Friendship: The space where simple moments transform into powerful memories
One of the advantages of attending three different schools between Elementary and High School was the diverse group of people I met. I met a few elite friends who rode with me during my teenage rollercoaster days and are still here while I climb the summit to adulthood.
The first two are Sophie and Margarita; we met in elementary school in 1994. Around the same time, I met Maritza at Jazz Plus, a dance studio. Sophie danced with us too. By the end of 7th grade, I was living my best rebel phase and failed all my classes. The school principal told my parents that I was better off in another school. My parents picked Colegio Teresiano because they had friends in the admissions department. The school was an all-girls school ran by nuns. I liked it, and I got to strengthen my relationship with Maritza, who was there since kindergarten. Then my parents decided I should learn English, so they moved me to an American School. Before the academic year started, Maritza introduced me to Giselle, who happened to be a student at the American School. We became instant friends. She eased my way through the first day of class until the last day of senior year.
Margarita, Sophie, Maritza, Giselle, and I became good friends, even though we attended three different schools. We built beautiful memories throughout our friendship. We spent our vacations together at Poneloya or San Juan del Sur, where life transformed into long days of warm sand and sunny beach. Where we played beach soccer, drank cold Micheladas, and danced at sandy parties with all our friends. Some phases of our lives stuck us together, like how crazy glue sticks to your fingertips. Oh!, the Timbiriche phase. We spent our afternoons dancing in front of the TV, imitating the moves by 80’s band Timbiriche until we mastered the dance moves. Later we took them from my living room to the dance floor at Hipa Hipa, the only nightclub in our city.
Hipa Hipa was the place to be; day and night, rain or shine. There, we celebrated Margarita’s birthdays with a Mariachi band and lots of champagne. That place witnessed our social growth. It saw where we fell in and out of love. It was the place that banded us together, where we held hands to walk in the dizziness of Midori Sours and Blue Kamikazes to keep our hair back at the bathroom stall. You could always find us on the dance floor dancing to our beloved Timbiriche and to any other hit music playing at the time.
If we weren’t at Hipa Hipa, we were at Giselle’s house working on school projects, making funny videos, and sometimes drinking tequila shots with jocotes and salt. One night we were caught by Giselle’s mother. “Where is the bottle?” she yelled from the door. Somebody reached under the bed, grabbed an empty coca-cola bottle, and said: “Here it is!” The rest of us who were pretending to be asleep but couldn’t resist the funny situation and nervously laughed. Then we surrendered the Tequila bottle to Giselle’s mom.
Every Friday after school, Giselle and I drove to pick up Maritza, Margarita, and Sophie at their schools. Then we headed to El Muelle, to talk about life and boys, eat fish ceviche, and the best tostones con queso in the world. We adventured in road trips to other cities around Nicaragua and volunteered to help whenever we could. We went to the mountains of Matagalpa to watch my brother compete in a motocross race, and to Esteli to play soccer against a first division team. We visited orphanages, where we took care of little kids. We danced to raise money for children with cancer and people recovering at local hospital burn units.
After graduating, we parted ways and were off to new adventures. We were miles apart, spread around the United States: Purdue, Notre Dame, Louisiana State University, and Savannah College of Art & Design. During our college years, we visited each other in our new homes. We dressed up as glow sticks for Halloween in New Orleans, celebrated my birthday in Chicago, and cooked our first Thanksgiving dinner at Purdue.
After college, some of us moved back to Nicaragua and experienced the working life together. We shared executive lunches and collaborated on business projects. We were together all the time; we had experienced separation and were on a quest to recover the lost time. On that quest, we said yes to new people and events. We drove to the beach for the day or spent a weekend at Giselle’s farm.
We lived all sorts of adventures. Here’s one:
It happened during Holy Week on Good Friday. If you are Catholic, you know what that means: no eating meat all day. I invited Maritza and Giselle for lunch at my house. They were serving Sopa de Queso, a delicious soup that for some reason, they only cook on Fridays during Lent. That day was a half-holiday, so after lunch, we stayed in my house and resolved to chill.
Soon we were hungry again. We decided to go to a bakery we loved, where you can get the most delicious Churro. Warm and buttery, crispy yet fluffy, filled with melted mozzarella inside. They also had the best coffee frappuccino in town. It barely had any coffee, but it had a lot of condensed milk. It was the perfect place to go during Lent, the day you can’t eat any meat.
Instead of driving the usual ten-minute trip to the bakery, we decided to take a shortcut. Clearly, the munchies were driving. Maritza said she knew the way; she had driven through there once. So we took off in my car, a low framed sedan that drove us around many other mystery spots and was barely surviving the ventures. I knew the first part of the route because it was near my house, and I knew the area, so I went in confidence. Right, left, right again, straight, I could taste my frappuccino and smell the buttery pastry. Soon the paved road turned into a sand street, and the houses began to disappear. I hesitated to continue, but Maritza said she knew the way out. Soon we found ourselves deciding where to turn at a three-way fork. We turned right. By then, the big houses had disappeared. The trees began to grow around us, and the more we drove, the more confident we were of being driving into an unknown valley. The trees were getting taller by the minute, creating a shade that made the valley dark and scary.
We encountered two more forks, were we just guessed left or right. At that point, it was too late to go back. We were starting to panic. Giselle checked her phone, no signal. My car kept banging on tree roots and sand bumps. We kept driving, trying to laugh at the possibility of being lost on a deserted jungle without cellular signal. Soon we saw a long stretch of land. Maritza immediately recognized the route. “The exit is right ahead. I remember this part,” she said. The path ahead was like a tunnel made out of sand walls covered by tall trees.
I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Relieved, we headed through the tunnel, but just as we got closer, a sea of people emerged from it. It was like a zombie apocalypse. People were slowly walking towards the car, waving their hands in the air. I froze, they were getting closer and closer, gesturing NO with their head and arms. Somehow I managed to open the window and asked what happened. They explained that a bus had gotten stuck a the curve, and there was no way to drive by. “Is there another way out?” I asked. “Yes, just go there, turn right, then left, then left again, and you will find the road,” they instructed. “Thanks,” we waved.
We followed the instructions, but on the first turn, there were three options, and we hit a dead end. The space to turn around was minuscule. It took four back and forth movements to get out of there. This time we turned the right way, but we wanted to double-check the directions, so we stopped at the next corner where a skinny lady was brooming the dirt out of her front porch. Giselle opened her window and pulled herself halfway out of it. “Excuse me, can you help us?” she yelled. The lady was facing away from us, but quickly turned around and got closer. As she turned around, her long hair swung back and revealed a large scar crossing her face from top to bottom; it looked like someone had stroked her with a machete. Giselle bumped her head with the window frame, trying to rush back inside. Our hearts were still beating at 100 miles per hour while she explained the directions. We thanked her and drove away in a hurry to leave the scene. By then, the trees were disappearing into the valley, and the light of day was back.
Finally, we relaxed and laughed about the shortcut that took us two agonizing hours to cross. On our way out, we saw three people sitting on the side of the road. It was a young man in a wheelchair, an older man standing behind him, and an older woman next to him. In the middle, a table with candles, flowers, and picture frames. It seemed like some kind of ritual was taking place. We drove past them, amazed by what we encountered in the unknown land. Lastly, we found the way out. “It’s here,” Maritza said, “See, I told you I knew the way.”
At the bakery, we ordered extra cheese churros, frappuccinos, and tasty chicken and meat empanadas. After the feast, I asked, “How were those meat empanadas, girls?” Then we all laughed and went back home.
During our adventure time in Nicaragua, Giselle, Maritza, and I waited anxiously for Sophie and Margarita to come back home for vacation so we could be together once again. When they did, the late-night conversations would pick up right where we had left them during the previous visit. It didn’t matter how much we had grown; during those visits, we stayed up until the morning laughing, joking, solving the world’s biggest issues, and finding solutions to our smallest problems.
Sooner than we had anticipated, we all ended up parting ways once again. I took off to San Francisco, Giselle went back to Purdue for an MBA, Margarita returned to Nicaragua, Sophie moved to Houston, and Maritza left to Miami to embark on a fantastic, life-changing job opportunity.
Today, after more than twenty years, our friendship continues strong. We can rely on each other to cry or laugh, to celebrate the upcoming babies, and carry the vail at our wedding days. We can count on each other to discuss business ideas and brainstorm career plans. Even from afar, we lift each other when we are down. We share our new adventures while building memories where we are not physically present, but we are together at heart. Such is friendship, a place in space where time stands still, where memories are forever being lived and made. We haven’t been able to reunite yet, but we will. In the meantime, I go to that space where I see them on repeat.