My Photo Albums Win a Heart

     In the next few days, I began closely observing Gloria as she prepared the meals. The kitchen was easily viewed from the main large table in the dining area where Doña Anne and her grown children, Felipe and Andrea, and the two other teachers ate each day. She seemed to be enjoying the work. I know I certainly enjoyed watching her do it. Of course, her salary was definitely helping provide for her family.

     Eventually I became bold enough to strike up a conversation with her while she worked. Things were beginning to advance nicely, I thought. One day I decided to take a bolder action. While she was busy preparing the mid-day meal, I went to the entrance and waited until a little old lady selling flowers walked by. I indicated to her that I wanted to buy some flowers. I chose an attractive bouquet of white and yellow flowers, and paid her. Turning my wheelchair around, I drove directly to the kitchen to give them to her. I'll never forget the surprise and excitement on her face as she took them from my lapboard on my chair. Her eyes sparkled like stars. (She later told she had never received flowers from any suitor, a thing inconceivable to me.)

     Seeing that the time was right, I said to her, somewhat hesitatingly, "Gloria, quiero darte un beso. [Gloria, I want to give you a kiss.]" She stepped close to me and our lips met for the first of many kisses to follow. I don't know who was more surprised, me or her. But never was there a sweeter first kiss between a cook in a kitchen and a math teacher teaching ESL than that one. It now has become one of our events to celebrate each year every October 24th; it's right up there with birthdays and wedding anniversaries and the like.

     The 25th marked another milestone in this little romantic journey. A Saturday it was. Anne and her daughter, Andrea, left for a trip to the U.S. There were no classes scheduled, things were rather quiet around the premises. After the mid-day meal was over and the dishes washed and put away, an idea occurred to me. In those days it was still a little difficult for me to carry on small talk in Spanish. I went to my bedroom and brought back to the dining table my large photo album. Several years before, my mother, -- my biological one -- had prepared a collection of my baby pictures and other snapshots from my youth, taken before my parents were divorced. I myself had added in many others that had been made since those days, and even up to my arrival in Mexico. It made a rather impressive record of my life. I placed the book before her, opening it to the first page. Right away, I knew I had done the right thing. There were three photos of me as a tiny baby. Everyone knows how a little baby affects the attention of a woman, especially the motherly sort. The first showed me at an age of barely 4 weeks, being held in my father's arms. The next two also showed me with my father, at ages 3 months and 6 months. Talk about going right to the heart strings! These 3 pictures probably sealed things for me then and there.

     We spent quite a while happily going through many pages. Not only were there snapshots of my parents, but also my two brothers. Each page that was turned brought new images of another world and another time that were quite foreign to this lovely young creature by my side. They showed a culture that she had no knowledge of, of course. Nor could she have even imagined it. I felt certain that she was getting to know me in a most unique way. The whole affair certainly gave me a good lesson in Spanish Conversation 101.

     But things got even hotter the following day. Gloria didn't have to come in to work on Sundays. But our friendship and attraction for each other had obviously grown stronger. So much so that she told me that she would like to come to the institute and fix breakfast just for me, an idea I readily approved of, to be sure. She arrived bright and early. My caretaker, a local young man who had learned English at the school, already had dressed me and put me in my wheelchair. He bid me "adios" and I headed straight for the kitchen. Gloria was preparing our breakfast, smiling sweetly as I entered. "Hola!", she said, "¿Cómo estás tú?" I really don't know how I replied, it has been so long now, but I'm sure it was appropriate enough. She took our food to the dining table, and we enjoyed everything immensely. Breakfast had never been so pleasant as this one was.

     Again I went to my sleeping quarters, and brought out two more photograph albums. I had learned my lessons well from the previous day. We blithely turned page after page. I explained more about the events of my life recorded therein. I have no doubt that I committed many grammar and pronunciation errors. In fact, since then Gloria has often said that she was, in part, greatly attracted to me for that very reason. Had it not been for those very errors that I loathe so much, things might have transpired a lot differently.

     After we finished the last page, we just sat there holding hands, looking into each others eyes, not knowing quite what to say. But I definitely knew what I wanted to do. Somehow I managed to encourage her to come closer and put her arms around my shoulders. Slowly but deliberately, our lips found each other and we kissed. Not like the short, sweet little kiss we shared in the kitchen two days before, but rather a real, romantic one. Just like in the movies. I suspected then that my life was never going to be the same again. Maybe my parents had been wrong back there in Kansas, just maybe.

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