by Paola B. Lopez Sauri
November 7, 2018 | Creative Writing
I remember the moment that I saw you. I remember how the sun shined through the door, reflecting upon every surface it could find, breaking open over the room. I remember the white walls and the tiled floor and the cool air migrating from the freezer to my hands. I remember the hectic sounds of the city outside, the careless cars with their loud motors and booming music. I remember everything around you.
I remember everything that came before and everything that came after that moment, but the moment itself is somewhat blurry. I can see you in my mind’s eye, but the image that materializes seems somewhat unrealistic. You are not the candid picture that I wish you were – you have been edited and retouched. I wish I could remember it all just as it was, but you put a spell on me that I cannot fix.
The story starts in the summer of 2017. I was on my way to visit my grandparents in Mérida after a long year of Skype calls and forgotten text messages. At the airport, my grandma was quick to break the silence that had bloomed between us. I hoped my grandfather would be just as brave. However, once I walked into my grandparents’ house and I saw him coming down the stairs, the very first thing he said to me was: “Oh, good, you’ve lost weight.”
That brings us to two weeks later, the day I met you.
I was in the living room conversing with my mom, my brother and my grandmother. Well, I say conversing, but I am not sure any one of us was actually aware of what was being discussed, for the day was too hot to think; we were all seconds away from melting over the polished floor.
At a loss of options, unsure of how to subdue the fire burning through our veins, my grandma suggested getting some popsicles at the ice cream shop across the street. Thus, we gathered all of our strength and walked out of the house into the unforgiving sunlight.
We piled into the store one by one, but there was nobody behind the counter. The four of us simply stood there like lost puppies, waiting to be attended. As we waited, my family members debated which flavour they would get. I, on the other hand, was worried that my grandfather might have something to say about my eating habits and debated whether I should even get a popsicle in the first place. While these thoughts raced through my brain, I looked around the shop, which I thought was empty, and laid eyes on you.
You were leaning forward against the counter, head hanging from your neck. You seemed to be about my age, either seventeen or eighteen, not a minute older. Your hair was unruly, its wild curls pointing in every imaginable direction, like springs ready to bounce. Your skin was sun-kissed, warm and sweet as honey; I wonder if it is as soft as it seemed.
I am not sure that is an accurate description of you, though.
I often wonder if you actually looked that way, if I wasn’t just seeing what I wanted to see. Tell me, where you a mirage that only I could perceive?
This makeshift memory that I have of you actually reminds me an aphorism: "I did that," says my memory. "I could not have done that," says my pride, and remains adamant. At last — memory yields. This saying truly captures what I am trying to express, while reminding me that memories can be molded and changed; they can lie.
Even when I try to reassure myself that the image I have of you must be real, I can never be sure. When I turn back to the moment I first saw you, when I try to picture what you really looked like, what used to be so clear in my mind, I sometimes come up empty-handed. The vague memory that I have of you might simply be a fragment of my imagination; there’s nothing to prove otherwise.
None of that matters though, because I no longer care whether it happened the way I remember or not; all I care about is the feeling your smile left upon me.
That smile is the only reason that I am writing this letter to you. That smile is the only reason why I’m putting all of this down on paper.
Oh, when you lifted your head, when you turned towards me and smiled, I was lost; there was nothing else but you.
When you smiled at me, I felt whole again. I felt all of your happiness and enthusiasm. I felt your exuberant kindness, which was precisely what I needed that day.
So, even though you rode away on your bike, never to be seen again, you left a strong impression on me. Your smile made me feel safe. Your smile convinced me that I should be myself.
Your smile convinced me to pick out my lemon popsicle.
The girl that smiled back at you