The kindness in Tito’s voice was clear and made the guys in our group pay attention because, I suppose, they were wondering the same thing. I answered, “I am a transfer student here from the National Institute, and I’m living with my mother.”
From that moment on the atmosphere among my classmates at Abel Bravo College captivated me in those brief hours of the first day of school until we left school for the day. The fellows gave me a warm welcome and engaged me in conversation all morning. The Spanish teacher also called the class to order and began trying to tie the names in alphabetical order to associate them with their faces.
The West Indian girls, on the other hand, also impressed me as they tried to immediately befriend me. Their reception, however, was not as warm as the boys, but I figured that since I hadn’t been part of their circle from previous years, this was the reason for their subtle coolness. The few Spanish guys that were in our class showed an interesting mood of kindness and wanted to ask questions about the National Institute. There was no immediate pressure on me to put on any airs that I had come from a prestigious school such as The National Institute of Panama. I was free to relax.
As the morning progressed a white Spanish girl approached me and asked, “What’s your name?” She had immediately claimed the seat next to me in music class acting like she was quite comfortable there. “My name is Cobert Reid. This is the way you write it…see!” I said as I strove to teach her how to spell my name. We were quickly joined by another girl who was obviously achinada as her lovely features showed the unmistkable mix of Chinese and Latino blood.
“You’ll have to tell us all about your experience at the National Institute,” said another Spanish mulatta who instantly, it seemed, had a powerful attraction towards me. In fact, she promptly hands me a very engaging gift. “Look here,” she says, much to my surprise. “I offer you this to remember me by forever.” When I open the carefully folded white handkerchief I couldn’t help but notice the enchantingly innocent smile on this girl’s face. The heavily perfumed hanky bearing a beautifully stamped firgure of a purple orchid contained a small passport size photo of her which dropped on to my desktop. This girl was now smiling broadly to reveal, of all things, a neatly placed gold tooth which gleamed and complimented her whole face. This enthralled me in that very moment as it seemed very strange to see a Spanish girl with a gold tooth which certainly made her even more attractive.
I now started to feel embarrassed by all the attention I was getting and that was only in the early hours of classes. I tried to resume my reading that I had started earlier that morning but, the excitement of being the center of attention had begun to excite me within the deepest part of my body. I found that I genuinely liked my new school.
Soon we were told that we could go home for the day and we didn’t have to return in the afternoon as it would be devoted to faculty meetings. On my walk home I was accompanied by some of my new classmates including Tito Johnson who had extended the first sign of welcome. As we approached the area near Avenida Cristobal Tito says, “‘Hey, why don’t you come to my house and visit for a while? “Sure, of course,” I said, feeling the long absent feelings of gladness and joy at having found friends at last. While walking over to Tito’s house, he asks me, “Hey Reid, what do they call you…I mean, what’s your nickname?” Of course, I told him the truth, that I had no nickname secretly canceling out the possibility of my new High School friends calling me Juni.
My new friend says, “Well, I’ll give you one…It’ll be RiRi, then!” He looks carefully into my eyes to see if I approve of my new nickname. “Okay, Riri it is then,” I respond. With a smile of satisfaction, both of us were now happy with our newly formed friendship and, I must admit, it felt good to be with my new friend.
This story continues.