Anna

During my brief visit to Nicaragua, many years ago, I met numerous cousins that I had never met before. Anna was one of my cousins and a pretty young woman who must have been in her early twenties, at the latest. Anna was just over five feet tall, with the shoulder length black hair that made her blend into a crowd with ease. She was pretty, maybe that helped to bridge the language barrier, as it is always easier to smile at an attractive person, even if you're not sure what they are talking about. During the reunion, we had a nice conversation that wasn't impeded by the mingling going on between all the adults. We enjoyed some drinks, shared a few laughs, and had a nice time. If we had lived near each other we might have even been friends, maybe going to the same schools. As my vacation was drawing to a close, several people began the process of saying their goodbyes to my family, and she inevitably had her turn as well.

Being all smiles and friendly nods, my acting skills were in full force as I tried my best to pretend that I understood the wisdom being dispensed from every corner. Despite the chaos of heartfelt goodbyes, and last minute pleas to "remember the family when famous", Anna pulled me aside into a room with privacy. Something was clearly wrong, and she was a stammering mess of short gasps. Soon the tears were flowing down her cheek, and I had yet to say a word. She stood under me, gathered herself, and began to express how happy she was to have met me. Wanting to make sure that I understood this was paramount to her, she reiterated this point to me with various phrases in order to make sure I understood. This was helpful because my Spanish skills were no where near her abilities. Telling her I felt the same way, comforting her was difficult for some reason. As if being kind was more difficult in another language than it was in English, which clearly isn't true. Her goodbye began to transform into a confession.

She began to tell me that she was worried of other members of the family telling me bad things about her. True things. Things she never specified. And as I hadn't heard one word about her, negative or otherwise, left me positively clueless as to what she might have been talking about. Being terrified at the notion that I might leave the country with a malicious opinion of her was clearly breaking her heart. Letting her know that nothing of the sort had occurred, she calmed down a bit and was clearly relieved. My opinion of her mattered so much that it drove her to tears, and that made me feel horrible. Wanting to tell her that it wouldn't matter what I thought of her, because at that moment there were no plans of me ever returning. Maybe she would find some respite in hearing that, cementing our nice time together in a kind of blissful permanence. The only memory of her I would have was one of an honest connection between two kind young people. And nothing could ever change that. Right at that moment, any form of eloquence escaped me.

Reassuring Anna that I would leave the country with only the nicest thoughts of her, we bade each other farewell. Staring into each others eyes, we hugged, sighed, and never saw each other again. I still don't remember her actual name.

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