It was one of the hottest days of the year on that September afternoon Communications class, but I was still wearing my best of clothes, a pastel green jacket with slick H&M long pants, to impress my favorite girl. She was a short gal, early twenties, with hair as beautiful as the sun on a Sunday morning. She wasn’t a blonde though, but her skin was as tan as the California weather. Though I didn’t believe it, she had once told me that her family was British. To me she looked like a Cali girl, or a Southern girl, she also had no accent, but she had taken my breath away ever since we first met on our junior year. So, as any Latino film buff in awe or, perhaps in love, with a white woman would do, I nicknamed her Corazon, the common Spanish saying for “my love.”
That day in class Corazon and I were invited to dinner by our friend Selina and, of course, I didn't decline. The last time all three of us went out together was in the summer a few weeks before senior year started. We went to an amusement park in a Connecticut town I had never been before, but the highlight of that night was definitely Corazon’s hypnotic smile and soothing voice. Not a single roller coaster ride could instill so much adrenaline in me as when Corazon looked at me and spoke with that glamorous tone, reminiscent of those old and fancy Audrey Hepburn films.
After the park closed we went to a restaurant for dinner. It felt good talking with Corazon at a restaurant table, but I never had the courage to formally ask her out on a date. Selina’s dinner invitation was my chance to relive that moment.
Our class was in the middle of campus where all the college departments resided. The dining hall where Selina wanted to take us was almost a half mile away and no buses were near to pick us up and take us there. Corazon insisted on waiting for a bus to come, but we decided to walk instead. In between our class building and the dining hall was the school’s track field. To reach the dining hall we had to go up a long hill that stretched around the track. The heat was ferocious, but we persisted the long walk.
Once we arrived at the hall we were out of breath and our clothes soaked in sweat. It was disgusting, but we laughed it off. The dining hall was filled with some of the finest air conditioning units the school had bought from the year before and, in less than a minute, we were as dry and, as cold as ice.
I don’t remember exactly what we ate, mostly because I wasn’t really hungry and just wanted to spend time with Corazon. Talking to her was always like those conversations from those ‘80s romantic dramas where the subject of love was the subject of life. Her and I could talk about love, and everything that comes with it, like When Harry Met Sally. That instance at the dining hall was no exception.
We didn’t last long at the dining hall though, since Selina got a call from her boyfriend, who insisted for her to meet him at his dorm. She gave both Corazon and I a hug and rushed out, almost as if her boyfriend’s call was a matter of life or death.
But this was the perfect occurance. Now Corazon and I were alone and there was something I really wanted to tell her. Something I had to get off my chest. For reasons unknown at the moment, it felt like it was the perfect time to tell her how I really felt about her.
As we walked out of the dining hall and proceeded to walk down the hill by the track field, I felt a rush of confidence hit me like a bullet, words came to me like wildfire.
“It was nice of Selina to invite us to eat,” I said.
Corazon looked at me. “Right? She’s adorable. Reminded me of when we went to Manchester in the summer.”
“You know, we should do this more often. I enjoy spending time with you, Corazon.”
“Just with me? Oh.”
I hesitated to speak another word. Did I go too far?
“I like spending time with you too, just you,” she said, almost as if teasing me, as if she knew where I was going with the conversation.
“I truly mean it, Corazon. I don’t want you to think I’m kidding again,” I said.
With her beautiful blue eyes looking straight at me she said, “Do you like me?”
I was dumbfounded. “Like as a friend?”
“No, I mean… You know what I mean,” said Corazon.
There was a pause. I wanted to tell her, I really did. But I was scared, fully intimidated to say another word. What if she was expecting me to say no? Or what if she was just playing around like we had done many times before?
I always used to kid around with Corazon about marriage and romantic relationships, but deep inside, all the jokes about love and intimacy I told her were true. Now I had the chance to tell her the truth.
“I do, I like you” I said, and my heart dropped.
Waiting for her to respond felt like the longest minute ever, as if time had stopped existing. Was this the end of our friendship? Why did I say yes? I was devastated, I thought I was a complete fool.
But something special happened. Her hand slowly grasped mine and our fingers interlocked. Her body kept getting closer to mine and I had no idea what that meant, an unknown feeling I could only guess was true intimacy, real love. Then, Corazon said the most unexpected of things. “I want you to tell me how you feel. Pitch me how you feel as if I were one of those Hollywood producers you always talk about. Make me fall in love with your vision of me.”
As loony as it sounded, that was something I wanted to do ever since I first saw her, and now she was asking me to unlatch, to express myself freely. She wanted me to sell my never-ending love for her, to her, like a movie. Only, I thought, what if she didn’t like my pitch?
It didn’t matter, really, for the most part. Like a movie script, this initial love pitch was the first draft. I figured that as I told her my pitch I would revise it based off of her expression. And it wasn’t as if I had never written a screenplay before. Indeed, the first screenplay I ever wrote revolved around her. She was the soul of every one of those forgotten drafts I wrote back in January, but that first, truly finished script, was something special.
My first screenplay, The Latin Experience, had Corazon as the main lead, an aspiring actress named Mackenzie. It was set in tropical haven 1960s Miami and the male protagonist was a muscular muchacho named William, who had immigrated from Cuba after Fidel Castro seized control of the island country. I wrote Mackenzie as if she was an angel sent by God, more beautiful than the goddess Aphrodite. Her voice could cure the lonely and every man in South Beach Miami was dying to take her to a drive-in theater. Mackenzie was smarter than the smartest person in the country, and I even wrote her as being more intriguing and street-smart than all the characters played by Ingrid Bergman. Mackenzie was perfection and when she met William, the two fell in love and later formed a family and moved to Los Angeles, where Mackenzie became a celebrity. The two of them were dreamers, and together they helped each other in achieving those dreams.
William came to the U.S. to become a singer. The Latin music industry in Miami was just starting to boom, and boy, could William sing. I wrote William as the kind of guy any girl would want to marry and never think of divorcing, the ideal Latin lover multiplied by ten.
I made the main conflict in the screenplay how Mackenzie and William’s dissimilar cultures hindered their relationship. Mackenzie’s family disapproved of William because he was Cuban and as a result, Mackenzie almost followed to do the same. In the end, they ended up together though, overcoming their obstacles. Mackenzie’s father even formed a band with William; they won two Grammy’s too.
I thought The Latin Experience was a perfect screenplay, but I never stopped editing it, over and over again. By the fifth draft, the script was drastically different than when I first wrote it. This time I turned Mackenzie into Morgan, an established actress in search of love, and William into Pedro, an acclaimed Puerto Rican film producer who was afraid of telling Morgan he loved her.
One scene precisely had Morgan and Pedro finally confessing their love for each other while they walked by the Paramount Pictures backlot. I soon scrapped a portion of that premise and reverted to my original characters. Mackenzie and William returned as central figures of the story, but I gave them the positions that Morgan and Pedro held, as well as the Paramount scene. I wanted these characters to be successful, while at the same time be in utter love with each other.
Corazon and I were circling the track field, almost indefinitely, by the time I pitched her The Latin Experience. My only guess was that she was emotionally moved by the pitch; she didn’t say a word and our hands were no longer in unison. Like a child lost in a strange setting, I was worried. My insecurities about confessing my love for Corazon heightened, and it was there that I realized that what I wrote for the character of William, was happening to me. We were close to the end of the track field and Corazon still hadn’t said a word, her face perplexed with altering emotions, as if thinking of the perfect rejection to say without offending me. By this time in William’s story, Mackenzie had already confessed her love in the Paramount Pictures backlot, but the same was not for me in that spiritless track field. Corazon was just thinking, her demeanor unmoved, and then the worst happened.
Corazon received a text message. Without hesitating she replied to the unwanted messenger, as if the text was somehow her boarding ticket back to reality. She was now ready to speak. She was now ready to give her verdict, a verdict that would either unite us like our hands once did, or decimate the connection we had just conceived. This, was it. She turned to me and looked at me straight in the eyes, the moment feeling like an arrow shot straight to the heart, in jarring slow motion. With regality and nothing more, she finally spoke. “Don’t get mad at me, but…” She stopped. Time stopped. Everything stopped. Was I ready to hear what, since the day I first saw Corazon, the response I eternally fantasized in all of those dead drafts of The Latin Experience?
With a tone of voice I’d never heard before from Corazon, she finished her thought. “It’s beautiful, but I don’t feel the same way.”
I felt cold, but I was also, surprisingly content. Her response was exactly what I was expecting, even though what I wanted to hear was the exact opposite.
“Your story was so lovely though,” she said. “I always had a feeling you felt some type of way about me.”
“Will that change things? Like us, being friends?” I said, afraid that would be our last conversation.
“No, but I’m glad we are now on the same page. Thank you for thinking about me the way you do,” Corazon said, blushing like red.
When we got back to the center of campus, Corazon caught a bus back to her dorm. I waved goodbye to her as the bus drove off. She waved back and blew me a kiss. She was gone.
As I stood there waiting for another bus, all I could think about was: If I had pitched my story better, Corazon would’ve being the Mackenzie to my William. That perhaps she would’ve being with me, right now, instead of on that bus that had just taken her away. Maybe if my story had been better she would’ve had fallen in love with me, in an instant, or maybe it was how I told the story that didn’t quite punch right. Or, maybe, she really didn’t feel the same way about me. Those thoughts enamored my nights as I tried to unriddle why my Latin experience was not like The Latin Experience. It was the perfect story that never came about, a fantasy that only came to life through a keyboard and a computer screen.
Though I was rather confounded and, somewhat down after pitching my love to Corazon, I knew my feelings for her would pass and that by next year, things would be like if I had never loved her and told her in the first place. I didn’t hate her, or despised her. Ironically, I admired her. Not a single negative thought of her arised; everything stayed the same. We continued as usual and just a week after I had confessed my love for Corazon, she invited me and Selina to dinner.
There again, in a Connecticut city I had once never known, we sat together and ate together. As I looked within Corazon’s eyes I could see a future that could never be and, with an unusual sense of optimism, I thought that by next semester we would still be best friends and I would be in love with a new, completely different Corazon.
The former was certain, but the latter was not, as I never again met a girl as sensational and beautiful as that British princess, with that hair so nice, and that smile so perfect.