Guille (1)


She was going out the door of the church after mass.  A slight wisp of a woman, shrouded against the november chill in long coat and scarf.  From my bench at the organ I could see nothing of the lady herself, only her clothing and her movement.  But in an instant I knew that this was someone I had better meet.

And meet her I did.  I was organist and choirmaster at a little mission in Duncan, Arizona.  The following sunday one of my singers, Petra, said there was a lady visiting the area who could sing, and might she invite her to sing with the choir?  Of course, bring her in.

And in came the slight wisp of a woman, shrouded against the november chill in long coat and scarf.  Her name was Guille.


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You recall my general plan for migration to Mexico.  The southwestern border passes through many mexican families, some members living on the american side, others on the mexican side.  Not knowing spanish and never having visited Mexico, I did not feel I could move from Tennessee to Mexico in one jump.  Rather I placed myself near the border, where, I hoped, I would make friends with the american side of one of these split families, who would then take me to Mexico to meet their cousins, who would surely introduce me to other people and help me to find my way around and learn the ropes of living in Mexico.

It was not to be that way.  Two years after going to Loris, I still had not made any connection with anyone in Mexico.


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Until Guille came along.  She was a widow, two years older than I.  She was visiting her son, who lived in Duncan.  She had no car; Petra was bringing her to church each week.  And when Petra introduced her to me, I mentioned that I was happy to meet someone from Mexico, and had long thought I should like to live there myself.

So Guille sang with us for a couple of weeks, and I found myself more and more drawn to her.  There was not much opportunity to talk.  But from time to time I looked at her from my bench, and would usually find her dark eyes watching me, and we would hold eye contact for a while.

And then I asked Petra how long Guille was going to be in the area—and found that she was leaving shortly, in fact would be there just one sunday more.

My mind raced.  Was Guille my chance to get into Mexico?  What sort of friendship awaited me with her?  What should I do?  I had fewer than ten days to do whatever I was going to do.

What I did was to find out where Guille was staying, and when I could find her alone there.  Petra told me.  The following thursday I turned up at Guille’s son’s house, where she was indeed alone.  She came out, and I offered her one long-stemmed red rose.  And I told her point blank that I liked her, that I had been struck by her the first time I saw her, and that I would like to get acquainted.

So we talked that day.  In spanish, of which I knew little, but it was more than her nothing of english.  I did not understand a lot and her blank look indicated I often had not said what I thought I said.  When I tried to get her to slow down, she got louder.  But there was clearly a reciprocation of my interest and warmth.  And she accepted my invitation to dinner at my house, the following sunday after mass.

I was flabbergasted.  I had never made such brazen moves in my life.  But the hard facts impelled me: That I thought this lady might like me enough to help me make my way to Mexico; that if I failed to act, I might never have such a chance again; that I would also never know what sort of friendship there might have been.

So I acted, and so I took Guille home with me the following sunday.

What might a mexican lady like for lunch?  Mexican food?  Maybe not.  That’s what she had every day; she might like a change.  In any case I can’t cook mexican food.  Nor american, for that matter.  But anyone can bake a potato and braise a steak.  So I had these on hand along with salad fixings.  If I made it to Mexico I would eat whatever the natives served me.  Guille could do the same in the States.

Of course Guille offered to help in the kitchen, so I gave her the salad to make.  Now one hears that one had best not drink the water in Mexico.  And perhaps there is something to that; perhaps one should ask if it is safe before drinking mexican water.  Perhaps that is why Guille asked me if she could drink the american water from my tap.  In any case I had to say, –No, you get drinking water from that cooler over there.  The tap water is neither palatable nor safe.–  This to a lady whose home in Mexico, I later learned, was supplied with abundant, safe, delicious city water.

Conversation after lunch included talk about our homes, families, showing pictures of grandchildren—we each had two.  And as the autumn light began to fade and I made motions to take Guille back to Duncan, she said, –Now you have your mexican connection.  You can come to see me, and I will show you around and introduce you to people.

–I am most grateful.  But do you have an amigo [(male) friend] I can stay with?

–You can stay with me.


© 2004 Joseph Mansfield