First, without hesitation, she’d tell me how stupid I was.
Then, with a smile, she’d tell me that everything would be ok.
That's the kind of love I'd get from her. It was tough — at times hurtful — but overall it was always what I needed… and I grew to welcome it from her at any time of the day.
Like any other honest friendship, my interactions with her were unpredictable — would she compliment my haircut or tell me it was ugly? Say how good looking I was or demand that I lose 5 pounds? Either way, I was gonna hear it, and through those small moments she gradually taught me to let go of my ultra-sensitive tendencies.
She’d call me her ‘hijo’ and tell me about how life in Peru was. She’d describe everything as true as I could imagine them, painting images in my mind with vibrant colors and warm sounds. She made me want to visit there, and knowing that I love food, she made me want to eat every single authentic Peruvian dish by always ending her descriptions by closing her eyes and saying “mm, so good”.
When I put in my 2-week notice, the farewell was not a somber one. San Diego is my home, I would be back frequently, and I would be able to catch up with her, no problem. I'd simply call her up, force her to take a break from being in the lab, and we'd be able to chat about our grand and petty matters.
But life has its unexpected turns.
In late July of last year, I visited her at a hospice in Poway. I sat next to her desperately wishing she could barrage me with her witty insults. I wanted to hear the latest scoop on her chemistry work, her soccer team, and everything else in between. I wanted to tell her about myself, as well — how I got engaged to the woman that she thought I'd only date for a year or two. I wanted to prove her sooo wrong in the most loving way, but all along I knew that she would've hugged me and kissed my cheeks feeling incredibly proud of me.
Four months later, I said my final goodbye.
It's amazing how impactful a person can be to your life even when they're not actively around you — just shows how deep a person's love can be.
I will always think of her and imagine what she'd say to me when something's not going my way, probably something along the lines of:
"Hijo, who gives a shit! There's so much more important things to worry about, just forget it. Life's short, you gotta move on and enjoy."
Miss ya, Chella.