Monday, September 17, 2012

The two Marias

               I come from a dancing family. a recently dancing family: my mom came into belly dance, and later flamenco, as her main hobby starting around the time I being formed born, roughly a quarter century ago. For a time I participated, learning the basics of flamenco, but  can one really dance flamenco if not Spanish? All with the duende and dolorous spirit? I think not. Not some gangly Jewish teenager. So I left it, but still my mother and sister dance regularly, religiously, it is everything to them that a religion is what with its pigrimages, revered teachers, rituals and transgression. Our teacher for a number of years was a woman named Maria, this sort of a force of nature from Los Angeles with bomb spray mascara and a disposition at the time compared just favorably to that of a Catholic school teacher. During my adolescence  I was terrified of her, but as time went on  I became numbed and we parted ways.
                I only recently came into contact with her again. I came home to interview for a job near my childhood home and needed a ride to it about half an hour away. Maria is deeply in debt to my mom favorwise and as she had nothing else to do on the foggy April Thursday she offered to drive me up. The drive up was uneventful: small talk, whatever. She was significantly more pleasant than I had remembered, and as we drove past a McDonalnds she let me know that later that afternoon she would be hitting it it for her daily hamburger which gets her all the calories she needs for day in one meal, plus the low price.
              We had some time to kill so we decided to get some coffee up the street from the building I would be interviewing at. Maria had seen a sign for a cafe and homed in on it, I couldn't tell why. The name of the cafe rhymed and she said it over and over, though it's out of my reach now. Inside the cafe was pretty bare, a coffee machine, a stand with some chips, pretty empty in terms of bodies as well. Damning too as it was that glorious time in the morning where everyone feels the have earned there first break for the day, around 10:30. They try to sneak away from their mundane activities with ever excuse to get a snack. The cafe had cheap Lebanese paraphernalia all over the walls: flags, pictures, little shiny metal things and this little Lebanese woman, hearing us, walks out from the back all smiles and perfume.
             We each ordered a coffee and Maria and I sat down for a moment. Maria walked up to the counter when the order was ready, then introduced herself, a sort of ethnic bond between them. Maria was second generation Latina or something like that, no accent but dark enough eyes and that almost haughty self conciousness that made her stand out sore from the WASP and Skandanavian crowds.
          "Hello, where are you from" Maria asked
          "I am from Lebanon," the woman smiling, so small and proud "and you?"
          "I am from all over. My name is Maria. What is yours?" and when Maria says this the little Lebanese lady laughed
          "I am Marya. We have the same name." And I kid you not there was this moments, the two of them, from so far apart, different parts of the world like two sister witches coming together, meeting for a moment, held together by their names, the name of the mother of Jesus and they took on the archetypal role that the name gave them, transcended a bit their cheeseburger eating coffee serving lives and became MARY halo and all, stabat maters staring at each other with infinite sadness and compassion over the creamer. The events of their lives mapping perfectly onto each other, the births and deaths and loves and movement experienced by each like the arms of a cross heading toward this moment, a moment of complete recognition. Then into divergence: back again separating, moving apart into other things, this name so common anyways, the meeting meaning nothing. The laughed a little and separated, Maria came and sat across from me putting the coffees down and sliding mine over across the table.
         "She had the same name as me..."

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