8 January 2021
Not sure why it came to me last night, but it’s time for me to tell my story of Maria – note that I do not say, “Maria’s story.” No, I cannot tell Maria’s story; only she, I believe, could tell that. Instead, I’ll stand by my own version because it is all that I can attest to.
Maria is vibrancy. She is color, noise, motion, and energy. She is light and love. Maria is perfect; she is an amalgam of perfection and imperfection resulting in a purity of soul that she wears on her sleeve and shares openly with anyone who would accept her.
I first met Maria at Tierra Burrito Bar on Calle Serrano about three blocks from the US Embassy in Madrid. My first impression of Maria is characterized by movement; bouncing back and forth between spouses, her husband Chris, and her children, Maria did not stand still. Maria, it turns out, never stands still. Because of this, while I recall noting that she was beautiful, dressed exotically in vibrant colors, had long red hair, was Argentinian and spoke with a heavy Spanish accent, I recall very little else about our exchange – just a sensation of interest that lingered long after.
My most impactful memory of Maria (gosh there are so many) – my favorite memory of Maria was the night we went clubbing downtown with C_____.
By ten that night, I was sitting idly at home by my computer, annoyed, waiting to hear from her. Of course, I knew that Maria always ran late, so I expected that I’d not hear from her on time. Of course, I knew that Madrid’s night life never started until late, so I did not expect to get moving early. However, as the clock crept past ten and my children scuffled off to bed, I couldn’t help but wonder…Are we ever going to do this, tonight?? This girl will be the death of me.
Eventually, Maria texted to tell me she still was not ready to go; I should come over to her place. Bored and lonely, I complied. Once at her house, I loafed lethargically on her master bed while she fuddled with her hair: up, down, twisted up – not quite right – back down, braided half up, curled the ends. It didn’t matter; she’d be gorgeous. As she tinkered with perfection, she peered at me around the bathroom doorjamb: “You want you can borrow my boots? They’re very sexy.”
I contemplated my respectively dowdy footwear: “Like, what boots?”
Maria paused mid-fidget with her hair, a bobby pin poking out of her mouth, strode past me on the bed, and opened the mirrored sliding door of her closet. Digging for a moment, she pulled out a pair of tan, suede thigh-high boots with four-inch heels: “You can try see if these fit! They will look cute on you.”
Handing me the boots, she moved to the other side of the closet and slid both doors out of the way, rummaging higher this time. One, two, three hangers she pulled with their associated garments and dropped on the bed next to me: “Try these, too. Let me finish with my hair. I can do your makeup.”
I looked doubtfully at Maria’s size two frame through the bathroom door and back to my own size 12 frame slouched on her bed in the mirror and thought, There is no way any of those are going to fit me. Well. There is no way anyone should doubt Maria. For sure, two of the tanks were far too small; however, one did, in fact, fit quite well – and its glitz, glitter, and glamour made me feel 20 pounds lighter. Suddenly I was less suspicious of the boots. I pulled them on over my jeans, all the way up to mid-thigh; they fit! They didn’t just fit; they fit. The shoe size itself was a perfect match and the thighs worked well over my jeans – the elastic just tight enough to prevent them from slouching.
“Ooooh look at you. You know, you should keep those, they look nice on you! You can take them home after we go dancing tonight.” Knowing full well that the reason she would gift them was only because there was no way they would have fit her tiny thighs could not rob me of my delight. They were sexy.
As I turned in front of the mirror to see that they made my thighs look leaner, Maria with her perfect hair humped an armload of cosmetics onto the bed: “Sit.” I obeyed.
No one had ever done my makeup for me before. There were products and layers and shades and layers – and afterward, looking in the mirror, it was not as if I were no longer myself, it was as if I were simply a more polished version of myself. There was nothing about the woman looking back at me that was not me. She was all me; she was just – brushed up a bit. Spit-shined. Glowing. To this moment I believe it was as much the attention as the makeup and clothes that made me feel beautiful that evening…
Maria may always be the most beautiful person in the room, but she was never the type to lord that over anyone else. Her style is, rather than to outshine you, to turn up your shine to match her own. It’s a well-honed skill, and I do not know how it came to her. But she is the first and only person I have met in this world who is able to accomplish this for others.
That night, we went out clubbing together with C_____, and although I cannot hold a match to either of their beauty, I did not feel plain. I felt fabulous. Full of life. Together, we three purchased a private booth with its accompanying champagne bottle, and we stayed and played in our cubby until we were booted out of the club sometime around three in the morning. Men came and went. Women came and went. Dancing never stopped. Drinks flowed. And the rhythm in my head helped me forget, for just one moment, that I was a mom. The bass line reverberating within the drum of my chest reminded me, for just one evening, that I was more than all of that. The sensations gave way to carefree amusement, and I was able to let go of all the anxieties associated with the life of a milspouse barely treading water in a foreign country.
Such is María’s power to encourage others to shine, to live, and to love freely.