The space we shared was ideal. The building was on campus and clean, and I knew the boys next door. There was a rooftop balcony big enough for two people to soak up the faithful Pasadena sun, which I did. But not with you.
I was twenty-something doing cartwheels down the hall, and you were forty-something lubing your hands up every night and sleeping in gloves. You had a way of not taking my phone messages and erasing the recordings. You had a way with your tiny grocery cart on wheels and umbrella in hand on perfectly bright warm days. You had a way with your drawer full of vitamins and fish oils. You had a way with doing light morning stretches in your lycra in front of the double door living room mirrors. Oh Helen, you had a way of brushing your dark hair repeatedly at night in silence. Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh.
It seemed to me you made grad school your permanent home, while I plowed through as quickly as I could. I tried to tolerate you teaching me to “pass a cloth over it.” Your suggestion for my lackadaisical bathroom cleaning duty. And on one occasion, your meek response to my explosive words stopped me short.
Finally, when you gave me a rose at my baccalaureate it pierced me like a sword! Oh beautiful and strong Helen of Puerto Rico, what ever became of you?