For those of you who don't know, my wife's name is Leyda
Del Carmen Bowerman (formerly Carrillo). It almost sounds
vulgar with my lumbering germanic name tacked on the end of
her beautifully flowing spanish name.
I first met my wife while I was working at ROSS Stores in
Carlisle. My co-worker, a Bolivian immigrant named Juan
Carlos Rocha, was taking ESL classes at Carlisle High
School at night. I had trained Juan, and we chatted a bit,
but we were never really overly close.
Somewhere along about fall of 1999, Juan comes to me and
begins to tell me about a girl in his class, a Panamanian
named Leyda. She was here visiting her aunt and uncle, who
lived in Mt. Holly Springs. It would seem that they had
begun to chat one night and she confessed that she was
really bored. She only really went places with her aunt,
and didn't have anyone really close to her own age to hang
out with. And, for some god only knows reason, he decided
to introduce me to her.
The initial conversation between Juan and myself was
priceless. "Umm, Keith...There is this girl who is being
in my class, and I think you like her." "Oh, really
Juan?" "Yes, she is from Panama and she is cute. She is
not really, you know, hot...but she wants someone to do
things with." At the time, I had a second job as a
telemarketer, and all the girls that I worked with decided
to set me up with this girl that they knew. I thought
about it for a moment or two, and I told Juan thanks for
the offer, but to let me think about it. He replys, "Ok.
I give you two days to think about it." At that, he turned
on his heel and walked off.
The prospect was a little daunting, to be honest. I live
and die for latin girls, but he said that her english
really was not all that good, and she may be a bit
backward. I really wasn't sure I wanted to deal with
that. But, in true Bowerman style, I figure, "What the
hell!" and tell Juan to give me her number.
The first phone call was an utter disaster. First of all,
I forgot her name. So I hung up the phone before anyone
answered, and asked Juan the next day. A bit irritated
with that, he was. So I try again that night. We had so
much difficulty communicating. I had to speak slowly,
almost to the point of sounding like a 78rpm record being
played at 33rpm
.." And every other word out of her was spanish. So
needless to say, this was not working. So I had the
brilliant idea to converse via e-mail, because a few days
before I found a Systran translator online. We tried that
for awhile, but apparently that really doesn't translate
phrases and sentences all that well.
After a few days of this, I called her again, and we made
plans to go out to a dance club called Wanda's. I went
over to her Aunt's house to pick her up, and she came to
meet me in a stunning black dress. She literally took my
breath away, and I couldn't think for a full 20 seconds. I
was flabbergasted. She was the most beautiful woman I had
ever seen. Very intelligent, also. She proved that in the
car on the way there. I wasn't sure if she was just
showing off, or trying to make me think that she was
brilliant, because all she wanted to talk about was the
state of social security in america. The second we got to
the club, she was mobbed by at least 15 guys. She told
them all to go away, she was with me. Which amused most of
them when they saw me, and pissed others off. (Muttering
something about the hot ones always being with the geeky
assholes...Not sure what that ment.) It was that night
that it was truly pointed out to me that I can't dance. At
all. Rather embarrassing, really. I took her home that
night, and decided that I really wanted to see her again.
A few nights later, we got dressed up and I took her to the
California Cafe in Carlisle. She was beautiful, and
funny. We talked for a long time, then went to see
American Beauty at the MJ Mall. We had mistimed the film,
so we sat in my car and chatted for another hour or two and
waited. I realized that she was very warm, sensitive,
funny, and caring. (And will make fun of you mercilessly
if you flub)
I had developed a very strong feeling for her by that time,
but it was our night at the coffee shop when I truly fell
in love with her. We both got cappuchinos and talked for
hours. About our family and friends, past relationships,
hopes for the future, dreams, so on and so forth. She
kissed me on the cheek that night. And to that point, it
was the happiest moment of my life.
A few more months passed, and we drew very close. We were
together all the time. I took her to a ballet, to a
halloween party, to movies, to dinner...everywhere I could
think to take her. We sat at Ruby Tuesday's and fed each
other french fries. The same with ice cream. These were
She was due to go home to Panama on thanksgiving day. As
soon as we hit November I began to fall into a serious
depression. I was in love with her. I really felt that
she totally loved me too, but I was never totally sure. It
was then she told me about boyfriends and girlfriends in
the Panamanian culture. These are extremely serious
relationships, and to get into one of these relationships,
you have to propose, almost as if you are asking her to
marry you. And, as with a marriage proposal, I wanted
everything to be perfect. Hence, I didn't do it for a few
Time was running out on me. It was a few days away from
her going home. We fought that day (as we were wont to
do), and I was feeling really bad. We went to see The
Messenger at Colonial Park Mall, and the film was so bad
she wanted to walk out. We got to the parking lot and I
stopped her. Told her there was something I wanted to
say. I don't remember the exact words I used anymore, but
I remember saying that these months were the happiest of my
life. That she made me happier than anything I have ever
know. And that I loved her, and never wanted to lose her.
I said that I wanted us to be together, even though she was
going home to Panama. But not to worry about seeing me
again, because I will find a way for us to be together.
And finally, will she be my girlfriend.
She smiled, and kissed me. Nothing more needed to be said.
I went to her Aunt's house the morning of Thanksgiving. I
didn't get to talk to Leyda much because she was running
around doing all her last minute packing. She gave me a
poem she wrote. (Maybe I'll post it one day.) She asked
me not to go to the airport with her. Something about how
she would rather have her last memory of me standing at her
Aunt's house waving goodbye, rather than all of us crying
at the airport. (Personally, I figured her aunt didn't
want me tagging along.)
We had but one moment to ourselves. And she kissed me.
And they climbed into the van, and drove away.
I went home, and savored the feel of her lipstick on my
mouth as I cried.
We kept in touch on the telephone, but it was several
months before I saw her again. This time, I went to
Panama. Stayed for a month. This time, I asked her to
marry me. We were engaged on June 15, 2000. After that, I
came home, she came up here to visit again for a few
months, and went home again. I went to Panama last year.
We were married on November 15, 2001.
I look back on our three years together. In many places
hard and rocky. Difficult to handle. Our distance from
each other. In many cases, our attitudes alone made it
difficult. But all in all, it was rewarding.
As I sit here today, my son is about a week away from being
2 months old. My wife's visa is in processing, and will
soon be approved. I am returning to Panama within the next
few months to see them. Our relationship is stronger than
it has ever been. And soon, I will be able to see her and
know that I will never have to say goodbye again.
That is what keeps me going.
I love her.