Great Minds: Write about someone you admire and you thought to have had a beautiful mind.
The seal was broken every time he looked at her. Lips unsealed, legs parted, but it was just his way. It had been long since she had last seen him, it could’ve been a lifetime, too, a full fifteen years since that prom night where instead of going to the lovers’ lane with her date, she’d followed him to a motel. She chose her Spanish teacher over the football quarterback, and she didn’t regret a second of it. Her virginity bothered her, it was a fact of life, and she’d thought it’d make more sense if she picked an older, experienced guy over a horny do-nothing ballplayer, who would probably hump anything anytime anyway, thinking about everything but her pleasure.
She had followed him all these years, from the shadow of course, and not at all in a stalky way. It so happened that sometimes she’d google his name, check if maybe he’d opened up a Facebook page, but nothing—although she was sure that he probably had one under a different name. She knew he had gone from teaching in high school to teaching in college so she did expect to find him randomly at a conference, whether in the States or in Spain somewhere, and she had even registered for some conference in Laredo, TX, with that sole purpose. He was cited among the panelists, under some boring title along the lines of Español en South Florida: The Experiment of Bilingual Quality Education in Underserved Populations. She thought the title was long and stupid, but then again so were most paper titles in academia.
But Laredo had been a bust. And she had looked for him in his panel and elsewhere unsuccessfully.
It was one morning as she was driving to work that she got a call from Ida, struggling for breath, waiting to talk.
“You’re—oh my god—you—you’re not—”
“Okay, okay, take a minute,” Lucia told her, shouting over the noise her daughters were making in the back seat. “What’s up?”
“Yeah, I got the email too but didn’t bother opening it. I don’t think I’ll go. Too boring. I don’t have time to fly to Miami at this time. I don’t want to see any of those people.”
“Oh my god—god—stop—stop and listen. Santiago—gosh—Santiago is going to be there.”
She hit the breaks, thankful that there was no car behind her and that her daughters were fully strapped to their car seats. Car in the curve, she brought her phone to her ear, at a loss for air. Now it all made sense.
“What?” She told Ida. “How do you know?”
“You’d know if you have opened the email. Ugh. I hate you. He wrote a bullshit message about how we were the class that graduated during his first year of PhD and bla bla bla. He’s gonna be there, Luce, and so are you.”
She closed her eyes and started reminiscing. This was what she had been waiting for all along, unbelievable that it would fall into her lap like that. But, just like that she knew, being Ida the one to call her, the one to talk about the imminence of their encounter, she knew it was going to be senior year all over again.
“I’ll cover for you,” she heard Ida say distantly.
It started replaying in her mind. Those last words her best friend had told her as she was leaving the gym. Meeting him randomly in his classroom, when she had gone to reminisce about what it meant to her. He had surprised her there, and only later had she learned that it was Ida who had told him where to find her. There she was, sitting on her desk, all fluffed in her hot pink dress.
“I thought you couldn’t wait to get out of this place,” he told her.
“Out of this school, but not out of this classroom.”
She gave him a smile and he smiled back, then walked to the chair in front of her and sat there, looking her way. His fingertips bordered the uncovered skin of her arms, and she felt a vacuum at the pit of her stomach. She looked at his hands, the ring on his finger shining brightly, then he looked at him, his deep blue eyes fixated on hers.
“I’m sure you’re up for great things,” he told her. “Your life will just get better from now on.”
“It should,” she chuckled a little, then looked away. “At this point it kinda owes me.”
Santiago knew her struggles, everyone did. Her father, hooked on drugs, had started more 12-step programs than she had taken classes during her whole time in high school. Her mother, absent, inexistent almost, had left to get sober and had succeeded, except that she had forgotten to come back for her. But she had had no problem in replacing her with three more children with a new husband. If it wasn’t because of her tía, there would be days that she wouldn’t even eat.
“Valedictorian, huh?” He told her, and his hand moved up to her chin. “I didn’t expect less from you.”
“I’ve been working hard,” she admitted, then smiled, “you are an inspiration, though.”
Inspiration. How stupid. She could’ve at least thought of a better word. Inspiration. He must’ve thought that she was an idiot, one of those groupies that were all over him at school. But if he did, he didn’t let it show.
“I should probably head back,” Lucia said, standing up.
But as she tried to walk past him, he grabbed her wrist and tenderly turned her around. Face to face, the kiss to come seemed imminent, but still, she waited. What was he waiting for? Their eyes locked, she smiled, and a couple of seconds later, his lips were on hers. Her eyes closed, she wrapped her arms around his neck. Was it even real? How to tell? He pulled her body against his, his hands wrapped firmly around her waist. It was the beginning of the best night of her life.