When my Parents started their own family, they knew that not being able to speak English well, would be a detriment for their children. Me and my siblings were spoken to in English as we were growing up for this reason. Spanish was always on the fringes; we heard our parents, and their families speak in Spanish, but it was not a language that we had any real founding mastery of. Our parents wanted the best for us. We all learned to speak well in English, but our cultural history tied to the Spanish language was fractured. So, when Lupe asked me why I was not speaking to her in Spanish, my history came crashing in. Even living in Spain had not pushed me to really try to master some Spanish. I tried to explain all of this to Lupe, and she was kind in her acceptance of my past. I know it was confusing for her. “Who’s this guy who has lived in Spain and he doesn’t speak Spanish?” she was thinking.
Lupe had only been in the United States for 6 years when I met her on the telephone. Her mastery of the English language was still trying to find its’ place into her vernacular. She was still trying to find the right words in English as she shared her story with me. When I talked to her that second day on the phone, she pronounced my name Steve as Esteve. I was entranced by her accent and knowing that she was able to think and converse in the language of my parents’ roots. I felt embarrassed to not be able to converse with her the way she wanted me to. She thought that since I had lived in Spain, I would have been able to open some connectedness to her longing for everything Spanish. It was not until years later that my Spanish finally started to gain some hold and connection in me. That was primarily because I struggled to make better connection with her parents and her siblings. By no means am I a master of the language from the Iberian Peninsula, but I am getting better. I can hold my own, and I think in Spanish when I am speaking it now. I am so very proud of my roots and Lupe was the catalyst that invigorated that part of me.
So that Fall of 1977 was filled with many late afternoon telephone hours of Lupe and me tip toeing into each other’s lives and history. We talked just about every afternoon for over 2 weeks. Lupe went home on the weekends to visit her family in Muleshoe, so I would have to wait until she got back Sunday night before we could talk again. We would talk for 2 or 3 hours every time we reconnected on the telephone. We shared our dreams. We shared our goals, our hopes, our plans, our futures. I lived in Jarrett Hall and Lupe lived in Hudspeth Hall. They were only about 100 yards apart. I could have easily asked her to meet me outside her hall, but the anticipation I felt every afternoon was exciting. I made my way back to my dorm room every afternoon after my last class. I made the call… and she was there. We fell into rhythm every time we talked on the phone. I fell in love with Lupe on that telephone. Even before I ever laid eyes on her. I kept thinking, “I wonder if she’s pretty.” I had my answer to that question about 2 and a half weeks after she called me that first time.
In that third week of our getting to know each other over the phone, there was a mixer scheduled in the lobby, day room of my dorm. A mixer was just that. A place where young students like us could mix, dance together and entreat the edges of the opposite sex. A place where we could revel in the exhilarating, heady days of our youth and get acquainted with one another. I asked Lupe if she wanted to meet me there. I felt giddy when she told me she would be happy to meet me there. I think it was a Thursday night. Having grown up on a small farm just west of Clovis New Mexico had established my “Kicker” persona. I was an urban cowboy legend. At least in my own mind I was. Tight Wrangler jeans, the shoulder padded Country shirts, the polished boots, shiny belt buckles and the musk cologne of the 70’s were all part of my persona. One thing I forgot to ask Lupe when I asked her to meet me at the mixer, was what did she look like?
I think I changed my clothes 3 times as I got ready to meet Lupe at the mixer that Thursday night. My clothes were clean, pressed and hung well on my frame as I came down the stairs that entered the large activity room at the front of the lobby of the Male only Dorm. Stevie Nicks was well into her soulful rendition of Rhiannon as I entered the dance and surveyed the tight packs of young women who were clinging to one another as they began their mingling process.
Young men filled with overflowing masculine entreaty, were beginning their queries among the young Ladies as I made a slow pass through the room, searching for Lupe. Twice I thought I had spied interest in the faces of two young Hispanic women as they returned the soulful queries I made with my eyes, hoping it was her. But after a bit, they both turned away and I continued my slow pass through the room searching for her. After about 20 minutes had passed, my ego was a little hurt that she had not revealed herself yet and I decided to act as if it didn’t matter. I approached a gorgeous blonde headed young lady with tight jeans and shiny cowboy boots and put out my hand and I asked her to dance to the country song that had just started. Jimmy Buffet had released “Margaritaville”, probably his most famous song, in 1977. The blonde put her hand in mine and tucked herself into the rhythm of my dancing gait and matched me move for move. I felt powerful with her in my arms. I hoped if Lupe was watching that she would notice me. After the song came to an end, I thanked her for the dance, and I walked her back to the group she had been with. I continued my pass through the throng of young people who had grown and tried again to find the friend I had made on the phone.
The energy in the room was getting electric and young hormones were beginning to permeate the air. Young males, just like me, leaking testosterone strutted themselves around the room as they probed the edges of the female cliques gathered everywhere. Young women dressed in 70’s, tight fitting fashion. Vibrant young women gathered in conspiratorial glances. Hushed tones, shared giggles and covered whispers were running rampant through the venue. I glided around the room noticing the dark-haired brunette women who freckled the predominantly light skinned gathering.
I perused the spectrum. From light tawny tones to the dark, resonant black tresses that framed their alluring scented young faces. I was culturally aware as my eyes swept the room. I was aware of the Hispanic contingent as it laced through the room. I was drawn to the cultural narrative I had been infused with since I was a baby. I was drawn naturally to the brown eyes and brown toned hair styles of those ladies. Ladies that belonged to my village of history. Hispanic Girls, Ladies, Women, Moms, Aunts, Grandmas, they all inhabited special places in my history.
Now here I was in this place, searching for the one who had piqued my attentive ardor, like no one else before. “Where was she? Why had I not found her yet? She must know how much I was interested?” Why hadn’t I asked her what she looked like? In the hours we had spent coupled through the telephone line, I had already found myself contemplating the possibility. Might she be the one I was waiting for? The gentle timbre of her voice had embedded itself into my psyche now. I had found myself drawn to the next time I would hear it coming through the telephone cradled to my ear.
These giddy thoughts accompanied my magnetic attraction for her feminine alchemy. She sounded like a grounded, alluring young Woman on the telephone line. A young Woman exploring her path into her future. I felt privileged to be invited to explore the fringes of her path. The tension in my carriage longed to find her and engage with her, face to face. As I turned, I noticed some soft entreating eyes noticing me. Her face carried striking ancestral lines of her evident connection to deeper Mexican roots. Then I noticed her thick, long, dark, brunette, glistening hair that ended at her waist. I couldn’t help himself. There was no hesitation in my gait as I straightaway made my way to her.
As I approached, I was drawn to the energy that emanated all around her. My eyes stayed on hers as I was resolutely drawn into her aura, “Are You Lupe?” I gingerly asked. “Are You Esteve?” She queried. I extended my open palm to her. She put her gentle, soft hand in mine as I asked, “Do you want to dance?” She hesitated a moment and said, “I don’t know how to dance country.” I countered with “I’ll show You.” She hesitantly, but trustingly held my hand as I gently drew her into the dancing throng. We were connected from that sublime moment forward.
As I settled my right hand around her waist, her luxurious long hair enveloped and cascaded over my fingers. Her tender scent conveyed soft, mellow, effeminate confidence. I had never experienced anything like this in my young life. As I led her around the dance floor, our energy melded into each other. Everyone else became invisible. We laughed with one another. We shared more about ourselves with one another. Our time on the phone had already provided our introduction. Now, here we were seeing, touching, and sharing each other like neither of us had ever experienced before.
We were already good friends. Our time on the phone had provided us the opportunity to share private places that resided in both of us. It was amazing for me to have her in my arms, right here, right now, and to think of what she had already shared with me about herself. We found ourselves instinctively comfortable with one another. Though we came from opposite ends of our cultural history line, there was a kindred connection between us. I felt immensely privileged to be accompanying this striking, radiant person who I was already close to. As we explored the room together, I felt like our intimate bond of shared words, thoughts, experiences, and dreams were ours and ours alone. I felt like I was carrying an intimate secret that no one else there that night had been included in. I felt like I needed to watch over her. My carriage was deferential to her, and she felt protected in my company. I was overcome as I fell into her resplendent allure.
My question had been answered. Lupe was undoubtedly, assuredly, categorically—So very good looking. That first spell binding night together ended with me walking Lupe back to her dorm. She stood on the top step, under the single low glowing light leading into the side door of her dorm hall. I was immersed in her regal, formal, traditionally infused Mexican history. I felt so very fortunate to be her companion. I reached up to her from my lower step and kissed her gently on her lips. Just once. Genteel and filled with respect and deference for her. I turned and left her standing on her steps. I looked back once as I walked away. I was unequivocally swept into her world when I looked back and found her gently smiling back at me from the top of the steps, under the soft light and slowly waving goodbye.
That was 45 years ago… Esteve