Friday, June 22, 2012

The Final Chapter

I've spent the last hour reading through an old journal...specifically about my return to Mexico.
I think I can do the story justice.
Let me say this: my life has been so full...full of amazing experiences, and I'm grateful.
I have a hard time remembering that I have a purpose here other than laundry and vomit, and reading my journal tonight gave me a bit of peace that I've been in need of.

* * * * *

Almost immediately upon arriving in the village of Garbanzo, I knew it was going to be a long week.
We were with a group of 25 or 30 other people and we would be spending the week building a small schoolhouse, and construction a playground for the school kids.

Four of us in the group were single girls, and within a matter of hours, one of the guys from the Mexico team had tried flirting with all of us.

He must not have had a very positive response from me because he spent the rest of the week mostly avoiding me, and I was okay with that.  He was a bit arrogant, and knew just enough English to get himself in trouble, over and over again.

(This is another story entirely, but Fernando and I eventually became friends and there was a time I broke his heart...)

For nearly two days I worked hard and watched as the girls and Fernando flirted with each other.
The girls squealed and laughed at all of his jokes, and he sang to them and danced with them in the dirt.
I thought often of the boy I loved, and mostly felt both slighted and relieved that I wasn't the recipient of any of Fernando's attention.

It wasn't easy for me to be in that setting.
I loved Mexico and was so happy to be back, doing something good for people who truly needed it, but my heart still hurt, and that hurt felt more raw.

In the afternoon of the third day we were in the village, a truck pulled up and three or four people got out.
Juan, the man in charge of the humanitarian group in Mexico, walked over to them and shook their hands.
In turn, he brought the group to where my dad and I were working and introduced them to my dad.
They were students from the University of Mexico and had come to help with our project.
Juan introduced them to me, and when I shook the last guy's hand I was stunned.
He was so good looking it took my breath away.

I immediately felt self-conscious.  Showers aren't part of our 'luxury' accommodations when we work in the villages, and we had been there a few days.  I was wearing a hat and dirty clothes, and I'm sure I smelled like sweat and the earth.

In that split second Fernando and his little harem melted into the background, and I never gave them a second thought.
I was in love and I couldn't stop smiling.

Obviously I wasn't really in love, but I was smitten and happy to be feeling that way...especially in Mexico.

Hector was tall and dark (obviously) and beautiful.  He was the quite brooding type, and in a way he seemed mysterious.  He didn't say much but he seemed aware of everything.  His hair was as long as mine and he wore it in a ponytail.  It looked perfect on him.

It wasn't until that night, after I had a chance to stick my head in a bucket of cold water and wash my hair, that the object of my affection seemed to take notice of me as well.  

His eyes followed me everywhere.
We still hadn't spoken to each other but in a strange way words didn't seem to matter.
That night we sat across the fire from each other and watched as those around us laughed and played games.
When I finally went to bed it was with a feeling of contentment I hadn't felt in such a long time.

Sometime the next morning the barrier between us was broken and after that we were inseparable.  We talked, we didn't talk, we worked next to each other, and sometimes we simply just stared at each other.
When Hector saw me using a digging bar without gloves he brought me gloves.
When he saw that I was getting sunburned he brought me sun screen and stood next to me to make sure I put it on.
He truly made me feel like I was the only person in that village that mattered to him.
And he made my stomach queasy every time he looked at me.
We stayed up late the second night talking by the camp fire and when I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer he made sure that I made it to my tent safely.

Our last night in the village was New Years Eve and a big party had been planned.
A ginormous tank of water had been trucked in and all of us got in line to wash our hair so that we could clean up for the party.
The other girls had been teasing me all day that 'tonight was my night'...romance was in the air and they couldn't wait to see what happened.
I stood outside my tent combing out my hair and one of the girls came up to me and whispered, 'He hasn't taken his eyes off of you since you first got your hair wet.'

I was both anxious and excited about what the night was going to bring...

I make it sound like I was expecting some amazingly romantic encounter.
I was way too shy and innocent to allow anything too scandalous to happen, and even if I had uncharacteristically thrown my morals out the door, my dad was never more than 15 feet away from me.

Mom, don't worry...I never even thought about throwing anything out the door.

I changed into the only clean clothes I had left, and doused myself with body spray.  I put make up on and combed through my hair one more time before I was finally ready to leave my tent.

I looked for Hector and found him across the camp site.  He had just finished taking his tent down and was packing his bags.
I went first to my dad and asked what was going on.
He put his arm around me and said, "I'm sorry Nell; he's leaving.  Someone in his group is sick and they have to get him to the hospital."

I couldn't even say anything.
I walked to the steps of the schoolhouse and sat down.
A few minutes later, while the rest of his group stood watching, Hector walked over and sat down next to me.
"I have to go," he said.
"I know."
"I don't want to go."
"I don't want you to go," I said.

And then we just sat there in silence.

He hugged me before he left and then I watched the tail lights of the truck until I couldn't see them anymore.
I didn't stay and ring in the new year.  I went to my tent and cried a few tears and then slept.

Here's the thing about Hector.
I knew how it would end before it started.
I knew that after our encounter in the tiny village of Garbanzo, we would never see each other again.
And although I was sad that our experience was cut short, I wasn't heart broken.

But what Hector did for me in those few days is something I'll always be grateful for.

He took the emptiness that my heart associated with Mexico and filled it.
He replaced the saddest memories with happy ones.
When I think about heartbreak and Mexico, they are no longer one and the same.
The boy I loved broke my heart, but Mexico held a piece of my heart that could be separate from that.

Mexico became the place of some of my very best memories...and after Hector, each return trip to Mexico was filled with a peace I rarely found at home.

I still think of the boy I loved on his birthday.
When I drive through his hometown I can't help but think of him.
But when I do think of him, I'm just filled with gratitude for the years I had from when he broke my heart to when I met Jason.

Some of the best things about my life would have been lost had things worked out with the boy I loved.
And the best part of my life wouldn't be...

The man I love now fills my heart and our daughter completes both of us.
And in my book, that's the best happily ever after I could have hoped for.


Sandra said...

I hope to someday to be as wise as you.

Anonymous said...

1st of all - that is the most BEAUTIFUL picture of Emily! Seriously...GORGEOUS!

2nd of all - "Fernando & his little harem" is the funniest thing I've heard in a long time! You crack me up & poor Fernando.

3rd of all - let's hang out! Call me.


Lalis said...

*clap clap clap clap* YAY!!!!

I don't think those boys that break our hearts ever leave us. We love them so much I think they literally take piece of us with them. It's okay. We grow from those experiences. They lead us to what is best for us. You got Jason and Em. I got my Arab. I wouldn't trade Nader for the world, not even to have the boy I loved back, even if I do remember him on his birthday or when I drive through his hometown. :)

Loved this story!

TortugaRachel said...

Awww! Big hugs. I'm so glad Mexico now holds happy memories for you, I was so worried that it would be one of those "I can never go back" situations. And you're right, while heartbreak was painful, it was part of God's plan. Without it, you wouldn't know how incredibly awesome and powerful love is and therefore wouldn't have been prepared for Jason.

Baby Sister said...

Ahhh yes, Hector. I remember trying to sneakily take pictures with you and him together by the school. I almost forgot about the girls. Boy did they flirt!!

Anonymous said...

Great story Noelle,

Thank you

Rachel Starchman said...

Great story, your an amazing writer and story teller, you need to write a book. Those young, love heartbreaks sure do leave a lasting impression but we always end up where we should.

Rachel Starchman said...

And i love love love love that picture of Em!! Purple is her color :)