She was unpredictable—so caustic and sarcastic that I could never tell if she was joking or telling the truth. She laughed when I told her I was afraid of airplanes—a laugh that spread from the edges of her lips to the corners of her hazel eyes—and then she turned to me, suddenly serious, and said, “People are so stupid when they laugh at stupid things, as if they’ve got nothing better to do than sit around and laugh.” I didn’t understand her at all.
She was refreshingly honest and unusually mature, so different from anyone else I had ever met. She spoke of smoking and drugs and alcohol as if they were sweet and sour candies in a corner store. She said cigarettes reminded her of high school. Every night, she said a short prayer to God before getting into bed, kissing her icon of the Virgin Mary that she kept on her nightstand. I told her I had never smoked before. “Americans,” she laughed.
We grew up in different worlds. She went to private school abroad and her mother was a banker, and I assumed her family was rich. I went to public school in Farmington, Connecticut, and for the longest time, I dreaded parent-teacher conferences because I was afraid my teachers wouldn’t understand my parents’ broken English. She learned to dance at big clubs on pretty beaches, while I read all the Junie B. Jones books and solved math problems on my bed. I fell in love with my high school prom date and drew sketches of our wedding cake in the margins of my physics notebooks, while she convinced herself that no boy would ever be good enough.
If I were to paint a picture of the day our worlds collided, I would paint two planets crashing into one another. She would be Saturn and I would be Pluto, both against a massive black canvas, Saturn’s rings digging into Pluto’s shallow craters, carving thick scars into Pluto’s bumps and hills. Together they would create a single new planet so large and so distinctly patterned that neither Saturn nor Pluto could ever exist again.