It was like the sun came out from behind the clouds. Or an ice cube melted. Or a flower opened. That is to say, Rey's demeanor completly changed. He went back to being the gentle, happy person I'd come to know.
We chatted a bit more, until Borders started turning off their lights... and then left. It wasn't until about a year later that I found out just how happy my words had made Rey.
Rey was staying with a marvelous couple that summer who became like parents to him during those weeks. After Rey was back in Mexico, the woman shared with me that she had been worried when Rey came home so much later than usual. She said when she asked him about it the next day, his face split open with the biggest smile she'd ever seen as he told her what had happened. She said, "He was positively giddy!" That made me grin every time I thought about it.
Rey had to go back to Mexico about a week later. The more I thought about it, the more overwhelming the idea became. Already? Just now? Right when things are getting good?
The night before Rey left, the couple he was staying with threw a goodbye party for him. All of the other Mexican workers and some other friends (and I!) went out to eat at a buffet. The couple presented him with a photo album of pictures and kind notes from different friends Rey had made that summer. Rey never spoke to me at that dinner.
I had to leave early, and accidently left my camera. Rey (being the knight in shining armour he is) picked it up and called me later on to tell me he had it. That was the only reason he called. I am sure.
We chatted about him leaving the next day and how sad we were about it. It was late, so Rey didn't want to keep me on the line too long. I went to bed feeling cheated. I'd wanted to talk until the sun came up.
To my surprise, around 6 the next morning, Rey called. I felt as though I could fly over the moon. Yay! A phone call! He told me he'd wanted to say goodbye again, before actually leaving. He asked if he could pray.
It was during that prayer that I fell helplessly in love. Rey prayed for me, for himself, for us, for blessings on the couple that had hosted him. "They don't know how much they have done for me." He was crying a lot as he poured out his heart to God. I was crying as I thought, "Could this amazing guy really be mine?"
And, that was that. Rey left at the end of July. Back to his studies, and I to mine. I graduated with my Associate's for Education that December and we hoped Rey could get a visa to come at that time. It was denied. We cried then, and then told each other we'd see each other the following summer when he returned to work at the landscaping company. The landscaping company didn't hire any migrant workers that year. We cried again.
We emailed nearly every day, and called each other once on the weekend. "Snail mail" would get to us about every 3 months. We still have many of those emails. 1,000's of words shared. Moments relived. Laughs inspired. Tears unseen. During those days, we still were not "officially" boyfriend/girlfriend, so we relied heavily on words like "dear friend" and "I miss you terribly" to convey what we really wanted to say.
Rey wrote me an email on my birthday in 2005: "I hope you are very happy on this special day. Please don't forget how special you are to me... There have been so many hard times for us and I know I wouldn't be able to get through them without God and you... I want to tell you that I admire you, appreciate you, I miss you, I.... don't know what else to tell you! Just please remember I will never be sorry that I have such a special friend like you who has brought so much joy and light to my heart. Even with the distance, I feel that you are near and even if there are times I feel sad and like I want to cry (like now), I know that you wouldn't want me to be like that... Don't forget who you are for me."
We tried again that summer to get Rey to be able to come to visit. My brother was getting married and I thought it would be fun to have him come for that. He was denied again. So, as always, I just sent him pictures.
July 28, 2005: "Greetings to the craziest girl in this world... Guess what? Exactly a year ago, we were talking at Borders! I think we really picked a place with a bad name to meet. Whyyyy?? What a coincidence, right? I mean, why couldn't we have met in a place called "Together". Or--ever better-- "You and Me Together"! Anyways, thanks for the pictures from the wedding. I am agreeing with your brother when he said he loved your clothes for the wedding. The truth is, you looked...amazing. I think you were the best of everyone. I am sure that no one was even looking at the bride and groom, right? They were saying, "Look at that girl!" Now I really wish I could've been there.... Well, next week classes begin again... You know how when we were talking the other night on the phone and I said, "Even with all that has happened in this last year, I would still have told you the same thing I told you at that place with the HORRIBLE name..." You know, that's not true. I would tell you--I would tell you--Well, I probably should not tell you now. We'll wait until God brings us together again, and I will tell you...unless I am unable to speak! Wow... just imagining it makes me really nervous!"
It made my heart beat faster, too, let me tell you. Finally, I was able to save up enough money for me, my brother and my mom to fly down to see my man at the end of September 2005. 15 months had passed since Rey and I had seen each other.
My brother, mom and I drove up to Chicago and spent the night in a hotel to catch a early flight out to McAllen, Texas. I couldn't sleep. My throat would close up whenever I imagined what it would be like when Rey and I saw each other again. What if I didn't like him when I saw him? What if I was in love with an idea and not the real person? What if he was different than how I remembered him? I had passed those 15 months with about 10 pictures of him. That was nothing!
We were soon flying south. My mom and brother soon were zonked out on the flight, and I am sure I did not move the entire flight. I was frozen in terror. As the border grew closer and closer, my stomach felt sicker and my hands turned to ice. I don't remember speaking the 6-some hours to McAllen.