The Ex-Pat Life: On Saying Goodbye to Friends

When I first became a triathlete, I was riding a mountain bike in my first couple of sprints. It was my first large purchase and I had sold it finally to a person who badgered me for a year for it. What replace the mountain bike was my road bike: a Cannondale R400. She was pretty in the traditional sense and had none of the carbon fiber trappings, fancy electronic shifters or flashy frame. She was just a very standard road bike.

With my imminent departure and return to the States, however, I knew I had to sell her. Being realistic, I knew over there, I could get something in my size and it would be more convenient. So I found a buyer and went to take her to the meeting spot.

I got rid of most of my gear so I had no helmet to protect me so on a quiet street, I got on and felt the smooth and well-known feel of that bike underneath me. I swerved swiftly into lanes and dismounted a bit before heavier traffic.

“Goodbye,” I whispered.

At the meet, I told the new owner about all the competitions I did with her and in a sort of sudden break, I felt my eyes water.

“Are you sure you want to sell her?” he had asked.

Yes, I replied. Of course. I can’t take her with me.

Yet, on the way home, after having seen her off with him, I felt myself well up and in the shadows of the quiet streets on my way back, I sobbed. Why? I did not understand. How could I have so much emotion for a bike? But she knew. She was there from the beginning.

She was there on my long rides to Puerto Morelos or Playa. She was there when I got intensely dehydrated and fell asleep as I sat on the side of the road.

She was there when I happy with a man.

She was there when that same man broke my heart and acted like he didn’t know me during competition.

She was there before and after my 35-lbs weight loss.

She cried with me every single time I finished a triathlon and carried me home victorious.

And now she was in the care of someone else.

Her leaving came on the heels of finding out about a friend who had passed on. He was an older gentleman who worked at the Plaza Mexico, selling the Sunday bullfight tickets. He taught me about bullfighting during long afternoons as I sat in front of his booth window and chatted about life on the slower days of ticket sales. Tall, with wispy hair on his head and heavy, pouchy bags under his eyes. To be honest, he looked sickly even before I had left Mexico City and the night before I went to deliver my bike, I thought about him and how nice he was to me. And it dawned upon me that perhaps he was gone.

I remember curling up in bed, shaking with streaming tears, realizing with regret that I had never told him how much I had appreciated his friendship and how much I had loved him. He was a person who took care of me as one of his own.

That next day, I wrote to a friend who still worked at the Plaza and asked after Don Jorge. He wrote back telling me he had passed on a year earlier.

Even though I used to always take photos at the Plaza Mexico, I didn’t even have a photo of him.

The sound of a heart breaking is that of strips of tin falling.

————————————————-

It is on this same journey that Kelly leaves as well. We had only met once before in person at a Thanksgiving dinner but strangely enough, we shared a common sense that was the uncommonest of all senses. She and her boyfriend threw a going-away party and amid the errant debauchery of people uninitiated in the ways of drinking for the enjoyment of the drink itself, and not to become biological factories, spewing a fetid mix of greasy food and previously digested alcohol, I found a pocket of solace.

I found it in a can of non-alcoholic Sol Cero beer.

As I drank this strange concoction, which tasted of a baguette in liquid form, I found myself thinking of the future. A future of new beginnings and places. A place where I’d find a new bike and a new home where I can bring my memories and properly honor Don Jorge, and all my dead. It is a place where I can plant seeds, call it “love,” “work” or “travel” and create a space where my goodbyes will turn into hellos. Where the sound of tin will come, not from my heart, but from the wind chime I was given by a well-intentioned friend.

I choose to celebrate the universe and all its wonders. I have made friends with cyber-neighbors who are as close as a key stoke away, yet live far beyond the seas and in countries I’ve never been to. And they too will be there to greet me on the other side of the Rio Bravo, which will be called the Rio Grande once I cross.

My mind wraps itself around the clouds, which have always seemed different to me than clouds I’ve seen in other places. The Wind reminds me with a kiss on the forehead that I am always welcome and the Sun gives me a warm embrace.

I am not ready yet. But I will be.

Cerveza Sol Cero: Like Drinking Liquid Bread

Cerveza Sol Cero: Like Drinking Liquid Bread

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