I will never forget the day I fell in love at first sight. It was possibly the first time I really fell in love as well.
She walked through the door. I was busy cleaning tables and setting up for lunch hour. It was the Summer holidays and I was back in Portugal after my first year away at university in England. I needed a job, and I was lucky that a lot of my friends had been working at the pizza place we used to go so often when we were growing up into young adults, 17, 18, 19. I also knew the boss pretty well, he was a fairly young man, ex-footballer and maintained a good relationship with people. We always referred to him as the Boss, it was like a nickname, friendly enough but not familial.
I was working from 11 till 3, or until there were people still left in the restaurant, and then back at 6 until 10.30 or 11 at night.
It was early in the day, when she walked in. Her name was Anabela and she was due to start work soon. As soon as I saw her I knew I loved that girl. She was pretty beyond comparison, incredibly well-mannered and had something about her that resonated with me.
That image has stayed with me as if it had happened yesterday.
I was working the tables, sometimes behind the bar but only when we required cover, I was mainly waiting tables. She was working in the kitchen. We talked often throughout the night and the shifts when I went to get the food. There was a partition where the food was passed over to be taken to the customers. You could see the kitchen and what people where up to. Anabela was new, so she mainly washed up and passed the food over.
We immediately got on really well. She used to laugh at my silliness, she had the most incredible smile. At lunch break we used to go to a coffee shop for an espresso. Sometimes on our own, sometimes with other friends. That's a regular thing to do in Portugal, a social thing going to a cafe shop. We went to Trigo Limpo, then a fairly new place, or to Centro Comercial Parque, because it was close. We talked about everything and anything. She was smart, intelligent there was never a hint of shallowness, I always loved that in her. I remember going to the public library as well once, and talking about Princess Diana, and arguing the point that one person can make a difference, somebody like Princess Diana simply by raising awareness with her charisma did a lot of good, she didn't have to do it, she could have chosen different public functions other than going to hospitals for people that had their lives affected by the leftovers of war. I could always hold a conversation with Bela.
I think she liked me. At least a little bit. Don't know if it was because I was studying in England and that made me appealing and different. Don't know if it was because I was quite enthusiastic and quite optimistic in those days. Maybe it was just me.
But it was never to be. I confessed my love for her, I also will never forget that moment, we had just finished our shift, and we were sitting in a bench in the plaza outside the pizzaria. She revealed to me that in actual fact she had a boyfriend, even though they didn't get on well and she was thinking of breaking up with him. And of course, I was about to leave for England pretty soon. This kind of situation kinda set the tone for impossible relationships in my life from then on.
Our birthdays were very close together. In fact, all of our friends birthdays are incredibly close together, so we decided to have one big party. We arranged a dinner at the pizzaria, oh I have mentioned that the food there was delicious as well? Funnily enough, my mon came as well, for whatever reason. After it, she knew straight away that I loved Anabela, I never until then realised how perceptive my mum was.
My friends gave me a Benfica shirt, I was really touched. I cried that night, I was to leave for England a few days later, my emotions got the better of me. I felt so right there, and thinking I had to leave and leave all my friends behind and the girl I loved...
But anyways, I remember giving Anabela flowers and promising her we would be Friends Forever. We traded addresses and for the whole of my second year we corresponded by letter. I always looked forward to her letters. I saw her again briefly went I went back for the holidays. Don't remember very well what happened at the end of year 2, can't recall if that was the year when I decided to pursue it further once again, but she told me she did not feel the same for me.
I remember thinking that fair enough, there was nothing to be done, but always had an inkling that she really did not want to have the commitment of a long-distance relationship which I can fully appreciate.
My parents split up during my third year at uni. It meant that I did not actually return to Portugal for more than a year. At some point, for some reason, the letters stopped. She was in her final year at uni I think, she probably did not have the time.
I do recall afterwards, when I was already working at the cinema, sending her a message over the internet maybe, or perhaps it was a letter, can't remember now, with some particularly, not nasty but unfriendly words. And I think it effectively terminated our friendship. I have never forgiven myself for it. Especially after I had promised her we would be always be friends.
A couple of years ago, we tried to re-connect, but it was never the same, it was too late and I am too far away. That beautiful girl become a beautiful woman, but what I rue the most is that I lost a friend, a lovely and intelligent person, because of my frustration and arrogance at the time.
I decided never to let that happen again. In fact, I tried my hardest. Somehow, it has happened again. This time, CENSORED.
Hopefully I will have learnt from it enough this time around.