I was scared of a lot of things growing up. Like driving.
Then God brought me to Connecticut. Or really Con-nec-ti-cut - as my friend Silvio would have me say. Because "Really, that is how it is said. Right? You're just trying to sound cool. But that's really how it is said, right?"
"No, Silvio. It's ... whatever."
In Connecticut I learned that NYC was not as bad as the media had made me think throughout my life.
There were always girls raped at Central Park on the news. There was my learning about a member of my favorite band shot dead by some maniac (which really happened when I was still too young to have a favorite band, but I learned about it just in time to add it to my fears). There was Jason Vorhees on a killing spree in the yucky undergrounds of the city. There was Home Alone 2, in which the boy I was planning on marrying when we both grew up got lost and chased by bad guys in creepy Central Park...
Then... where did I end up? Con-nec-ti-cut.
The hot thing to do in Connecticut is to travel to NYC.
Oh, of course! When I arrived from Brazil, I arrived through La Guardia. Still not sure of the whole New York thing. Just get me out of here, Mr. Bus Driver.
The bus driver who was picking us up from the airport and driving us to the au pair training center in Stamford-CT, was born and raised in NYC. He was proud of his city. He told us stories as he drove us to our final destination.
So people grow up here? Normal people? People like me? No, I did not say that to him. But I said it to myself. He stopped at Wendy's for a quick snack, because some of us had been travelling for over a day. Most of my au pair friends had never seen a Wendy's before. He was proud to introduce it to them.
"Yes, America has more than just McDonald's, ladies!"
I was scared of getting out of the bus. But he laughed at me, so I did. I don't take mockery very well.
On Christmas time I finally decided I'd get the special bus sponsored by the community center in the town I lived. The bus left town in the morning and took a bunch of elderly citizens - and I - to scary NYC.
I walked a lot. I had no friends with me and the one person I knew in the city would not be available to babysit me till evening.
So there I was, for the first time, alone in New York City. Time to face my fears.
I walked and walked because I was scared of the subway. Not so much of getting mugged, but of getting lost. I saw the places that looked interesting on a map, and on the map they did not look so far.
I ended the day with sore feet. I met my friend and he took me to the top of the Empire State Building.
"Isn't it beautiful?"
Yes, it was beautiful. I guess he too was proud of his city.
Then he brought me back to the elderly citizens bus just in time to leave back to Nowhereland, Connecticut. (that's a made up name. I called the town Nowhereland because I felt it was in the middle of nowhere.)
That's when I told him I did not believe in dating outside of my religion. And that was the last I heard of him. I wonder why.
Then came Brazilian Day - the day Brazilians living in the U.S. celebrate Brazil's independence from Portugal.
Some Au pairs told me about it.
Yeah, when a bunch of peers tell you do to something, you do it, right? That is called peer pressure. Ever heard of it? Me neither!
After you've seen New York on Brazilian Day, you are not afraid anymore. New York was no longer the scary scene of Friday the 13th, no longer the evil city that killed John Lennon. It was a fun place to go. A place with Brazilian music, TV actors and my hometown food - which cost an arm and a leg!
I got lost from my friends half-way through Brazilian day. I thought that was good. I thought I wanted to go and find myself a one-day boyfriend. So I did. But when he started asking for my phone number, I figured it was time to take Metro-North back home.
"Come on, let's go to the Brazilian dance club!"
"Oh! There's my friend!"
"Over there! 6 blocks down this road! She's waving at me! Bye!"
Now, how do I get to Metro-North again? What's the name of that station?
Asking for help from police officers and kind city-dwellers, always looking back to make sure I was not being followed by lovy-dovy new-found trouble, I got to Grand Central.
Surprise - surprise. Mr. Lovy-Dovy followed me to Grand Central Station. He put his hands on my eyes, and for a moment I was glad! I thought it was one of my friends!
"You're gonna leave without giving me a kiss?"
A kiss! I can't kiss! I don't know how to! And I can't let him know that I don't know.
Oh, my gosh, I forgot boys want to do the kissing thing when they are interested in you!
That's the last time I flirt with boys I don't know. Last time! Last time!
Now think fast! That's right, dunk!
"Where are you going to?"
Crap! He'd be on my train! I was dismayed. I had to find a way out. But how?
I couldn't have this guy trying to kiss me for 2 hours inside a train.
"I-I I will kiss you! At the train!"
"Where are you going to?"
"uh New... Boston! Boston! I'm going to Boston. That's where I live. My dad works for the police there. Hey! There's my friend again!"
I joined a crowd of tourists that spoke another language and hopped onto the express train. When he saw me again, the doors were closing. Free at last.
Icky-sticky-goo had a whole new meaning for me on that day.
A few months later someone to whom I had actually given my phone number on Brazilian Day, called me. It was a Brazilian school in New York City, CCLS. And before you know it I was commuting to scary NYC. Teaching English and training teachers.
When I met my husband, NYC became an obsession. We had to do something fun together, and I had to go as a tourist to see the place where I worked like dog for no reasonable explanation other than I really love to teach. Because the pay was not worth the 4 hours a night I had left to sleep.
One beautiful and cold Saturday morning in January, we did go there. And we walked to places I had been wanting to walk to without being by myself. The major tourist places. The Library, Times Square, the MET, the Brazilian Street. This time I had my boyfriend with me! It was so much more fun!
We saw the tribute to John Lennon at Central Park. I had never seen it before. I was so excited! I think we just ran into it, it was not planned! I had read about it before, but we had not planned to see it.
Unfortunately we also ran into the guy I had a crush on, and his girlfriend. What do you do when you are out with your official boyfriend, whom you think you like, and you see the guy you have a crush on, with his official girlfriend? Hold on tight to your official boyfriend before you start acting like a fool - that's what you do. That's what I did.
We never made it to Chinatown, Little Italy, or to the Statue of Liberty. In fact I would never make it there until one year after we were married. It took my family coming to visit, for us to take the trip to that part of town.
I really wanted to go there, but on this trip we stayed around the Central Park area, which was a place I was familiar with.
I was just glad to be out with my boyfriend. Actually travelling with someone that meant something to me. It was the first time that happened since I had gotten to America. That was good enough for me.