just a muchacha besando a un muchacho
October, 1992: San Miguel de Allende
It is an October night in 1992 and, despite the chill in the air outside, I am wearing a sleeveless powder blue velvet top with front darts and low-slung black jeans. My clothing choice would be vintage and hip in downtown Philadelphia where I routinely roamed four months prior, but here in a discotheque in the heart of central Mexico, the irony is lost and I suspect I even look a bit old-ladyish. Around me, Mexican adolescents dressed in shiny pants, short skirts and high heels shimmy to the disco beat but I have stopped noticing because I am kissing one of them with my eyes closed.
Carlos is my 19-year-old student and I have tried to resist him because I am the teacher, but not really. I haven’t been trying to resist him at all; I’ve only told myself so. If I had, I wouldn’t have agreed to come out with him on a Sunday night, when the disco closes earlier than other nights so it seems more innocent. I have brought along my teacher friend Gussie to pretend to myself I am not going out with a student but the ruse has fallen away. Muted squares of light from the disco ball above fall across our faces and Cristian Castro is singing, “Babe, I love you so. And I want you to know. That I’m going to miss your love, the minute you walk out that door.” Then he sings, “Please don’t go. Don’t gooooo. Don’t go away.” There is a deep sadness to the words because I have been asking myself in the cooler days of October why I am still in Mexico. I am teaching English a few hours a week for less than minimum wage and it is something but not much, so I also ask, for how much longer will I stay. And now I am kissing my student and the question will never be asked in a carefree way again.
A writer friend once, upon learning my father had coached in the National Basketball Association, called me “basketball royalty,” implying privileges and glamour, which my life in the United States had not been lacking. There had been an era of free Nike shoes for the family, cost-free car leases, newspaper headlines, championship rings, victory parades, but that was when I was in my twenties, before the incident that changed all of us forever. My former life as a coach’s daughter had left me a befuddled 33-year old, a fake adult who had a hard time establishing her own identity. For many years, being the coach’s daughter has been enough.
But tonight, under the glittering disco ball, shuffling in a small circle on a wooden floor, one arm delicately around Carlos’ shoulder, the other hand clutching the too-long sleeve of his paisley button-down shirt, realizing his lips are so soft because he has almost no facial hair, I am not thinking of my life’s direction or lack thereof. I am just una muchacha besando a un muchacho, not wanting the song or the kiss to end.