Adonis Diaries

I Should Have Told Barbara

Posted on: September 21, 2008


I Should Have Told Barbara (Jan. 2003)

The day before my trip to Los Angeles in the summer of 1976

A girl friend of a dear friend of mine asked me to get in touch with her sister Barbara.

I were in the USA since June of 1975, my first ever trip outside my country.

The International Office at the University arranged a group trip, 

For one week to California, for some of us new international students.

We were to meet families in this exchange program.  

I did not care meeting any American families for the time being,

But I needed to get away in my first summer and wanted to see California.

The International student advisor knew about my origin.

The program matched me with an old Jewish couple in Pasadena, without warning me, 

At a time Israel was bombarding South Lebanon, every day, 

With the intention of emptying south Lebanon of its inhabitants.

They had a fourteen-year old boy and it didn’t cross my mind to ask if he was their grand son.

The husband was very helpful and friendly 

But his wife gave me the impression that she agreed reluctantly to join the program.

A student from Nigeria was assigned to the same family.

The house was large with a garden.  The interior looked old, traditional, gloomy,

Dark and smelling like it was never aerated and reeking of old people.

The same evening they asked the Nigerian student a few questions

But I was spared this torture, may be because I didn’t look that forthcoming.

It is a crime to surprise youth among old people.

Youth has to be forewarned, to be prepared on what to expect from elder people.

Youth has to be reminded that elderly can be wonderful and much active,

That elder people are great people, still very much living humans, 

Who could be funny, charming and could be very functional…

We had a general gathering the first day with all the families and various students,

Then we were given the daily program of places to see and I barely paid attention to.

We were to see Disney Land the next day for free.  I declined the invitation:

Disney Land is for kids. 

I remember that I had another chance to visit Disney for free, two years later.

I again declined. Disney was still just for kids.

Many years later, I discovered that everybody liked to see Disney, including kids. 

I never saw Disney in California, but the smaller version in Orlando with my nephews.

My little nephews and nieces, five in total then, loved Disney but may be less than I did. 

My host drove me for an hour to the meeting place with Barbara.

He drove two hours to pick me up three hours later.

Youth: ruthless, mindless, uncompromising, and unappreciative.

I still can visualize Barbra after thirty years, coming toward me,

In white shirt, long brown skirt reaching below her knees,

Almost touching her long brown cowboy boots.

Her boots must have added several inches to her stature.

She is shorter than me in an after thought, 

But the vision is always of a tall and grand lady.

She appeared taller than me but my pride increased correspondingly, by her side.

Her then long blonde-brown hair was raised over her beautiful head.

She was glamour incarnate.  

She hugged me and made me feel I was a dear friend, of long time, whom she missed.

She spoke with effusion and earnestness.

She wanted to know all that is to know, instantly,

About how her sister is doing, what about her sister’s boyfriend who was my friend,

About their relationship, about Oklahoma her home State, 

About everything, but nothing about me, or so I feel.

I was glad that I was not the object of the conversation then,

But not so glad now.

We walked together so close, and I was walking on air.                  

I felt that I must look the most envied guy,

A most glamorous guy in the whole wide world.

I asked permission from my host family to move at Barbara’s,

For the duration of the program, and they agreed.

I walked to Beverly Hills the next morning to see her in the fashion store she managed.

She received me like a VIP and was happy at my surprised visit.

I wanted to be with Barbara every second of my trip to California.

I accepted to attend a conference in Los Angeles a couple of years later:

Hoping to see Barbara again.

It was an important political conference but my heart was not in it.

My friends drove me through Beverly Hills

Where the rich and glamorous live but I was not impressed.

Finally, giving up, they gave me a lift from Anaheim to West Hollywood.

I called up Barbara and I invited myself to stay overnight at her apartment.

She had many friends.  

She was attached at the moment to a fashionable young man,

Working in fashion and with fashion, but they had problems.

She appeared depressed and disappointed and not in the mood for me.

Her TV was on 24 hours.  I slept and woke up with the TV on. 

I visited her six years later during my second extended trip to the USA:

Barbara’s sister had told me that Barbara was married and living in Oklahoma City.

I met Barbara and she did not look the Barbara of my vision.

Her skin looked darker, her face emaciated,

Down to earth, resigned and decked in simple blue jeans and an old black sweater.

She was married to a full-blooded American Indian, herself a half-blooded,

A soft spoken husband, a polite artist who toured the USA exhibiting his paintings.

She stayed at home designing jewelry and managing her man’s business.

I accepted her invitation for a Thanksgiving lunch.

I went down to Oklahoma City for an important and specific purpose of mine:

I was determined to tell Barbara my secret.

I went down with my steady girl friend at the time.

Barbara’s eyes had an ironic shine looking at my oriental short friend.

She asked my friend all kinds of questions about our relationship,

How we met and what are our plans.

She said to me: “You know someone needs news about your friend”.

She meant that her sister needed to know the whereabouts of her ex-husband.

I had lost track of the whereabouts of my friend too and could not be of much help.

Barbara was entitled to know the truth,

That the first time she walked with me,

She made me feel that I was the most glamorous guy in town.

But I did not tell Barbara the truth.  

I don’t recall that I talked during my two hours stay at Thanksgiving.

Maybe it did not feel right at that moment

But I should have persevered on my initial decision:

This truth is hers no matter what.

She could be eighty, but age does not erase the feeling,

That to my young eyes, 

She was the most glamorous woman I set my eyes on.

She could be a hundred, but age does not change the fact,

That Barbara made me once walk on air.

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September 2008

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