Cynthia

Sometimes love goes so right, and sometimes it goes unrequited.

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GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

Welcome back to SNAP JUDGEMENT from PRX and NPR. We proudly present "A Love Supreme" episode. And now, it is all well and good to love somebody. That's what all the songs are about. The problem, of course - getting them to love you back. Katie Mingle tells her story.

KATIE MINGLE: If I could assign an image to Mexico, it would be a human heart - beating, bleeding, ready to burst. If the U.S. is gray or blue, Mexico must be red or orange, burning with emotion and bordering on gaudy. For example, on the show "La Caremia (ph)," the Mexican version of "American Idol," the contestants sing on a stage surrounded by water. Dolphins leap into the air. At times, the singers become so overcome with emotion that they throw themselves into the water, still singing.

And so when I think of Cynthia, my feelings float around in the landscape of Mexico - her named drawn out across the sky with airplane smoke letters, or sung with the dramatic swipe of some Latin-sounding chords on the guitar. Cynthia, I love that you don't love me. Cynthia, I'd walk through the desert to find you roses. Cynthia, everyone needs someone to dream about. Cynthia sold silver jewelry in Tempoztlan, which is a neighboring town to Cuernavaca, where I lived. Sometimes, I would take the bus there and sit with her while she did this. To get to the bus, I had to make my way through the main market. I had to patiently wade through the long hallway of people selling batteries, shoes, belts and alarm clocks. My body pressed up against a sea of other bodies. I had to go past the pirated DVDs, pushing all the way to the part that smelled like fresh basil and tangerines and sweat. The ticket cost 15 pesos.

The ride was an hour long. Once I finally got there, I usually regretted going. Cynthia and I didn't have much to talk about, and sometimes I felt like I was bothering her. There were always men coming by just to flirt with her. A British guy came by once and bought some expensive earrings. He asked her about the book she was reading and acted really awkward trying to come up with things to say. What a loser, I thought. And then I realized I'd been sitting there for the last two hours, acting awkward, trying to think of things to say. And this is how it mostly went with us - 90 percent awkward, 10 percent wonderful. I would sit on the curb beside her, smoking, shifting my weight around, looking at my feet. I wanted to grab her and say, hey I'm interesting. I'm funny. If you could know me in my language, you would like me. Around six, she'd pack up for the day. And we'd ride the bus home together, or she'd find some friends in town to hang out with. Once, we rode on a moped with his hippie kid - up into the hills of Tempoztlan to his house. There were three of us on the moped, and he was driving like a maniac up the dirt roads. Wild dogs were chasing us.

I liked it anyway because Cynthia kept saying, hold me tighter. And we rode up into the lush, green hills of the town - up and up to where you could see the valley below and the clouds making storms above a blue-green sea. In his cinderblock house in the mountains, the hippie kid put on reggae music, and they talked and laughed at jokes I didn't understand. I sat, awkward and inanimate in my beanbag chair, absorbing the array of psychedelic posters - Budda with fractals and marijuana leaves fanning out behind him, Bob Marling hitting a spliff. It was comforting to know hippies had the same posters, no matter where you might be in the world. The boy heated up some tortillas in a small microwave, and we eat them rolled up with lime and salt. I thought he seemed annoyed that I was around.

He probably liked Cynthia, too. But she treated him with the same flirtatious indifference as everyone else. Cynthia was friends with Jimena, the woman I lived with. That's how we met. And that's how we first kissed because Jimena forced us all into playing Spin The Bottle. Then later, we all went to sleep - me in my bed and Cynthia in a different bed on the other side of the room. When the lights were out and the room was dark and still, she said to me in English, good night. Good night, Cynthia, I said back. And I lay there, wishing I could figure out a way to accomplish the impossible task of getting from my bed over to hers - wondering if there was even the slightest chance that she wanted me there, when suddenly, out of the hot darkness, she said to me, Katie. Then I went to her in her bed and we lay there, our faces close together, our legs entangled. She told me she liked kissing me in the game, and then she kissed me again. We kissed again and again and again.

And she said, I could kiss you forever and not get tired of it. But as it turned out, she could only kiss me for about two more weeks before she was pretty well over it. And I was left there, so starry-eyed, finding myself writing her name inside of hearts during my Spanish lessons, taking the bus to Tempoztlan. She was such a mystery, so inconsistent. Sometimes, on our way home on the bus, she'd hold my hand secret-like so none of the old cowboys and tired families could see. We'd talk quietly as the bus rattled through the blue dusk. Then other days, she'd stare out the window, cold and distant. Eventually, this ambiguity became too hard to bear. In another language, in another culture, I needed something to hold onto. I wrote her a letter in Spanish, all about how I felt. When she read it, she looked at me and said, what the hell are you talking about? She really said it just like that but in Spanish, and she laughed. Maybe I hadn't explained myself right in the letter. Then she stopped coming by. I didn't have a phone and neither did she. I didn't know where she lived so I couldn't find her.

And so Cynthia left my life as quickly as she had come into it. And I'm sure she doesn't miss me. And I'm sure she doesn't often recall that night when we first kissed. How did I ever let that one slip away, is what I bet she doesn't think to herself longingly. Fine, Cynthia, be that way. See if it stops me from thinking of you when I listen to the catchy, heartfelt anthems of Mexico, or when I daydream of your country, so far away now with its blood-red heartbeat, where dolphins leap. I know it was me all along with my heart on my sleeve. So I'll be red and you be blue. But Cynthia, everyone needs someone to dream about - even you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

WASHINGTON: That story was written and produced by Katie Mingle with help from SNAP JUDGEMENT's own Nick van der Kolk. A version of it originally aired on the show, "Re:sound," which you can found at thirdcoastfestival.org.

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