Hey there, Chiquita

Once there was a boy who rose to the challenge of this new thing called email.  “Hey there, Chiquita.  Are you going to be around at Christmas?”  The girl wasn’t clear on how those words had travelled to her all the way from Montreal to Hamilton in a heart beat but she couldn’t help but love them.  She smiled for a long time after reading those words.  They were like ice-cold lemonade to her in the hot, stuffy, too-small, too-complicated, too-predestined undergraduate world she was living in just then.

They didn’t actually see each other that Christmas.  It wasn’t until May that she joined him back at the summer camp.

They smiled a lot in those summer days.  They played euchre and guitar and footsies.  They talked and wrote letters and whispered good-night messages to each other over the primitive camp radios.  He introduced her to Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, and Ani DiFranco.  She introduced him to John Calvin, Darlene Zschech, and her whole entire extended family.  They couldn’t keep their eyes off each other.  Or their hands.  Everything seemed new and unexpected and good.  They found each other under the willow tree hidden at the back of the graveyard down the road.  They went on formal dates in the city, along Queen street and at My Apartment.  “How’s your mom?” was the code for “I’m liking you” in front of the campers.

And then, after a few months of this, a change.

He found a quiet place in a barn full of activity.  “I’ve seen love go by my door, it’s never been this close before. Never been so easy or so slow…Dragon clouds so high above, I’ve only known careless love. It always has hit me from below.  This time it’s more correct, right on target, so direct.  You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go.” With his guitar in hand, he sang her the most beautiful love song she’d ever heard.  In a few weeks she would be heading back to Hamilton and he would take the train in the opposite direction to Montreal.  But in those moments time really did seem to stand still.  His singing turned to whispered words: I love you.

Like that first email, she had not seen this coming.  She had not anticipated that he could love her already.  Her silence following those words probably wasn’t what he had hoped for or expected but she could not figure out how to move her mouth, her tongue.  She had been muted by those words that were drilling their way through to her heart.

That was fifteen years ago.

Looking back on it now, she sees how very much that scene foreshadowed the years to come.  He saw her, loved her, and waited for her to understand.  He stayed steady when she was lost in muteness.  He wasn’t scared by love or by her messiness or by commitment.  When his friends were fleeing to the Gold Coast of Australia, he was buying a diamond ring that would, once again, arrive so unexpectedly. In those fifteen years he was always ready first for the next step and always patient when it took her a little longer.  He found ways to carve out space so that her dreams were never compromised and in those moments when she was ready to walk away in the face of “too much” or “too hard” or “too long”, he reminded her that she was everything she was supposed to be with or without a title.  And then he cooked supper, changed the babies, and screened her phone calls so that she could go back to the computer and keep pushing through.

And today, she still smiles when she hears him singing. She can handle the first dozen or so Dylan songs but after that she makes no promises.  In return, he’s learned a little Blue Rodeo and Indigo Girls.



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