It was a warm, if not clammy, evening in our little Iowa town, and we were sitting in the porch bar. It had been just a porch, but they made it into a bar, building shelves and setting up barstools. And they'd taken out the porch windows so as to invite any breeze at all to come inside and tickle our sweaty brows. The breezes were elsewhere on this night.
We sat and we talked a bit. Sharing observations about others, the feelings in the air, plans for the summer. It was as if we were talking for the first time. Because it kind of was. I mean, we'd exchanged hellos and had small conversations here and there, but tonight-- this night was different.
It was different because there was a gravity to the mood, to the momentous occasion. There's always a perspective shift at graduation time, when what to do next becomes particularly pressing.
Carmen was leaving, having graduated, and was moving on to other things. Things kind of hazily defined, but definitely away from Grinnell, Iowa. Away from college. To be honest, I don't recall specifics. But she wouldn't be around to have more talks with me, that much was apparent.
I was the one to be left behind; I had taken some time off from school and was returning to finish up next semester. So I was saying goodbye to many of my classmates that I'd once planned to walk with in the commencement procession. I was feeling some regret and despair watching the celebrations occur and seeing the joy in their eyes.
Carmen and I talked about this some. We talked for awhile about a lot of things that I don't remember. What I do remember was that Carmen was a beautiful young woman, someone whom I had admired from afar for some time. I'd noticed her talking with her friends, smiling. She had a smile that brought friends along with it-- if she smiled, others were bound to smile too. I thought we had a very nice conversation, about the fun of the night's party, an assortment of other things... And as we made motions to say goodnight, I was feeling torn. Torn between my life until this moment and what was to come.
I felt the despair of losing someone I was just getting to know-- that I was really enjoying talking to and feeling comfortable with. Someone that I was gaining respect for and was hopeful about relating to further. I was realizing that the hopes and dreams which had prefaced this evening had little chance of being realized, but now, with this moment, and the conversation, and the mood, and the comfort... I didn't know how to let it go.
I finally said something that attempted to describe some of my emotions... I don't remember what it was. But it was something like "It's sad to lose a new friend."
I don't know if that's what I said. But it was something like that. Maybe it was something most brilliant. I don't know. What I do remember is that Carmen smiled, and said, "That's so sweet," and got off of her barstool, walked over and reached up and kissed me, gently, on the cheek.
We said goodnight, and she walked away.
It was the last time we spoke.
Carmen Misol, 39, passed away in Washington, DC, on November 18, 2008 from complications due to multiple sclerosis.