“I’m hungry,” Rudy confessed when he saw me looking at the few slices of the least-expensive white not the most nutritious bread he could find and a half-empty can of bean dip.
We went out to eat, my treat.
The next day I brought him a bowl – well, a thermos full, really – of hot Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup and some toasted, buttered bread.
Rudy was living in a by the day, week, or month motel room. Number 19. It was all he could afford. Ironically, the Vagabond was located just down the street from Disneyland – The Happiest Place On Earth. Rudy wasn’t feeling too happy during those days. Life was hard and trying to make ends meet wasn’t an easy task for a 21-year-old foreigner. He just wanted to be part of the American Dream.
When we first met, before his motel days, Rudy was living with a group of buddies in a three-bedroom apartment. Life was fine. Partying like young guys do, just living it up. One day at a time.
We had been dating for about a month when I stopped by to check in on him because he’d mentioned he was feeling sick. Sick enough that he did not even want to get off the couch, which was so unusual for Rudy. This guy would never just lie on the couch just because he could. Never.
His roommates were gone for the day, which was good because I could take care of him. In a sappy girly way. I put a pillow under his head. Made him tea and toast – good stuff when you don’t feel like eating. Which Rudy didn’t. Eat. He was feverish. I wiped his brow with a cool cloth. He slept. He woke. He dozed some more.
What amazed me though was that when Rudy did wake after a short snooze he was determined to go to work. He needed the pay. Seriously. He would literally sit up. As straight as he could. Then he would struggle to stand. He couldn’t. He was too weak. I convinced him to relax. He needed time to recuperate. I even offered to call his job site, tell them he wasn’t feeling well. And after much convincing, he allowed me to call in his excuse for not showing up to the local Holiday Inn where he worked as a dishwasher, mostly, but helped the chef whenever he could.
Another time, a few weeks or so later, we were sitting on the patio, a small square of cement surrounded by a wood-slated fence, when Rudy began pacing back and forth. I figured something was up because his behavior was again! unusual. “I need to ask you something. I just don’t know how,” he stated rather bluntly, yet with concern. “Anything. Ask me anything,” I honestly answered.
“Oh, this is so hard. But I don’t know who else to ask. Well, I was just wondering if you had any money I could borrow. Just twenty bucks. I do not have a penny to my name…..” He tried to continue. Telling me he was sorry, that he shouldn’t be asking. “No problem,” I said. And I meant it. I knew he really did need the help. I pulled a twenty out of my purse and passed it to Rudy. He just hugged me, not sure what to say. That evening, I’m sure, a bond tightened. A bond we were already developing between us.
It was several months later, after the 20 bucks situation, when I saw the bread and beans in the motel room. By this point I knew how hard it’d been for Rudy, trying to prosper. I had been there with him, when things began to look bleak. The same evening I brought him the chicken noodle soup we decided to take a walk. A walk to the Anaheim Hilton. The hotel had become a place to stroll, to just find some kind of quietness for us. To talk. To get to know each other. We just talked and walked through the lovely hotel.
That particular night, a mid-December night, we had been talking about how most likely Rudy would need to return to his homeland. To Honduras. He just wasn’t seeing a future for himself in the states, particularly in expensive California. As we were talking, and walking very slowly, a what are we going to do? walk, we found ourselves in a small room with tables, note paper and pens. I didn’t think, I just wrote.
I handed the note to him, unembarrassed. Rudy accepted it.
What I didn’t realize was that right after he read my short love note his thoughts began to change. He now had a reason. A reason not to leave. A reason to keep trying, to make a life for himself. And I was the biggest part of that reason.
We embraced. Rudy smiled at me. I smiled back. I sensed something had happened. Did Rudy feel like I did? We had never talked about love before. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to. I knew, right then, that he loved me, too.
Relationships all begin somewhere. Ours began in Orange County, CA. In 1984.