She was struggling with a heavy bag, stopping every few feet to rest, so I decided to help her. When we reached her place, she offered to take me up on the roof. “You can see the river,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”
“I was midway through law school,” she told me. “One day—it was summer and time to go home—I was driving to Pennsylvania where my sister was going to graduate from college. I was running a little late, and I got off the highway to make a phone call and let them know. I was at a stop sign when somebody came down a big hill and hit me with a bigger car. I broke all my bones, and I was in a coma for a month. I had to relearn how to eat, I had to relearn how to walk and how to talk, and how to read and live my life all over. But I’m OK now. Life is good even though I’m not a lawyer. Maybe that’s a good thing, too.
When I realized I wasn’t going to be a lawyer, I decided to volunteer in the library on Saturdays teaching English. I also wasn’t meeting any interesting men, so I thought I might meet some there. When I walked in, they said, ‘All the tutors, just pick a table. And everyone else, pick wherever you want to sit, and that will be your tutor.’ And the most gorgeous men in the whole place sat at my table. I just couldn’t believe it! Then, we got up for a break, and one man—the most gorgeous of them all—was beckoning me to come closer. He was the most handsome man I have ever seen, and he was beautifully dressed. He could’ve been on the cover of a magazine. I just thought to myself, Whatever he wants, I’m going to do it. And I am never like that. He said, ‘I want you to be my tutor.’ I said, ‘I am your tutor. You are sitting at my table.’ He said, ‘No, I mean more than that. More than just here. More than just on Saturdays. Every day.’ I said, ‘OK.’
And he started coming here every day. We read poetry together. We read Pablo Neruda. I would read it in English to him, and he would read it in Spanish to me because he was from Mexico. Then we went to different places, so he could learn more words in a real-world setting. We went to bookstores, we went to the movies, for coffee, we ate ice cream.
He took the test and passed it. Then he got a nice job as a doctor and took me out to an expensive dinner. But he had a boyfriend. I fell in love with him, but he was gay.”
“When did he tell you that?”
“The very first time when I took him up on the roof. Oh, that’s another nice story for your book. I took him up on the roof, and the sun was setting, and it was very romantic. I brought him up here thinking that it’s a beautiful place, and he is going to love it, and he’s going to love me. He loved it, but he said, ‘I have something to tell you.’ I said, ‘When a man who looks like you says a line like that, it means one of two things: He’s either married or he has a disease. Now, which one is it?’ He said, ‘I’m gay.’”
We talked some more, and at the end she said, “After all I’ve been through—I mean, I nearly died—it’s good to have a new friend. Sometimes it gets lonely when you live by yourself. I dated one person, and I thought he was going to marry me, but one day my mother called me and told me he had died in a mountain-climbing accident. Then I had another boyfriend, and it didn’t work out. Then I had another one, and it didn’t work out. And then I decided that maybe I would be better off just not having a boyfriend and being alone. It’s good sometimes to be by yourself and to be strong and independent.
And I will tell you something else. Ever since I came out of the coma, I never feel sad. I’m not sure if that’s entirely a good thing, but I lost that ability. I’ve only cried once.”