Niña De Pelo Suelto, De Ojos Negros y Corazón Abierto by Aydee Lopez Martinez

Of course her name was Maria Cantu!  It had a certain ring to it.  An air of beauty and romance.  Yes, even in elementary school!

Her hair was golden brown, oro almost, like it had been kissed ever so sweetly by the sun, with large, dramatic curls that were long and round, cascading over her shoulders, held back from her face in the simplest of satin ribbons, usually the same color as her dress, just tied rapidly on part of her hair, that made all of us not know what else to do besides just stand back and admire her as she walked by.  Every single one of us had fallen in love.  With the same girl.  She was nice and she was friendly.  Maria Cantu was much too young to know the power of her beauty yet.

She must have been seven or eight.

In the playground her swing was always reserved and that was my most favorite part of being in love with Maria Cantu.  I could sit there for hours just watching her hair flow in the wind, listening to her laughter, enjoying the beauty of her smiles, yet never once did I say one word to her about my love.  My brothers and I certainly would talk about her enough at home.  Even my parents and older sisters, who weren’t even in the same school, knew just exactly who Maria Cantu was.  In teasing one another the object of our “joke worthy” affection was always her.  We idolized her.  We fantasized about what she must have been like.  Did she like any of us the same?  What was she like at home?  I wonder if she’s as nasty as Jose Luis and likes to eat raw wieners straight from the refrigerator too.  Does she know just how many of us are actually in love with her?

Those were the extents of our affections.

We knew we loved her, but we didn’t know what exactly love actually was.

In the years since my brothers and I have had several conversations about our infatuation with Maria Cantu, and I can probably speak for all of us in saying that sometimes, every once in a while, we all still remember her and wonder about how and where she might be.