell her, “Paul.”
“Ah,” she responded, shaking her head as if she understood everything there was to know about him, ”Pablo.”
They stood staring at each other for so long, the older woman touched Maria’s arm and indicated there was work waiting. All Paul could think to do was leave. He could feel her watching him all the way to the door. When he turned, she still wore the most incredible smile. She waved. He knew he’d be back.
Over the course of his stay, and on subsequent visits to her town, they went many places together and made wonderful memories. He didn’t even seem to mind the old aunt who was required to tag along to chaperone them every second. Nothing mattered, not even the language barrier. Love always seems to be able to find a way to speak its own language.
In due time, he proposed, and though she was quite young, her family agreed to the marriage. She learned English by watching American television in the Texas town where he was stationed. When he left the service, they moved to another state and had five children. By the time I met her in the late 1970s, she was a fine speaker of the language, especially with her special twist on the southern drawl.
Two years ago she wrote to tell me Paul had passed on to Heaven (he was eight years older than she) and two of her grown children had died…one from lung cancer and one from a car accident. She had finished college and become a nurse.
This true story has one important lesson: there are more ways to speak than with a voice. If it’s meant to be, two humans in love can always find a way.
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