He was in his mid-thirties, or maybe he was in his forties—I am not too sure. But for this story, his age is really irrelevant. He was a short man, with a ponytail, dark skin, and dark eyes. He looked like a Colombian badass in the early 90s, the kind of guy everyone wanted to be like. You know, the kind of guy who wore leather jackets, white pants, shiny shoes, and polarized shades. Mauricio’s house was the go-to place for all Colombians in Orlando. (My guess is because the shots of aguardiente were continuously flowing.)
Regardless of the drunken parties, with booze, drugs, and hot ladies Mauricio was the kind of guy who loved to share adventurous experiences with other people. My first memory of Mauricio was in Orlando, a few months after we had moved from New Jersey. It was a warm summer day in Florida, and he picked us all up in his yellow Jeep Wrangler and drove us out to the lake to go water skiing. I was only three years old at the time, but I can still remember how amazing it felt to sweep through the lake in his motorboat. He zoomed through the water like a knife gliding through butter: smooth and effortlessly. Everyone on board took turns diving into the water and holding on to the handle while Mauricio purposefully tried to make them fall with his maneuvers. I had never done anything like that before; I can still remember how terrified I was to dive into the water and hold on, but even as a toddler, I didn’t let fear stop me. I jumped in and held on tight to the handle, and prayed that I would be able to hold on, but I didn’t make it; I fell within seconds. The long, dragged-out time it took for Mauricio to turn the boat around to pick me up convinced me that water skiing wasn’t for me.
But this was just who he was. Mauricio loved to live on the edge. My last memory of him before he left for Colombia, was when he came over to give us all a ride on his red Ninja motorcycle. When it was my turn, it felt like I was flying through the sky. The adrenaline pumped through me, and any fear I had of being on the motorcycle disappeared. We drove back home, and he dropped me off. And just like that, Mauricio was gone.
Time passed, life went on, and Mauricio became a distant memory. He became that one family friend who once lived in Orlando. The one who used to show us really adventurous things, but who now lived in Colombia, and no one had heard of him since. That was, until one day, when I was around ten years old, when Mauricio called.
He spoke to my mama and told her that he had been driven off the road on his motorcycle, and his arm was no longer working properly. He needed a place to stay for a while and asked my mama for help. My mama, being who she is, welcomed Mauricio with open arms into our home.
Before he arrived, I had made all these elaborate plans of things we could all do together. I expected him to be the same person he’d been before he left. I expected him to roll in with a convertible or some other fancy car. I thought that his arrival meant I could escape from everything that I was going through. I thought that I no longer had to think about my scoliosis so much because he would provide a nice distraction with all his toys.
But, to my disappointment, when he arrived, he wasn’t the same person. Life had paid its toll on his soul, and he no longer cared to impress. He arrived from Colombia with short hair, cargo shorts, and a t-shirt with holes in it. He didn’t show up in lavish clothing,with a hot girlfriend, and a sports car.
He looked foreign, misplaced, and lost. The once talkative, happy, outgoing man, had been stripped down to his raw self and was no longer the kind of guy everyone wanted to be like. Life had been so rough on Mauricio that the person he once was no longer existed, but even though I knew this from the first moment I saw him, I still search for the person I once knew while he was with us. In case you are wondering, I never did find him.
Every morning, Mauricio woke up around six a.m. to make coffee and stand outside to stare at the pool water from the backyard porch. He would drink his coffee and sometimes caress his arm that hung near his chest on a sling. The arm was frail and pale. It looked like it had been there for so long that the pigment of the skin no longer resembled the rest of his body. The muscles were completely depleted and all that was left of his right arm was his illusion that it would one day be the same as it once was. But, just like everything, time changes us all, and some circumstance we can’t turn back from. Mauricio’s motorcycle accident, was one of those circumstances. It not only impacted his ability to use his right arm, it also changed him forever.
During his stay, my mama had asked him to help out by taking me to my chiropractic appointments. The first day, he drove me to Dr. Gray’s office in silence. I wanted to talk to him, to get to know him as a person, and I thought that for sure it would happen now that he was driving me to and from Dr. Gray’s office. I searched for things I could say. I wanted to know more about him, but I didn’t know how to ask, so instead of asking, I told him about myself. I remember telling him about my life, my taekwondo, my scoliosis, and about the pain I was in. I thought he would be able to understand; he had been through so much, and he seemed like he knew pain just as well as I did. I talked endlessly until we arrived, and he just sat there in silence.
I took his all-consuming silence as a sign that he didn’t care to hear about the real things in my life, so instead, I told him about the only other thing that was ever on my mind. I told him about the puppy I had picked out—his name was Beau. Not that it really made a difference. Just like the real conversations I tried to have with Mauricio, he didn’t care too much about anything, especially a dog. But people have a way of surprising you, and he definitely did. One day, a few weeks before he was suppose to return to Colombia, he told me he would give me money for Beau.
A few weeks after that, he returned to Colombia, and that was it. I never did get the money to buy beau — we never got to talk about his accident or how he was feeling, and worst of all, I never did get a chance to know who Mauricio became after the accident.
I didn’t blame him; but I did wonder why he didn’t bounce back. I once overheard him tell my mama that life was never suppose to turn into this. At that point, I didn’t understand what had happened to him, but now I do. I know that what he had been through, was too much for him to handle, too much for him to deal with. So instead of making the most of his life, he was paralyzed by his new found reality. I get it. I know that’s how it goes sometimes. Especially, when reality is not what you had in mind.
Mauricio’s situation is a keen reminder that no matter how difficult life gets, it’s important to stay true to who you are. This realization still haunts me.