Rey says his first reaction was, "Oh! She is young. And pretty." Apparently. he'd imagined an old, bent-over woman would be his English teacher... so I got him good. He also says he was in love with me from that first meeting. But I, of course, did not know this.
After that first meeting, I found myself hoping to see Rey during the work day. He worked in a different department, so the chances of seeing him were scarce. But, I was a-looking nevertheless.
At that time, I was just in the beginning stages of speaking Spanish. The landscaping company had been hiring Mexican workers for a few years by the time Rey came along. I had seen these Mexican workers as a chance to better my Spanish, and maybe in need of a little help. There were about 12 workers at that time. One woman, and the rest men. The woman, Esperanza, became my almost-constant coworker, since I could communicate with her. She was there with her husband and son, Oscar. It was Esperanza's wish that Oscar and I be married.
I did say Esperanza's wish, right? It definitely was nowhere on my radar. It was more like all I could do to stand the kid, but--being friends with Esperanza--I tried to keep things cordial between us.
I was also rather naiive in those first years. Almost all the guys there (not counting old thorn-in-the-foot Oscar) were married with children, so I felt like we could all just be friends. I discounted their flirtatious ways as just being cultural and really thought of them as goofy brothers and uncles. Oscar aside.
The summers became a flurry of activity. Me translating for them at the hospital. Me helping them fill out important documents. Me at their birthday parties. Me listening to their stories about their kids, life back home.
We would often organize soccer games with them and my brothers. I was used to playing soccer with my brothers, so it didn't really seem weird to me to sometimes be the only girl playing. It just was fun.
Then, in 2003, two Christian Mexicans came to work for the company, and I became really good friends with Antonio. Antonio was a very serious, kind man engaged to be married in the coming year. He spoke often of his bride-to-be, Alma, and we talked about all kinds of life stuff. At one point, he pulled me aside and spoke very solemnly about what "the guys" were saying about me. I don't remember ever having been so angry and dissapointed. Really? Really? That's what they were saying??
Let's just say they weren't saying we were all friends.
Although it may inspire some eye-rolling from those more wise than myself, I had really thought we were just all one big happy family. That I conducted myself in a way that showed care, but inspired respect.
So, that had definitely jaded me a bit, and made me a lot more cautious about whatever signals I might be giving out. Oscar would continue making his overtures of love and I would continue giving the cold shoulder and increasing the distance between myself and the Mexican workers as much as I could. Things became very much more professional between us. It was sad to me.
That was the tension Rey was walking into that summer of '04. The Mexicans who had hung out with me so much before now became suspicious that this new fella might wreck things for them. One of my not-secret-at-all admirers, Norberto (just an aside--even if Norberto had been a complete hottie... who would date a guy with that name? Whew!) called me to let me know that "not all that glitters is gold". Others whispered that he was a liar and not who he claimed to be. To which I replied, "Why do I care? I met him once."
I started wondering about this guy, though. He was giving me that "too-cool-for-school" vibe. When I would happen to see him go by in a truck at work, I would throw out a friendly wave, and he would avert his eyes. Turn his head away, even.
I caught wind of a soccer game being planned for a coming weekend. Suddenly, I wanted to play again. Hmm, couldn't guess why. I bumped into Rey and mentioned the game. Tried to chat a bit, and he just stared over my head and kept walking backwards, away from me.
I fumed to myself. Maybe Norberto was right! Maybe he wasn't gold. Maybe he was just this rich guy who thought he was better than the other Mexican workers because he was going to college. Maybe he thought he was really hot and was expecting American girls to throw themselves all over him.
Well, I gasped to myself. This was one American that would show him the door. Oh, yes. I would give him that aloof act right back.
And I was going to start a list: All the Reasons I can't stand Rey.