(story) I Don't Talk to My Closest Friend
I Don't Talk to My Closest Friend
I remember when they introduced us. "This is one of the girls from Sweden," my counselor told me, in Spanish. "Her name is Ellen."
I looked up at the girl and smiled. I attempted to introduce myself in my broken English, but her counselor had to tell her for me, in Swedish. Ellen smiled apologetically, and I smiled back. She shyly outstretched her pale hand, and I took it eagerly. We walked into the adjacent woods together, as our counselors stared after us in surprise.
They had introduced us two girls as a formality, but they had not really expected us to get along, I think. After all, neither one of us could speak English very well, and we couldn't possibly be any more different.
But I had never seen anyone like Ellen before, and her beauty mesmerized me. Her eyes were a dim, graying blue, and her hair was the color of sunlight. I looked at the deep chocolate of my skin against her fragile hand and could imagine no greater contrast.
I desperately wished my English were better, that I could ask her of the world that produced such living porcelain dolls. But she was much more interested in learning about me than talking about herself. She delighted in taking my dark curls in her hands and stared at them with a profound wonder.
I soon found out that it would have done me no good to speak better English, because she understood as little of it as I did. We could find no similarities between her lyrical Swedish tongue and my Spanish and were therefore removed from any possibility of real verbal communication.
If we had been able to speak, I would have told her of the idyllic beaches of Honduras, where the warm ocean hugs the soft sand and brings strange treasure in for the children almost every day. And she would have told me of the white blankets that cover her mountains and of the tiny flakes of dissipating beauty that fall from her sky every year. I would have told her of the charming adobe houses that line the hot, tropical streets of our towns, and she would have spoken of the buildings that seem to touch the sky in her gigantic cities.
But we could not speak, so instead we smiled and held hands, put flowers in each other's hair, and laughed and laughed. We traced the paths of the quiet woods of the camp over and over again, finding companionship in each other's virtually mute presence.
We were inseparable, and that fact amazed everybody. We would crawl into bed at night when it was time for the lights to go out, and listen to the voices of the other children and the wondrous counselors. We could not understand that they were trying to explain to themselves the bond that existed between Ellen and me.
If we had understood them, we would have told them that two teenage girls away at an international summer camp share the same closeness as any other pair of teenage girls.
I'm not so young anymore, and I'm back in Honduras. My English is better, and so is Ellen's, and we write each other frequently. She remains one of my closest friends, and we are no more different now than we were then. Although now we communicate verbally, we include a lot of pictures in our letters (though neither one of us is skilled at drawing). We know, better than anyone, that beauty transcends words and culture. We know that to share something all you need are two open hearts.
By Melissa Cantor