Friends. Just friends. We were nothing more than just friends.
My just-friend had quickly become the kind of amigo that accompanied me on my walks home from Temple to 12th and Spring Garden albeit virtually via calls that interrupted him in the middle of his workday. We came to talk about everything and nothing at the same time and I could never quite summarize anything that we ever spoke about although they were the types of conversations that I never wanted to end.
We planned to meet up on South Street one Friday night at Las Bugambilias around 9 p.m. to get some dinner. I’d later find out that this was not a taqueria nor were the prices reflective of an orden of tacos.
I arrived at 9:20 p.m. after having adopted a habit of unpunctuality from the flexibility of college life. I had donned a pair of black skinny jeans and navy blue flats that provided no support since they were slippers in actuality and used as the back-up for heels that were too high for a high school dance.
We ordered guacamole and talked about the oil paintings of women clad in traditional Mexican skirts that were strung around the restaurant. I ordered bacon-wrapped chicken in mole sauce without having a clue as to what mole actually was. My just-friend paid the check and we were out by 10:30 p.m.
Not wanting to part ways, we looked for an excuse to stay together and occupied some of the awkwardness of the mutual desire to be in one another’s company by walking toward the river. I was always in the middle of telling a story to my just-friend, and there were never breaks or pauses where we could have decided to call it a night. So with our flimsy excuse in hand, we walked.
We walked from the restaurant to Penn’s Landing. I told stories of how my dad was in the Navy as we meandered by the Seaport Museum.
“Mi papá era en el ejercito,” I tried to explain, “Pero no era soldado. Siempre estaba en un barco en el mar. ¿Entiendes?”
“Uh-huh,” was my friend’s typical response regardless of the topic that I was rambling on about.
My español was getting better according to my just-friend, but I still wasn’t able to tell as many stories in Spanish as I could in English. Each story took so much extra effort and time. My vocabulario was always expanding, but I relied a lot on describing things.
We walked up Market Street with no sense of urgency whatsoever and crossed over to JFK Blvd. We strolled through Love Park, the parque with the sign that says amor, and continued down Benjamin Franklin Parkway. I explained to my just-friend how this was my favorite street in the entire city due to the banderas from different countries around the world.
It was around 12:15 a.m. when we reached Logan Square and had to take a break. We perched ourselves on the side of the fuente. It was then that I learned the difference between raccoon and opossum in Spanish. A raccoon is an animal with a máscara de negro en sus ojos – a mapache – whereas an opossum is a tlecuache. Supposedly this isn’t confusing.
“¿Tienes sueño?” My just-friend asked me as my own eyes were starting to resemble those of a mapache to which I answered “no” since I was a luchadora de dormir, a fighter of sleep.
Still telling stories, we continued to walk. We headed straight towards the Museum of Art and ended up in Fairmount Park. Nonchalantly sauntering down one of the trails, we took advantage of an inviting bench as the sun poked through to welcome the day.
“¿Ahora tienes sueño?” My just-friend asked again as my heavy head dipped down to his shoulder. In true sleep fighter fashion, I stubbornly responded, “No.”
By 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, we arrived at Cosi on foot for breakfast. Both of us sleepily ate our breakfast sandwiches, and we finally decided it was time to go home with neither side accepting exhaustion as cause for separation.
We said our good byes and finally parted ways. I took the bus home and was hardly able to walk up the stairs to my apartment let alone make my way up the thirty-nine stairs to my third-floor bedroom.
I found out much later that my just-friend didn’t understand most of my stories that night due to my rudimentary and developing Spanish. I also found out that my just-friend was extremely exhausted during our overnight journey through Philly having worked at two jobs earlier in the day.
My back-then just-friend is my current day husband. Our roots are founded in stories like these that demonstrate that amor como el nuestro, no hay dos en la vida – love like ours, there’s not another like it in life.