Stepping Out With My Baby

     After Gloria's return with Sonia and her confession about having a son, things began picking up more and more. It was becoming clear to me, at least, that she was someone with whom I would like to marry and take as my wife. And really I think she was considering the same, but wasn't quite ready to admit it openly. I can safely say this in light of what she has told me since. She felt that at least, considering my great physical limitations, I wouldn't be able to harm her or her daughters. These days spousal abuse is a serious problem and one to be aware of when the woman has cute daughters at the start of things. However, as I was not raised in such an environment living with my father, that sort of behavior never even crossed my mind. The worst thing I had suffered as a young boy was divorcing parents, not physical abuse.

     My greatest obstacle, it turns out, was not winning Gloria's heart, but those of the girls. They came from a very different environment in El Salvador. One might even say difficult environments, where men hold great power in the family setting. They now began seeing their mother taking interest in another man, one they knew little about. They saw her washing my hair and feet on many occasions, taking walks to the park, and so on. This was very unsettling for them.

     I tried very hard to gain their trust and confidence. Mention has already been made about our English and math lessons. My diary that I was keeping in those days carries many entries of our other activities, such as walks to the central park in the city that was just a few blocks away from the institute, buying ice cream, comic books, and other such fun items that are common in such places. We obviously must have made a curious sight to the local Tapachultecans as this crazy gringo traveling through the busy city streets in a motorized wheelchair, with one little girl standing on top of the battery box behind him, arms wrapped around his neck, and another little girl walking by his side. But what did we care? We were having fun.

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     Though the road was rocky with the girls from time-to-time, it was certainly the opposite with Gloria herself. We were hitting it off so well that somewhere along this time, even before she had gone to San Salvador to recover Sonia, I had even raised the matter of marriage! Sadly for this record you are reading, my diary carries no mention of when I had said anything in this regard. The only evidence that hints of this fact is that Gloria remembers she carried a small photograph of me with her, showing it to her daughter. Also there were the final three words in her telegram message that she wired to me. I do recall the place where I broached the subject: in the laundry area! No, not some romantic restaurant, with candles and violins playing in the background. In spite of that humble setting. never was the question popped with more love. One thing is for sure - she didn't say "yes" at that moment. But something along the line of "Later, Terry."

     Once Gloria became the cook, a daily routine began to emerge that is definitely engraved in my mind. Early each morning before she started preparing breakfast for everybody, she would drop in to my bedroom to say "Buenas dias, Terry." Her smile was certainly the sunlight that began my days on the right foot. As I lay there, I listened intently, waiting for the sound of her footsteps, soft though they were. Then as the days drew on, it was more than a mere verbal greeting. Kisses and hugs were added to my pre-breakfast diet. She often wore a simple blue dress. The neckline had a moderate U-curve, concealing ever so modestly her femininity. Soon even that was no mystery.

     Gradually, she began to help the young man who came in each morning to dress me and put me in my wheelchair. Once that was accomplished, he could go on, taking care of his own affairs, and I was okay until bedtime arrived at night. For the 20th of November, my diary has the following entry, indicating an important escalation in our relationship: "no school today (Mex Rev Day); Gloria dressed me this morning; we watched the parade together, then spent the afternoon together, too." My life was really taking on the trappings of a modern fairy tale.

     Three days later I made a move that really left a strong impression on Gloria. In the morning the handful of local Bahá'ís - and I mean handful, as there were no more than ten of us, if even that many - held a regional convention in a restaurant. Afterwards, I asked Felipe and his girlfriend, Ana, to help me find the area of town where Gloria and her family were living. I vaguely knew where it was, but I had never ventured to go there due to the city traffic and distance. Me and my wheelchair certainly was a "David" and the city buses made out like "Goliath" whenever I traveled on my own. But this time I was determined to sling a few stones if necessary. I wasn't going to be intimidated in my search for my goal.

     Upon arriving at the place, one thing was completely obvious to me - it wasn't the Holiday Inn. Not that I was expecting anything fancy, but I was struck by the utter crowded conditions. Many people were housed in very small rooms with cement floors. I spoke to the first person I saw, saying, "Yo quiero hablar con Gloria. [I want to talk with Gloria.]" They quickly disappeared, located her and said: "Te busca un hombre, en un silla de ruedas. [A guy in a wheelchair is looking for you.]" Gloria came out from behind, obviously shocked and delighted that someone, especially that American gringo, was actually searching for her in such a place.

     I promptly suggested that we take a walk. I wanted to get away from all those prying eyes of the people. I wanted to be alone with her. She readily agreed, and we began a rather extended walk. As we walked and talked, we ate, too. There were many street vendors or small shops in the area. We had popcorn, pan dulce [cookies], and some raw coconut meat. Ummm! Very delicious, too. But it wasn't the food that was important, rather our conversation, the details of which are left written on the warm breezes of the Mexican sky.

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