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Christina's Walk of Life (and all the perils, confusions and magic she went through...)
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It's never too late to fall in love again!
Dear man of my life,
Panama City, Panama
I just adored living in Panama City, Central America. It was a great phase of my life even if it suddenly ended... We lived in a big house, near the beautiful Inter Continental Hotel, with a big pool. It was because of that pool that I started having swimming lessons. I went to the Club twice a week. I went alone now because Manolita had stayed in Uruguay (she had fallen in love with a nice man she met there and even though being very thankful to my parents, she chose love, not work, loyalty and loneliness). I was 13 now and I was tall, had long blond hair and nice long legs. I had won many 1st place medals and was even becoming well known. The coach of the Club I swam at had an eye on me and even asked me if I would consider swimming for the club on the next Olympics! I swam and practiced so much that my hair sometimes looked green due to the swimming pool products. An article had already been written about me in the local newspaper. My father was thinking about this because I was not Panamanian, I was Brazilian/American and a diplomat's daughter...so, which country would I be representing???
My mother knew that Manolita had a younger sister in Spain and asked Manolita if her sister would like to take her place and come to Panama. I knew that she really wanted someone to take care of me because my mother never did. Her name was Glorita and she was 26 years old. She was stubborn and rude as for whatever reason, was immediately jealous of me. She made my life miserable and would tell lies about me to my mother.
I studied in the Canal Zone, in the Diablo Heights Junior High School. I loved it. I went by school bus from Panama City to the Canal Zone, crossing the Panama Canal. In Panama City, I spoke Spanish, in the Canal Zone, I spoke English. At home, Portuguese. I studied from 8 to 3 pm then went swimming in the hotel's pool. I had a life of my own now and as I was always away, my mother never noticed me at home and so she wouldn't think of sending me to a boarding school. Sometimes I would go to the movies with my girl friends to watch a Beatles film,9 times in a row ( I saw Help 28 times...), I would memorize all the songs, sing them in full blast with my friends while eating popcorn and sodas in the darkness of the movie theaters! Once I begged my father to get me all the Beatles albums. He said he would but I needed to get A's and B's only. I did. He did what he promised. One of the albums, called Rubber Soul, was actually autographed by the Beatles, I nearly died of happiness, I kissed Paul McCartney's autograph every night. I was going to marry him one day, oh yes I was! He was so handsome... and sexy!
Before I met the twins, I had a boyfriend for a month. His name was Ferdinand Porras y Porras. We couldn't stop looking at each other. He was the son of the Vice President. One Sunday, he came to visit me in my house and brought chocolates. The driver brought him. When I introduced him to my father, who was sitting by the pool and I told him his name, he nearly chocked, then stood up, smiled and greeted the boy, then left, laughing... Later that night, he came to my room. He started by saying how important a name was to a person. It could also kill a person's image. I was curious. He said that in the case of Ferdinand, Porras in Portuguese meant cum. I looked at him, puzzled. He said that cum was what came out of a man's pipi when he made love with the woman he loved and came... and doing that Oh hum thing and then that white liquid... the liquid that made babies... that cum, meant porra in Portuguese! Porras meant much cum, and, Porras y Porras meant lots of cum!!! That would be the meaning of my married name in Brazil: Mrs. Cum Twice...!!! Silence...then we started to laugh until we cried. I never went out on a date with Mr. Ferdinand Cum Twice again or I would have had a laughing attack in front of him... My father really manage to explain it well.
One day, handsome twin brothers entered the yellow school bus. They were so alike that it was confusing and they were so cute that it was distracting. I observed them while they sat together. They were uneasy, first time in the bus, looking straight ahead, pretending nothing was wrong. I knew how this felt, the wanting to be unnoticed thing. I also sat alone in the school bus, I hadn't made friends in high school yet, only in Panama City and my friends were mainly diplomat's daughters (which my mother insisted me on having), the "socially" different type of friends, the safe kind friends but that's what my father wanted, too, he asked me to do this and I always did what he asked. The kids in the bus started saying things like: "Check those dudes out!" And laughed loudly. I couldn't take it, they looked so nice. I told the other kids to shut up or I would call the bus driver (the bus driver's nickname was The Butcher because he hated children...). They complained. I said: "SHUT UP!" again. They did, maybe because by sitting alone in a school bus turns you into some kind of freak or weirdo or loner or psychopath. The boys quietly looked at me and smiled, nodding their heads lightly.
The next day, when they entered the old, yellow school bus, they came straight to me and, one brother sat in front of me and the other twin brother sat behind me. I never said a word; they never explained this decision, like some kind of bond or "invisible bridge" that was built between us... And we became best friends and inseparable. I was always in the middle when we walked to school or sat in the cafeteria. They were older than I was and in another grade but we were always together and they took care of me with their lives! I invited them to spend a day in our pool and meet my father. He immediately liked Paul Elliot and Peter Ethan Mc Graham. They were Scottish, strong and quiet, with green eyes like mine but with dark hair. Their father was from a Diplomatic Representation. They simply adored and worshiped me. I also noticed that I could not tell the difference between them at all, which both confused and disturbed me a lot but I adored them both back. I also noticed that, after 6 months, I was in love with BOTH of them. The feelings were likewise.
One morning, Paul Elliot sat next to me in the school bus. I could feel Peter Ethan's breath on my neck, behind me. Paul Elliot gave me his ID bracelet with his name on it! Then Peter Ethan stretched his arm out from behind me and gave me his ID bracelet, too! This meant serious stuff! If I accepted, I would be dating Paul and/or Peter. He was handsome but so was Paul. I loved him...and Peter, too... Any girl in school would die to have those bracelets! I silently turned down their bracelets. Paul looked angry, Peter was furious but they kind of sighed in relief...
At lunchtime, they were grumpy and nervous, looking at me with both adoration and concern. I could feel a certain tension between them, even felt a rivalry never observed before. After that, in my classroom, by 2 pm, I overheard a conversation that there was going to be a FIGHT after school, at 3 pm, behind the school. This was a secret so that the inspectors would not catch them. The students passed the news around. By 2:55 pm the school was boiling. I was curious; I had never seen a real fight in front of me, only boxing on TV with my Dad. When the alarm went off the students rushed out and so did I. Where were the twins? When I reached the back of the school yard there was a circle of 100 students screaming and shouting with dust and punching and noises coming from inside the circle. When I reached the center I saw Paul Elliot and Peter Ethan punching and fighting with each other, shirts torn, blood and spit in their mouths and sweat on their foreheads... While I was assimilating what they were doing to EACH OTHER, a whistle was blown and the school's Coach came running into the circle of students with sweat and blood and spit and fury together with two policemen and they held both Paul and Peter, stopping them. As the policemen held each one they were still kicking and shouting names at one another while they said: "She's mine!" And "NO, she's MINE!" Then, SILENCE...and all of the students turned and looked at ME...then again at them...then at me again...and...then...loudly they all started CLAPPING their hands, making noises and cheering! I was speechless! They were fighting for ME!!!
Both twins were taken to the Principals Office and so was I. While all the students, still laughing, slowly dispersed going home. Paul Elliot and Peter Ethan were dirty, sweaty and tired, looking at me as if they were historic heroes in a mortal combat over their fair princess in the Highlands. My father and mother were there, the twins' parents too and they were talking to the Principal. The policemen had gone away, laughing.
While they were waiting outside the office, they adoringly said to me:
- We love you.
- I know.
- Do you love us?
- We fought for you but there was no winner. You have to choose one or we will continue fighting tomorrow, swear to God...
- I can't.
- Why not? Don't you love us?
- I can't!
- I just can't!
- Why not?
- Both of you.
- I said BOTH of you...
- I love both of you. I can't decide. I want both of you...
- Really???... (They said this together, sighing...)
- Love is good, right, Peter?
- Ahh, yes. And we love her respectfully, don't we, Paul?
- Ahh, yes.
- So... what do you think?
- I think it's good, Peter. And what do you think?
- I think it is fair, Paul.
- Yes, she loves us...both, she loves us both...
- Yeah, she bloody does...both...
- Shall we stop the punching and kicking for now?
- Please do! (She interrupted...)
- Hey...Listen to me... I can't marry both of you! I can't decide. You are both the same. It's like having a good thing, TWICE. I can't decide because I like both of you... Don't ask me this...It's too difficult...
- Right. Agreed. But until we marry you one day, you'll have to choose one or we will start the punching and kicking again. We decided: the winner has you! Deal?
We walked into the Principals office holding hands, the three of us. My father laughed. My mother was shocked. The twin's mother considered me a horrible heart breaker and the reason for all the confusion, not the twins.
They had to stay home for a month: detention. They were going to be expelled but the Principal and his parents came to a consensus...but I knew that my father could be very convincing and helpful in diplomatic issues...
During their absence, I became 14 years old, on June 1st, 1964. My parents took me out to dinner to the coolest Cafeteria in town called Chocolate Con Pimienta and on that weekend, we went to Costa Rica. The twins sent me flowers and two love cards. They missed me madly and called me every day. I never imagined that I would never ever see them again...
My father was looking kind of gray and older and I told him that he was smoking too much. I was angry with him. My mother took his Marlboro's away but he hid them inside his clean shirts or underwear in the closet. He was coughing, had asthma attacks, the weather in Panama was humid and he was going out too much with a former Panamanian President called Arias. Also, there was much work at the Embassy because of the existing problems of the Canal Zone (that was a political exclave of the U.S. that had cut Panama geographically in half and had its own courts, police and civil government, a cause of conflict between the two countries). Demonstrations had occurred at the opening of the Bridge of the Americas in 1962 and serious rioting occurred in 1964. This led to the United States easing its controls in the Zone. (For example, the Panamanian flags were allowed to be flown only with the American ones. After extensive negotiations the Canal Zone ceased to exist on October 1, 1979, in compliance with provisions of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties.)
There were more and riots and demonstrations in the streets of Panama City everyday now...and my mother worried. Panama was becoming a pressure cooker, ready to explode at any moment. And then, four days after my 14th birthday, my dear, sweet, loving father had a fulminating heart attack and died at 3 am holding my mother in his arms.
Glorita shook me angrily until I woke up. She said that my mother was calling me and said: "Tu papá esta muerto!" just like that, no sympathy or empathy, no warmth or support. I...I kind of knew... he was dead. I was feeling something ethereal but real, a knowledge that had no boundaries, shapes, origin, color, smell, taste or understanding. I just knew...that... my father was dead. I started to cry deeply while walking to my mother's room. I had to be strong now, for her... for my mother... but I felt completely abandoned in life. I went into the room slowly, I held her mother's hand and we both observed Colmar, dead in bed, in his light blue pajamas, his hands on his chest, his familiar yellow fingers because of the cigarettes and the smoke and his placid, loving smile. He seemed to be in peace but, why wasn't I? Gone... No more... Simply gone. In minutes, seconds and there is nothing you can do... your loved one is just... gone. We both held each other tight and cried, mother and daughter, woman and girl, abandoned in life because of death...
I kissed my father before he was put into a cold, big, metal box. He was cold, very cold. I wanted to hold him, make him feel warm...My lips kissed the coldness of death on my father cheek, the taste of Death wasn't good, I thought, and I felt like an orphan because he had been, for all these years, my father and my mother. I cried again...so deeply that it hurt inside my soul.
The next evening, I slept with my mother, on my father's side of the bed, on the same sheets. His smell was there, so familiar, so protecting. My mother was crying and moody. Saying things. I held my mother's hand and she slowly went to sleep.
I woke up with a soft touch on my forehead. I opened my eyes. My dear father was floating right over me, smiling lovingly, reassuring and looking extremely... healthy. He had kissed me. He was wearing his white, chambray, Panamanian suit. His fingers weren't yellow or stained anymore.
And we had this intense, deep and spiritual conversation:
- Hello Tina...
- I miss you, Daddy...
- I know. I can feel it. I do, too.
- Where are you?
- Not there yet...I had to see you before I went...
- Gloria, your mother.
- Take care of her.
- I AM 14!
- Take care of her. She is but a child, you know.
- But... I am the child. I need a mother, now.
- No, you'll do fine. I know it. I know it. You are an older spirit, you know things, and you are wiser. She is a younger spirit, impatient. She needs you more than you need her. Just a little bit more. Patience.
- I thought so but I am afraid, alone now, without you. I'm afraid of people...
- What do you mean, minha pequena?
- I am afraid of people...
- There are two kinds of people: the sweet ones and the other kind...
- Yes, I know.
- I'm scared...
- I will watch over you, tell you things...so pay attention to the signs...Listen and observe nature, the animals, the flowers, the ocean and the trees... All this is not just there for no reason...There are no coincidences, hear me? Listen to your ‘feelings'...
- Good girl.
- Did you suffer?
- No. The silver lines that held my soul to my body were cut off before. The passage was fast. Loved ones come to help you but only if you deserve it and have special permission.
- Will you come for me?
- Of course!
- Do you know when I'll die?
- What are you thinking about? I just crossed over last night. No...
- Take care of her.
- She does not love me.
- It doesn't matter. There is a reason for both of you to be together. Work it out. Take care of her. You can. You will. For me, ok?
- That's my baby!
- What will happen to me? To her?
- It will be alright. Nobody is really alone in this world. Be good. Be nice. Be honest. Don't cheat. Don't lie. Be yourself. These are the key words for real spiritual happiness.
- I love you, filhinha.
- I love you, papai.
- Don't tell her about this. Some people don't ‘feel' it...this...
- I know.
- If I thought real hard and with all my might now can you come back?
- No, my darling. I can't. Bye, my baby.
- Bye, my Papaizinho... (crying softly...)
That was the last time we met again after his death...
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
We returned to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Colmar was buried with military honors. His father, a General, had been very important in Brazil, General Daltro Filho. All of his friends were there; politicians and the Foreign Affairs Ministry staff were there as well as journalist, congressmen and the President of Brazil.
Colmar's ex-family managed, in a deceitful way and through law, lawyers and judges, to take, keep and ‘steal' many of our trunks that came in a ship. I lost my clothes, my Barbie's, my dolls, my father's gifts, my coin collection (there was a very old coin from Egypt), my stamp collection (there was a very old stamp from Russia), my priceless Beatles vinyl records, my mother's crystals, Limoges, Persian carpets, antique furniture from all over the world, Cloister eggs, silver trays and China. My father hadn't had time to make a will and secure us. This is an example of the Earthly matters that probably Jesus talked about, not Heavenly ones...and I wonder what Colmar was thinking while watching this happen...
I knew that part of my mother's own self was taken in the trunks together with my precious belongings. I also knew that I had also lost my childhood and youth at that time, for once and for all. I started to grow up fast and became a very quiet teenager.
We lived in Ipanema Beach. I went to Colégio Bennett School. I studied hard in order to learn Portuguese. I grew up. I made new friends especially with a girl called Angela Jorge that became my best friend. I went for long walks in Ipanema Beach and had a surfer boyfriend in Arpoador Beach, called Bobby but I often thought of Paul Elliot and Peter Ethan. Where were they? How were they? I missed them very much. I had another boyfriend, Thomas Hasslacher, maybe the love of my life if he weren't so German and so cold. I adored him but it didn't last long, he really didn't understand me and only listened to his German mother. I still felt lonely but was very busy at school and I was also becoming a mother of my own mother. I reminded her of the daily chores, did the supermarket list and went places with her. She kind of took me for granted and I often wondered if I hadn't been adopted or that when she fell and broke the Bag of Waters, the baby had died and the nurse put me in her arms. And if so, where did I come from?
On a Sunday morning my mother introduced me to Jack Baron, a rich Jewish Captain that lived in Canada. He was her latest boyfriend. I had seen many of her mother's boyfriends but this one seemed to be really serious. They wanted to get married and planned to own a fish company together but they needed more money. Maybe own a shrimp farm. My mother had gone to Banco do Brasil. She needed a heavy loan. The insurance she earned as a diplomat's wife was very little, she said. He was rich but not that rich. She had expenses. She had Christina. I started to worry if she was going to send me to another boarding school or to live with foster parents.
One evening when I arrived from Angela's house (we had been studying for the university tests that we would take in a couple of years), my mother had a weird looking guest at home, a man from Banco do Brasil, one of the Senior Managers. He was looking at me as if I was the "object of his desire". He was a strange, horny man, about 30 years older than me. A complete fool! My mother said that we were going out for dinner with him. I took a shower and got dressed. When I came back and he saw me he was nearly drooling. In the restaurant he tried to touch my legs under the table. I kicked him. He tried to put his hands on mine. I removed my hands, quickly. I looked at my mother and stared at her as if begging for help. When my mother saw this, she said:
- It's ok! He is going to help us with the loan for our fish and shrimp farm business. We need his help. Be... nice to him.
- It's ok...
- What... is OK???
- Be nice to him.
- I can't believe this, Mamãe... Are you really my mother? Are you a mother? Do you really understand what you are doing to us?
I was crying while I sadly left the restaurant and went home, deeply hurt and frustrated... This was my mother...Oh God. She was seriously trying to "use" me in a business transaction... I thought of my father and said out loud to him: "Sorry, Papai, I can't do what you asked me to. I'm sorry. I must go away. I can't stand this anymore and she cannot do this to me. Forgive me."
I heard the branches softly move on the palm tree next to me as I walked home. I felt as if the branches wanted to wrap me and protect me from sorrow and pain. I knew that my father had heard and understood me...he was probably just as frustrated as I was. He was trying to hold and hug me while I went home, crying. I was never the same young girl after that and avoided going home, staying at Angela's place, practically living there.
Some weeks after, I had a serious conversation with Jack. He was my step-father now. I said that I needed to go away, I was sad, depressed, and needed a change. My mother did not understand or like me. Could he help me? Could he please help me? He was delighted to help and he was a good man. He asked me if I wanted to stay with his family in Tel-Aviv and Haifa, in Israel for some time. I agreed immediately! Thank you, Jack Baron, thank you for Israel. This was very good for me because it was...
from my mother.