It was a cramped quarter, roughly half the size of my bathroom at home, but nevertheless, it was one of the more desired spaces in the office because it had a window view.
As my boss led me to my new abode I felt a hushed envy rush over those poor souls I was passing by who were subjected to the dark grayness of a corridor cubicle. I had only worked there for several months and already I was being granted the coveted corner cubicle.
They barely knew me, but they hated me for my undeserving sunlight.
“This is where you will work now”, my supervisor offered in her quick, chirpy voice.
I quietly gloated at the view.
From the tenth floor, the Florida rays easily flushed over my future workspace, and, although the flat terrain did not offer much if you weren’t facing the ocean (I wasn’t) it still beat the fluorescent lights that surrounded my envious co-workers.
As I envisioned my increased productivity bathed in surpluses of Vitamin D, a head popped up from the other side of the wall.
My name is Adrianna!
I work in the ad department!”
Adrianna appeared harmless to the naked eye.
She was round and bubbly, with warm chestnut eyes and stark black hair coifed in a perfect bob that easily hugged her full face.
She was all of 5 feet tall (with heels) and sported few accessories save for a solid 18-karat gold cross linked with a small medallion of a woman in deep prayer, some Saint, I suppose.
After my boss left, Adrianna extended an invitation to her side, most likely to show off her half of the much-desired workspace.
Work was the last thing Adrianna could do, I thought to myself, as her desk was littered with thousands of tiny artifacts; remnants of where she’d been or would like to be.
There were at least 25 different angel statues, tiny porcelain things with pink lips and gold-rimmed halos, I couldn’t tell if she wanted her area to resemble a 9-year old’s room or the inside of a church.
Propped up behind them where at least 100 diminutive stuffed animals:
bears, lions, dogs, seals, giraffes, pandas- the entire San Diego Zoo was housed here in miniature form and excessive dust.
I felt my nose itch just looking at them.
Wherever there was a possible gap of oxygen, Adrianna had added something else:
a snow globe, a doll, a crystal shoe that doubled as a pencil holder.
All she was missing was a crown to complete her title as The Ultimate Queen of Kitsch.
In the far corner, hidden behind a file or two (yes, she actually sported those) was a tiny blue boom box.
It seemed so comfortably forgotten that I did the mistake of paying it no attention and moving on.
I thanked Adrianna for her invitation and moved back to my happily barren space where I began to assemble my files and decorate my area with one or two picture frames.
I could breathe much better over here.
As I waited for the computer tech and the phone guy to come set me up I began sorting through some reports I would have to present at the end of the week.
That’s when the blue boom box I had carelessly ignored slowly began crooning through the foam wall that separated Adrianna and I:
“No se tu,Pero yo no dejo de pensarNi un minuto me logro despojarDe tus besos, tus abrazos,De lo bien que la pasamos la otra vez…”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t stop thinking, not for one minute can I strip my thoughts of your kisses, your embrace, of the good time we passed the other night…”
The voice continued with sappy promises of eternal love and devotion, holding out on long notes in a painful bout of affection that seemed, by her sighs, to mesmerize Adrianna but managed to only give me a bad bout of indigestion.
Who the hell was this guy and wasn’t listening to him against company policy?
The day continued with a series of amorous serenades.
If I were fortunate enough, Adrianna would lose herself in the lyrics and belt out a few.
I felt her angst, her anticipation, her hope, her broken heart and her love-swelled one, and all the while, I got more and more frustrated.
I wondered if this was the reason co-workers fell quiet as I passed them by on my way to, what I thought was, a victorious workstation?
Maybe the silence and hushed gasps weren’t those of jealously but rather, some form of fascinated pity, a kind of, another-one-bites-the-dust gawking that would soon occur as I unraveled in obsessive love ballads.
This cubicle wasn’t coveted, it was cursed, window view and all.
There were several instances when I gently asked Adrianna if she wouldn’t mind turning down the music, but in doing so, I seemed to have run a stake through the principles of love.
You don’t like Luis Miguel?” she asked aghast, her warm chestnut eyes turning cold and harsh on me.
“He’s fine,” I lied. “I just have a hard time focusing with any kind of music.”
But I know she hadn’t heard a word of my rebuttal.
I was officially The Enemy to her and as such, she made every tune-filled effort to mark her turf and stand her love ground.
The conditions where clearly set: she and Luis weren’t going anywhere, either I dealt with it or I joined in their pain.
I never visited her booth again, but even though I avoided the saints and teddy bears, there was no getting around Luis Miguel.
He crooned as I typed emails, filed papers, wrote reports and spoke to clients on the phone.
In my top drawer I housed an extra-large bottle of Tums and found myself popping the chalky anti-acid tablets often, no doubt a consequence of exposure to too much forlorn love.
I began resorting to snacking.
Loud, crunchy snacking that would crunch out the unbearably high notes Luis attacked over and over again.
It became a scientific study of sorts, trying to find the perfect snack that could bring culinary satisfaction and help keep my sanity.
Chips where too flimsy, dissolving almost instantly and therefore not worthy as a muffler.
Pretzels where a bit better, but their snap and salty kick left me feeling more bloated and annoyed.
It was only after being subjected to Luis Miguel and his full-studded Mariachi rendition of “Amaneci Otra Vez” for the umpteenth time that the obvious dawned on me:
chips and guacamole!
How hadn’t I seen it before?
There lay the harmony I needed of flavor and crunch and plenty of deafening time to enjoy it.
A Mexican snack to beat a Mexican problem.
And so, I would bring my tiny Tupperware of homemade guacamole, loaded up with extra lime to keep the avocado from losing its brilliance.
I kept a bag of chips inside my file cabinet, between the monthly budget report and the South American clients and I began munching my way through the endless ballads.
As the months dragged on, I found myself reaching more and more for my Tums, enough so that I had to slow down on my guacamole habit (it didn’t really work anyway, I could hear him through anything). I thought it best to make sure Luis Miguel was not the only cause to my upset stomach.
When the tiny blue plus sign magically appeared my husband and I were both elated.
We had been planning on having a baby and where thankful to get pregnant so soon.
Chomping regularly on my Tums had an ulterior motive now, and, the newly discovered pregnancy also gave me determination to leave the job I was never happy in and focus on becoming a mom.
Without much fanfare, I left the corner cubicle and all the members of the tenth floor.
Still, at the end of my last day I got the allotted ice cream cake in the conference room as well as feigned enthusiasm for the upcoming new chapter in my life.
I had no true ties to the place and wouldn’t be missing that many people there.
Which was why I was surprised to find Adrianna approaching me as the goodbye party fizzled and people drifted out, slipping comfortably back into their lives.
She headed straight for me and handed me a thin wrapped package.
As I grasped it, she reached up and gave me a surprisingly strong, heartfelt hug and whispered,
“Good luck on your journey.
Don’t forget to feel love.”
With that, she walked out the door and I never saw her again.
Somewhat stunned, I placed her parcel on top of my cardboard box filled with already forgotten remnants and left.
When I dumped the box in the passenger seat of my car, Adrianna’s gift fell to the floor and slipped under the loose carpet, hiding from sight and forgotten entirely.
As the months passed and my belly swelled, my memories of tenth floor hell easily faded.
Days passed by learning the latest safety trends on cribs, clearing up potentially hazardous material around my house (how different a home becomes once a child in introduced) and trying the unfathomable task of preparing to go from a woman to a mother.
Around month eight I got a harried phone call from my husband.
He had landed from one of his many business trips in South America and had forgotten to rent a car (his usual ride home). He sounded apprehensive and a bit nervous.
It seemed to be his usual approach to me these days.
Hormones had kicked up in full gear and led me to become wildly erratic, but he proceeded with his question: would I mind picking him up?
To his relief, I jumped at the chance. After all, I had been cocooned in my house and needed a purpose beyond folding spotless onesies.
I wobbled to the car and got in, throwing my purse onto the passenger seat.
It banged against the chair and bounced to the floor, landing upside down and showering the ground with all its crusty contents.
I looked at the disaster of my life now spread all over my car and decided to take care of it before I began the 40-minute drive to the airport.
There was no way my short fuse would stand for that lipstick rolling back and forth.
Wobbling back out of the car, I crouched beside the passenger side and began scooping up all my belongings and throwing them into the secret confines of my purse.
As I scraped and dumped (no time for sorting now) I felt something poking from under the carpet and found Adrianna’s parcel, hidden all these months, just waiting to be discovered.
I grabbed the thin package and tore it open.
Then I sat down and laughed.
I was holding a CD of Luis Miguel.
Of course, I was holding a CD of Luis Miguel.
It was titled, appropriately, “Romance”, and had a black and white profile of the crooning god himself, decked out in a crisp tuxedo, his full lips in mid-song, eyes shut tight in love-drenched agony, beautiful mane of hair spiked and perfectly slicked back.
In a tribute to my former archenemy and a curious need to walk down corporate memory lane, I popped in the CD and began my drive.
The song crept to a start.
What was that, an oboe, or a clarinet announcing the impending hopes and glories of a despondent love? I hadn’t recalled that opening before.
Either way I found myself surprisingly intrigued and not annoyed in the faintest.
Dare say there was something soothing about the instrument?
And then something horrible happened:
Luis Miguel began to sing and I felt warm, fuzzy love!
I grasped the steering wheel tightly and was captivated by his every word.
It didn’t seem to matter that I had single-handedly supported GlaxoSmithKline with my faithful and regular ingestion of mint-flavored Tums or that I had devoured an entire California orchard of avocados trying to drown the man out, here I was, a mere six months later and I couldn’t get enough of this sappiness!
The rest of the drive was a hazy blur of hormones and tears.
All I know is that by the time I reached Terminal E and found my husband, I was a mascara-running mess.
Horrified (and obviously panicked) he quickly asked:
“What happened to you?”
And I, too worn down to get angry or defensive or even care, began crying all over again, explaining the irreparable torn fabric of lost love to a very confused and misplaced man who was gentle enough to simply hug me and let me cry my heart out amongst thousands of befuddled travelers.
So the pregnancy continued as such.
Wherever my belly and I went, so did Luis Miguel.
No doubt there was a part of me that wondered if this relationship would end once my daughter was born and the hormones would be flushed out.
But when Daniela arrived so did the chance for more love, hope and happiness, and Luis Miguel burrowed himself more comfortably than ever in my psyche and daily listening life.
It has been twelve years now since I first heard Luis Miguel and cringed, ten since that fateful ride to the airport when I cried my eyes out.
I find my feelings for Luismi (as he is known by his faithful followers) to lie comfortably between both extremes. There are moments when a good cry comes in handy and he is there to deliver and there are moments when the white-bleached teeth and neon-orange tan he sports are cause for more hysteria and criticism from me than anything else. Both times work well with guacamole, by the way.
Still, in the time he and I were informally introduced and I grew to adore him, I have managed to follow Adrianna’s advice and feel love:
through my smart and caring daughter, her adorably cute and inquisitive younger brother and their admiring dad whom blazes through life with me full of excitement and adoration. This is the love I cherish and tear up over. This is the moment I live for and embrace.
This is what is worth more to me than anything.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to belt out a song or two of Luis Miguel as a reminder once in a while…No se tu!
¼ cup minced white onion
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced*
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice**
1 medium ripe avocado, quartered
1 small tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon sea saltTastiest if done with a "molcajete", the traditional Mexican mortar and pestle made out of volcanic rock.
If you don't have one, just use a bowl.
Whatever you do, don't use a blender!
Guacamole should be chunky.Add onion, cilantro, and jalapeno to molcajete and grind with pestle to combine.
Add lime juice and avocado and gently mush avocado.
When it is half mashed, add tomato and salt and mush some more until fully combined.
Serve with chips.
*For spicier guacamole, add jalapeno seeds.**More lime juice will prevent oxidation and preserve avocado for longer (good for picnics or office). Otherwise, guacamole should be consumed immediately.