Love’s Litmus Test


On this day, four years ago, I remember walking up Calle Norzagaray, the street that runs along the seaside of Old San Juan, toward El Morro. I was looking down at the guard box, which looks out over the ocean at the foot of San Cristobal. There, on the grassy area around the old stone lookout, I found Maria playing catch with a young boy. I didn’t know if he was related to her or not. I still don’t.

Maria was in a funny state of mind that fall. She had lost a baby -– our son -– late in her pregnancy. I’ve blogged about that year in D.C., so that part of our story is already told in A Just Man Is Hard to Find. When I found her on the escarpment, she didn’t appear to recognize me. That was very disturbing, since I’d last seen her only three months ago, in the hospital. But I hung out, and when she had finished playing with the boy, she walked over to me and said, “Hola, Conquistador.”

That line was kind of a thing with us. She’d said that first time we met. So I knew she not only remembered me-– she remembered our falling in love. Of course I needed her to remember that, and not just losing the baby. I looked into her face as lovingly as I knew how, and she finally smiled a little –- bright icing on toffee cake.

I think the best question to ask anyone you meet and hope to fall in love with is “Are you forgiving?” 

That’s as good a litmus test as any I can think of.  The answer need not be “Yes, always.”  Sometimes a smile will do.

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