My muscle memory in my legs was returning quickly and by the end of February I had gone from a wheelchair, to a walker to crutches. Physically, I was getting to a point where I would be able to live on my own but mentally, I was still quite broken. While going through the recovery process the biggest piece of therapy I needed was love and compassion. There were only two places where I felt the love, which contributed to me being able to continue taking the daily steps I needed to become whole again; with Priscilla and with her family for coffee at her grandmother’s house.
While getting better, Priscilla and I were beginning to spend more and more time together. She would take me to therapy and then afterwards we would usually go grab some unhealthy food at Taco Bell or McDonald’s. I know it was not the best heart healthy food but seeing the smile on Priscilla’s face and the reaction in her eyes when she got to partake in her guilty pleasures in life, made a smile form inside my heart and soul.
Most afternoons, she and I would head to her grandmother’s house to have afternoon coffee. When you entered the small kitchen, her grandmother would right away come over and give you a hug. She had a gleam in her eye of someone that had kept her heart and compassion intact throughout her entire life. The greatest joy in the world for her was her family, whom came every afternoon, rain or shine to enjoy her coffee and talk about their lives. I would always tell her that her coffee was the best in Costa Rica, which was the truth, as it was made with love and the entire atmosphere of that kitchen brought to me a feeling of family and acceptance. They did not care about who I was in my past; they wanted to see the man I could become.
Sitting at that table, talking to each person, was one of the biggest reasons I was able to recover. It was like being adopted by a family at the age of 34. Family is those that are around you in your darkest days and that believe in you no matter how far you have fallen or what you are going through. I had felt this before in Mexico with the family of a friend of mine that I worked with. Even though I was caught up in a world of drugs and alcohol, they saw through that and the person I was deep inside. There were of course incidents where I did stupid things like try to sleep with both of his wife’s twin sisters…(didn’t happen), but they were there right by my side through the time I was there and still stay in touch to this day. That was my family in Mexico…and this was my family in Costa Rica.
When I was able to have coffee in the afternoon, it always lifted my spirit, as I felt like I had a support system there in which I could rely. Many alcoholics will say that they can make it through the recovery process by themselves; it’s not true. You need those people by your side, because on those days where you fall they are going to be there to pick you up. It also gave me a big reason to keep fighting on those hard days. Whenever I felt like I wanted to give up, I did not keep fighting just for me, I did it for all those people around me that would have been disappointed if I fell back into that old life or just stopped trying.
After coffee, Priscilla would usually take me home and we would sit on my bed and talk. The conversations would normally be about her relationship. You could tell by each one of her stories that she was unhappy, and in an emotionally abusive relationship. After sitting next to me and talking for a little while, she would get a text or call asking where she was by her boyfriend. Immediately she would pack her things and go pick up dinner, or do something else that he needed that night. I felt she deserved better but knew that nothing I said would make any difference. I had gone through a multitude of negative relationships in my past and while I was in them I was blinded by “love”- more like lust.
After one night with her sitting by my side she told me that she was going to break up with her boyfriend, (my ex-boss) the next day. I was hopeful that this could possibly lead to something between her and I, but knew I had a long way to go before I could really start to think about dating again. I went downtown to meet a friend of mine I had not seen in a while, hoping the breakup went well. We all know the games that are played at the end to try to bring someone back into a bad relationship. Priscilla called me and said she needed to tell me something. I would find out later that evening as she sat next to me that she was pregnant. With tears in her eyes she told me she was sorry that she let me down. Nothing could have been further from the truth; she could never let me down.
Over the next few weeks a whirlwind of things took place. Priscilla’s boyfriend was going to head back to the USA, to “make money”. I would only find out later that at age 51 his father had basically told him that he was going to be cut off if he did not come back to reality and get a real job in the USA. Maybe I am old fashioned but I think if you get a woman pregnant, then you should probably stay with her during the pregnancy as it is a very difficult and emotional process for her, and she needs the father of her child there.
By the end of March, there was a going away party for her boyfriend. Upon arrival Priscilla had obviously been crying, she later told me it was because he told her she was “cheap” for putting her make-up on in the car and she would not be able to do things like that in the USA. That was their relationship; he would tell her the person she needed to be, as he “knew everything.” I was the receiver of a going away gift from him as well, a compass. After giving me the gift he then went on to tell me the compass always pointed north, and some more knowledge a 14 year old child would know. The only thing I could see it being used for was helping with directions in Costa Rica.
During the going away party, he gave one of the most condescending speeches I have heard. Perhaps it was because I was angry he was leaving her, but he spoke about making lots of money, and giving gifts, and all the material things this trip meant. It was almost as if he was speaking to an indigenous tribe and offering them trinkets for their land. A few days later he was gone.
With her man gone, Priscilla began to focus on her life again. She would present a strong exterior but inside I could tell she was torn apart. In order to not think about her situation she would stay busy. She usually had errands to run for work or for the building of her house, and would ask me if I wanted to come with her. I would always say yes, as it would give me a break from being at home, but most importantly it let me spend time with her. When we were together we could do anything and there would be laughter while we were doing it. A simple trip to the hardware store or going to Wal-Mart would be an experience to remember. There was just something about being around her that made me feel whole again, and that there was good in the world.
We would talk about life, the future, and whatever else crossed our minds. We were both going through difficult times in our lives, a pregnancy alone and recovery from surgery and alcoholism. We both needed each other and although the pain each of us experienced on a daily basis might have been too much to go through alone, together we were able to push through it. Over time, through our conversations and the moments we spent together, Priscilla and I became very good friends. I think that is all either of us wanted, but sometimes feelings cannot be controlled.
One evening after a very difficult day, Priscilla called me in the afternoon and we decided to take a ride together. She was sad and angry after another difficult conversation with the father of her child. It was the first time I had heard her express regret about getting pregnant. She expressed how she wished that she had not gotten pregnant with this guy and the multiple times she had tried to break up with him. There is nothing you can do with a person in this situation except listen. As she spoke, I knew how unhappy she was and how each day she regretted what had happened between her and her boyfriend. All I could do was hold her hand and watch as she cried.
We decided to go get her comfort food; some french-fries from Micky D’s. After going through the drive thru, she told me she wanted to take me somewhere. As always I accepted knowing that this meant I was going to be able to spend more time by her side. We drove up into the mountains of Heredia near the country club. She pulled the car over to the side of the road and turned off the lights. After stealing one of her french-fries to push her buttons and make her laugh, I took in what was around us.
Behind us was the central valley with all the lights shining from the houses below. To our left and right were large pine trees. The tops of them were slowly swaying in the wind. In the night air, fireflies began showing their tiny lanterns. It was like they were guiding my heart home. I reached over to steal another French-fry from Priscilla only to have my hand playfully slapped. It was then that I decided to get out of the car and take this moment fully into my soul. I stepped out of the car and stared at the valley of lights below and took a picture of everything in my mind.
I looked back inside the car to see Priscilla looking back at me. I knew right then and there that I loved her; her kind heart, her inner and outer beauty, and everything else that made her my best friend. This was the last thing I wanted to happen. I knew that I had to keep my feelings to myself and not complicate her life, and possibly lose the most important person that had come to me on life’s path. With my feelings tucked away I got back in the car, but I knew that she could see right through me. She reached over to hold my hand and drove home in silence. Even in the silence our hearts still spoke to each other.
Next Up –Semana Santa on the River