This is a post about quiet. Eventually.
Maria’s eyes bugged out as she stared at the huge 1 1/2 inch marble in my hand.
“Wait a minute…” Maria asked. “Is that the same…?”
“Yes,” I assured her.
But I had the PROOF–straight off the top of my head.
“Really! You just mix ammonia, salt, a little laundry bluing, stick it in, wait a day, et ‘Voila’!”
Years of tricking my little brother had taught me well.
“Wow! I can’t wait to try it!”
Transparent glass with a blue swirl, I had made sure to be seen playing with a regular-size marble in the same color the day before.Today, when I pulled out the larger one, I’d barely needed to hint at all.
Gullible as I knew Maria was, I was still surprised she would believe a magic (and heat-free) formula could add layers of glass in a day.
What can I say? She was like me: Smart but dumb. Maybe that’s what made us friends.
* * *
I have never laughed so hard in my life so often, before or since. That girl could make a stone laugh.
Maria was (and probably still is) absolutely beautiful, with rich mocha skin, huge thickly-lashed brown eyes, a rosy cupid’s-bow mouth that turned up slyly at the corners, and thoroughly-luxurious hair that always shone.
That is why it was so funny to see her turn into a gopher.
Whenever in a crowd of people–especially serious people–we’d find a moment to catch the attention of our friend without anyone else observing. Then, we’d make the gopher face.
Sounds stupid, right? It’s just a goofy face—how funny can it be?
Well, you try it: Raise your slightly-curled hands up to your chest, drooping from your wrists, and pull in your chin and lower lip to make yourself bucktoothed. Now, roll up your eyes to look out of your little gopher hole, and slowly open and close your bucktoothed mouth, as if you’re slowly and silently repeating “Duh-Duh-Duh”.
Don’t forget to flap your tiny paws up and down in time with your mouth!
As stupid as you feel, imagine how dumb you look. Better yet, take some phone video, so you won’t have to imagine it.
Wait until your very best friend in the world is up in front of the class being graded on an oral presentation. Then, when she bursts out laughing for absolutely no reason, the entire class will think she’s an idiot. After all, what are friends for?
* * *
In spring of Senior year, Maria and I went to Spain. Our Spanish Club had baked and sold brownies for months to earn enough money for all 44 of us to spend a week in Madrid. 43 girls and 1 boy. (Guiseppe was no dummy.)
We were so excited! The first evening, 44 of us sat down in an authentic Spanish restaurant. When the paella arrived, we all began to tuck in. Suddenly, an awful scream rang out, and something went flying across the room.
The paella had been artfully arranged with whole baby crabs. Apparently, one of we 43 cosseted [pampered and protected] American girls had been horrified by her authentic Spanish food, and, in shock, had flung one of the offensive arthropods toward the heads of the other diners.
Talk about ugly Americans. I sat silent in embarrassment.
That night, we students were honored to witness the top flamenco dancer in the country. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, or the fact that he had managed to order a beer, or simply that Guiseppe had finally been overwhelmed by the 43 sets of young female hormones around him, but he totally lost it. “Arriba! Arriba!” [Up! Up!] he sang out repeatedly.
No one could get him to stop–until the most honored dancer in Spain interrupted her dance. She haughtily strode to the edge of the stage, looked directly down at Guiseppe, and spat out: “Abajo!” [Down!]
Oh, but our proud American moments weren’t yet over.
At midnight, sound asleep, Maria, I, and our other roommates were awakened:
PAM! PAM! PAM-PAM!!
Terrified to open the door, we timidly called through it: “Who is it?”
A deep bass voice shouted at us, in Spanish:
“It’s the police! Open up immediately!”
The hotel manager added, calmly, “Ladies, the police are here to arrest you.”
“You must open the door now, ladies, and go to jail.”
Maria and I grabbed each other and burst into tears. What was happening?!
Eventually, we learned that, in the next room over, some of our classmates had entertained themselves after dinner by striking up conversations with the young men outside the hotel. They’d done so by leaning out of their second-floor window and calling down “Hola! Hola!” (hello).
This was exactly how Madrid’s prostitutes solicited customers.
And this was only our first day in Spain.
Who Says We Don’t Listen to Our Teachers?
The best part of each meal in Spain was the small crusty loaf of bread that began it. Inside was a fluffy cloud of deliciousness. Everyone loved this bread, and ate it before anything else on their plate.
I couldn’t understand why Maria hesitated when I suggested sneaking down early one evening and inserting humorous notes into the loaves of our four adult chaperones, but I got her to see the light. We cut a small slit through the bottom of each hard crust, and poked in the folded missives. The adults always began the meal by holding their loaves up and cracking them in half, so we knew the notes would fall out first, rather than be swallowed.
Who knew that the hotel was planning to serve soup that night?
Four hot and soggy notes later, we were in a bit of hot liquid ourselves.
Our teacher shook it off pretty well. And late that night, when she discovered Maria and me prowling around the corridors at 2AM because we couldn’t sleep, Ms. T. regaled us with tales of her own high-school high-jinks.
“What? You two never went to summer camp? You’ve never shaved off someone’s eyebrows? You don’t know what short-sheeting a bed is? Settle in, ladies–here’s where your REAL education begins!” The three of us had a great time that night.
That is why we were so surprised that Ms. T. did not take our predictable next step very well. The next afternoon, Maria and I looked at each other and smiled in unison.
We climbed the outside the hotel via some helpful temporary scaffolding, entered our teacher’s second-story window, and short-sheeted HER bed.
Perhaps her lack of delight had something to do with the fact that her new husband of less than a week was her roommate. We short-sheeted their honeymoon bed.
The Balcony Scene
It was very hard to remain Maria’s friend in Spain. Everywhere we went, grown men trampled me in their efforts to get to her and propose. No, I am not kidding. More than once, men, including heart-stoppingly beautiful ones, actually stepped on my feet to get to her, and, once, literally knocked me over, blinded to my mousey self by Maria’s beauty.
After being vigorously pursued by every Madrid male for the first five days, on day six Maria at last settled down to her choice: A very nice young man named Antonio, who, conveniently, was staying at our hotel. Their instant romance bloomed hot and heavy for the twenty-four hours before we were to leave–or as heavy as it could with we other girls taking turns as chaperones.
On our last day in Spain, Maria’s young heart was breaking. It appeared that Tony’s was, as well. Even as I was stuffing the last of her underwear into her suitcase, Maria was still leaning on the sill of our balcony window that overlooked the central courtyard. Tony was at the window across the way, the two of them calling back and forth:
“Te adoro!” (I love you!)
Te quiero!” (I want [need] you!)
It was such a tender moment. Until the beautiful Maria sat down on the edge of the thick velvet curtain and pulled curtain AND rod down upon her lovely head.
Call me petty, but I was still snickering half an hour later. Maria hadn’t been hurt, and my mashed toes and ego felt a lot better.
“This has got to be the dumbest thing I’ve seen ANY students do in my 25 years of teaching.”
“Whatd’ya’ mean, students?”, I’m thinkin’. Don’t blame ME! This is all thanks to Maria!
We’re sitting in the high school Physics teacher’s office. Genius-girl Maria has just managed to turn in the crib-sheet along with her test.
We’re facing the wrath of the long-term sub. (The regular teacher is out.)
“But it’s not as bad as it looks!” I protest. “You know who our friends are.” (The boys headed for M.I.T.) “We could have just had THEM take the tests for us. At least this way, we’re trying to learn HALF the material.”
The substitute rolled her eyes. “Oh, brother. I see. And then you trade crib sheets.”
“Yup. C’mon…Maria’s going for an Anthro major, and I’m Linguistics–when are we going to ever need Physics, anyway? And…besides, you don’t want to make Maria a liar!”
“Well, look at THIS:”
Here’s Maria’s note I showed her:
And it actually worked! She let us skate! AFTER making us promise to take the rest of the tests on our own.
* * *
In college, even after I transferred to her school, Maria and I went our separate ways. She was busy learning, and I was busy drinking and cutting class. Finally, in my Junior year, I got my act together somewhat and decided to take school seriously. I joined Maria on a special dormitory floor called “The Quiet Floor”. The school administrators had recently begrudgingly acknowledged that 30 students preferred learning to partying.
Thirty nerd students.
Maria and I didn’t–quite–fit in on The Quiet Floor. We weren’t quite as nerdy and lifeless as our fellows. For instance, only Maria thought it funny to squeal the theme music to “Psycho” and thrust a knife-wielding hand through my shower curtain. And I doubt the other floor residents would have approved of the Polaroid I took of her on the john in return. Yes, we were the floor’s true sophisticates.
One night, we were looking for innocent fun while everyone else was asleep. But of course! Silently lift all the heavy wooden furniture in the central lounge area and stack it in a huge mound. Circle this with brown butcher paper multiple times to create a lumpy, mysterious mountain. Last, cap our creation with a flag thrusting from the top:
“Surrender, or Else!”
We took identical Polaroids of our proud peak, and hung these from strings before every door. Each quiet resident would awaken to a mysterious vision of wonder.
Astonishingly, admiration was not the result.
After fierce debate, some extended begging on our part, and a close vote, Maria and I were allowed to remain on the floor.
Where we behaved ourselves ever, ever after.
Changed post title back to original, away from “Marble-ous Maria”. What a dumb title!