Lydia, the idealist


Lydia was from the sixties. Not literally, but in my mind, she came from a different era. We met in Denver, both working tirelessly for Clinton’s re-election campaign, chain-smoking cigarettes, surviving off of cold pizza and cheap coffee. She had been a local labor organizer and worked as a liaison between the campaign and Denver’s Latino community.

After hours of canvassing, phone banking and looking at demographic neighborhood charts, she’d still have the energy to take me on bike rides around the city. We’d find dilapidated playgrounds and smoke grass atop of monkey bars, dreaming of the new world we were building. Despite my deep pessimism, Lydia’s faith was infectious, and I found myself believing that we could really make a difference in the lives of our fellow man. As it turns out, I was just in love.

After the campaign was over, Lydia left. Her note said she didn’t have the time for such selfish pursuits as a relationship and that she didn’t intend on returning to America for a very long time. I felt as if I had been sliced in half by a machete: alive, but destined to fall to the ground in pieces.

I hitchhiked to New Mexico and beat her little brother half to death before he told me that she was in Brazil, teaching reading in the Favelas. When I found her in Rio, some days later, she had been expecting me.

“My brother told me what you did to him,” she said. “You don’t believe in anything, Knox. You’re a self-absorbed little boy and it will be quite easy for me to never think about you again. I’m going to save people who deserve it.”

A stronger man might have tried to change after such a devastating appraisal. Me, I crawled into a bottle and stayed there for years.

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