I was only a fresh faced fifteen year old high school student. I can still remember her name, Miding Miraflor. I was in love. Not some sweaty lust but pure innocent adoration. For me she was the very essence of beauty. Around five foot two or three, she had long silky raven black hair. Her voice was soft and her eyes flashed with intelligence and humor. With flawlessly cinnamon brown skin, she had delicate features that would make angels flush with envy.
My love was pure and innocent. I dreamt of running my fingers through her soft hair. Holding her close, I wanted to feel the gentle touch of her fingers on my cheek. I ached to have her look at me, to see me. But that was not to be. She had a boyfirnd and barely knew I was alive.
The only person who might have suspected my love was her brother, Fausto. He even stole one of her senior pictures and gave it to me. But even he could not suspect the depth of my infatuation. He did not know how often I lay in my moonlit bedroom gazing at her picture with tears filling my eyes. He never knew how my chest ached from the hole her absence left in my heart.
One day I asked him innocently, “What nationality are you?” I barely knew there was a place called the Philippines, much less what the people looked like. My naiveté and ignorance were boundless. With a burst of raw anger that literally caused me to step back in shock, Fausto said, “American! Why?” His eyes burned with anger. It was years before I understood why he was so angry, all I did know was I had asked the wrong question.
For me the question was a simple desire to know the source of his sister’s incomparable beauty. For him the question was the prelude to prejudice, bigotry and pain. There was a single question but two very different frames of reference, two different life experiences.
Now some 52 years later I find myself again stumbling around asking questions and making statements; not always understanding the ramifications or the responses. I ask you to be patient with me and to know there is no ugliness in my heart, just ignorance.