Sunday, January 13, 2008

No country for grown-ups

In the past week...

- An old woman with long silver hair - wife of a movie critic - chatted me up while I guarded press rows from the beasts that are the public. We were at a screening of The Bucket List and I usually kind of loathe this part of my job because I have to chat with writers and their spouses, while pretending that I don't hear people from the general public saying, "this row's fucking RESERVED!" Sometimes, when I'm in the mood, I yell at people who try to sneak into the press rows by saying, "that pole is there for a REASON!" or "this is for press! Let me see your card!"

It's a nice way to let off pent-up steam from the work week.

Anyway, the silver-haired woman told me, "I'm going to say something to you and I hope you don't get offended." I said, "Okay." She proceeded to tell me that she thought I looked "awfully young" and that she thinks I'm still in high school. I laughed probably more than I should and said, "I'm older than you think. I'm 26."

That kind of comment would have offended me when I was 20 and trying to look old enough to buy beer, but now? Never. It made my week.

In other news:

- I wrote a song. It's the first song I've written since I was 13. But that one didn't count. So this counts as the FIRST song I've ever written. And like all people who make things out of their bare brains, I think it sucks.

Since I am in a stable relationship that only breeds silly arguments about finances and dinner, the only source I have for love-type angst is my first love from long, long ago.

When we first got together, I was 13 and he was 16. I met him on one of my annual family trips to Mexico and he had curly black hair and wore Eternity cologne. It was such an angsty time in my life -- my parents were in the middle of a divorce, my dad was depressed and was pawning family heirlooms for spare cash, and on top of all that I was skinny and awkward and no matter how much positive reinforcement was laid on me (possibly as a result of my parents overcompensating for guilt of the divorce), I always felt retarded and un-cute.

A summer love couldn't have come at a better time. We spent 3 weeks telling each other wonderful things, promising each other the stars, listening to music, and making out whenever the circumstances allowed. When I came back home, he called every week, sent me packages and came to visit twice -- once in August and once in December.

One could say it was much too intense for a 13-year-old, but that's the kind of 13-year-old I was. And the story doesn't end there.

We spent a year writing to each other, promising each other the world, etc. The following summer we broke up and I dated my cousin's friend Alonso, who was five years older than me and a killer kisser. When I came home, he wrote me one letter, I never responded and then it was done. I heard from my cousin that he now has two kids.

Then I went to high school and got myself an American boyfriend my own age. Blah, blah, blah, we fought, we lost our virginity to each other, it was mad love for four years, but there was one summer when we broke up and we were free of each other. The original Mexican boyfriend, Sergio, called me all summer inviting me (through my mother) to go to his high school graduation. My mother, who always wanted me to be with him anyway, encouraged me to go to Mexico for a week and go to his graduation. So I went. I was 16 at the time.

This week has provided me with a lifetime of material.

This week was the inspiration for my post-graduation novel, which I never finished.

I'll tell you about it here. I arrived at the Mexico City airport where he was supposed to pick me up. I didn't see him, and had no idea how to travel by myself -- including how to make a phone call on the Mexican pay phones. That's where I learned that they use pre-paid cards instead of coins. I finally found him and we drove an hour and a half to Tlaxcala, where he lived.

His house was a beautiful split-level on three floors. It was cold, even though it was summer, and I was aggressively warned by his three sisters and mother to wear a sweater at all times. They made such a fuss over food -- they made hamburgers when I got there and made sure to exclude all salsa and anything else that was otherwise "spicy."

Sergio took me to his room, where he said I could leave my things and take a nap. He told me he had a surprise for when I woke up. (He was all about the surprises.) I took a three-hour nap and the surprise was that we were going out.

We went to the downtown square, which was charming and quaint. We had drinks at an outdoor cafe and he waxed philosphical about how life is like a box of matches, "you can light one at a time and have a small light, or you can light all of them at once and have a furious light." He said, "the problem with lighting them all at once is that the light goes out quickly as the single match you lit." It's funny now that I think of it.

Then there was the question of us sleeping in the same room. My stuff was in his room. And that's where he slept. So we played the song and dance of, "no I'll sleep in the other room...out of respect for you..." and "no, it's okay...I don't mind...I mean...I'm in a strange country and it's better if you're near me..." Heh. I was a tricksy little girl for my time.

Nothing happened for four nights. It was the first time I'd ever shared a bed with another man. And it felt quite normal. One of those nights we woke up at the same time in the middle of the night and kissed once and fell back asleep. It was like a dream. But then there was the last night I was there.

We had gone out to a local guitar-player-in-the-dark-corner kind of bar and I drank Bailey's. I got so drunk I fell asleep in the bathroom for 15 minutes. When I came back to the table he said let's go. When we drove back to the house, Michael Bolton's "When a Man Loves a Woman" was on the radio and we sang it at the top of our lungs. Such dorks, I know. But we were in love. And drunk.

We got back to the house and I was wearing these ridiculous platform shoes. I took one off, and went up the stairs to his room. Surely I woke his mom up because moms totally wake up more often than dads. We settled in his room, made out clumsily, and before I knew it I was in his bed. He said he'd be back -- he was going to his dad's office downstairs (he was a doctor) -- and came back with a condom. So romantico.

So what happened that night needs no explanation except for that I felt full-on love the next morning -- nothing in comparison to my stupid high school love with the boy with whom I was to spend the next two years fighting and ultimately resenting.

Sergio and I spent the next morning joking around, kissing, quoting "The Little Prince" by Antoine de San-Exupery. I told him "tu me has domesticado" to which he responded with a kiss.

That day I went back home and I cried on the shuttle to the plane. I was the beautiful, painful vision of young tormented love.

When I got home, I was in full Mexico mode. I kissed everyone I met on the cheek. I spoke perfect Spanish, and did not want to go back to the American high school boyfriend. But alas, I did -- one night, he invited me to dinner at the Island and won me back with what could only be interpreted as an engagement ring, only he didn't ask me to marry him. He just gave me a diamond ring, a solitare 1/3 carat -- more than my current boyfriend of eight years has given me. I gave it to my mom to keep for years, until this last Thanksgiving when she was showing me her jewels and I came across it. I took it back and wear it when I want to feel nostalgic or like a boy gave me a diamond once. So very Ms. Dinsmoor in "Great Expectations," all listening to "Besame Mucho" and drinking heavily and dancing by myself.

So that's the story behind my song. I fear the song will never be played -- you know, when I was writing it, I felt these delusions of grandeur like I could be a recording artist but whatever...I promote other people's work for a living. How do I find the time to promote my own work? No, it will forever live in my computer as that first song I wrote that had to do with my first love Mexican boyfriend.

I'm showing the intensity of my 13-year-old self.

And I'm okay with that. Because I look like I'm in high school.