Follow your Heart and Soul - (a nearly autobiographical) Divine novel.
Roses bloom when in Peace and Love-Bibi Luzarraga.
Time will tell everything and like we say in Italy, "se sono rose, fiorianno," or, "if they are roses, so shall they bloom"-BibiLuzarraga.
"Se sono rosse, fiorianno"
Venice's evening charm
People whom are happy in love have an air of intensity.
"1996, August 18th
Sofia, amore. How are you beautiful? Only you can imagine how difficult it is for me to find the strength and words to write this letter. Now that you are so far from me, I understand what my life had been missing; a unique and incredible woman (a great woman!) that makes me feel more wonderful than I've ever felt. A woman that makes me laugh and especially, a woman that makes me understand what it means to truly love someone! What can I say, honey? Only 24 hours have passes since you left Venice but believe me, I still cannot accept that you are not close to me. Yesterday when I left you at the railstation, as I returned from the train, I felt like a zombie. I searched everywhere for your face, your eyes, your long hair, your unforgettable smile, damn where are you my little panther? I need you, I need to kiss your sweet lips, touch your body, your legs...I walked through the places and streets where we walked together hand-in-hand -- do you remember them also? Why am I so unfortunate in love? I had a beautiful treasure on my arm and by my side and now, she's flown away.
Amore (my love), I am sorry. I know it is not a good time to be sad and I will continue to write in a playful manner but this letter is different from the ones I've written to you over the past two years when we were only friends. Sofia, I have fallen in love with you. Please forgive me for writing such tender thoughts. Yesterday, my little panther, I had no strength to write to you -- you left me without any energy after the past eight days and nights which we spent together but when I heard your voice when you called from Milano, I could imagine you again before me and I was aroused in less than a minute. Now I am patiently waiting your call from Paris before you board the plane; I need to feel you close to me like you were yesterday.
From now on, Sofia, you will be foremost in my thoughts and I will always love you. All my friends are worried about me because they know me as no other and when they look in my eyes, they know my state of mind. They know that for a woman like you, I would do the impossible. One day, amore (soon!), we will meet again. You know that I'm a dreamer (like yo) but I especially believe in God and with his help I can resist all the pain that love can bring. Time will tell everything and like we say in Italy, "se sono rose, fiorianno," or, "if they are roses, so shall they bloom." I am dreaming that our roses of love will bloom forever soon. Please write to me soon - sweetly and sexily (ha, ha.)
I miss you deeply, take care, amore e pace (love and peace),
Aerial view of New York City at dusk
Another wonderful surprise!
"We're going to New York City this weekend in my father's jet! It's a bit cold so pack a warm jacket."
1996, August 18th-.
"Mio Stefano, I am on the train from Venice to Milan;
When the train pulled away ffrom the station in Venice, I cried horribly at the very thought that I had left the love of my life whom lives in another country and perhaps will never see you again. I just re-read your letter from February 1995 in which you wrote about your trip to Cuba -- you mentioned a book in that letter entitled "Va Dove Ti Porta Il Cuore," or, follow your heart. Stefano, you are my heart and me the happiest woman on earth. I can hardly imagine living in Miami without having you near me. Your lips, la tua bocca (your sexy mouth), your chest, your smile, your hands in mine, oh everything! I have never been happier -- or sadder. Luckily, I am very tired (like you, I imagine) and I will try to sleep a little on the train. Hopefully, I will have sweet dreams of being with you. Stefano, I have a great feeling that we shall be together again soon, and then, maybe for the rest of our lives. I love you, darling, more than i have ever known love for another. I only hope that I gave you a fraction of the happiness which you gave me;
The way that you shared your entire life with me...I could never find the words enough to express my gratitude. I loved your family and friends; I can feel the love they have for you; I am also sure that they can sense the love and desire we have for each other; Funny how inseparable we were; unless you were working at the hotel, you spent every minute with me. Don't think that I was unaware of your generosity; How could I ever repay you? And even before we became lovers, before my arrival, you had planned to spend four of you vacation days with me -- as a friend; What a wonderful friend you are! But now, I am completely in love with you, darling; Why do you and I always end up living long distance love affairs? Do we enjoy drama? Whatever may happen to us in the end, we should not let this distance keep us apart for too long; Time is too precious, time away from you is a waste; I believe that at this point in our lives, we know who we are and who we want to be with to make us happy. I have searched for most of my life to find what I have found in you; Stefano, on this trip, I fell in love with you physically but I had always loved you as a friend and as a person since we met in Miami two years ago;
I know how deeply you love; I know your interests, I know your sincerity and open-heartedness, the way you always wish for the best for yourself and others; Now I know your fabulous smile in person, the feel of your skin, your hot tongue -- "a delicate animal," the natural highlights in your hair, your rounded feet, your wonderfully rugged chest, soft with a dark line that runs down to the middle of your bellybutton; I love the warmth I feel from your hands touching mine, caressing my breasts, my stomach, my arms and stroking my hair. Your soft green eyes that smile when they look at me and my body; i love the freckles on your nose and cheeks that you get in the summertime; And, your movie star profile -- how beautiful you are! Carissimo, Stefano, I loved it when you spoke to me of marriage and children; Before you, I disliked speaking about those topics with anyone but with you, those thoughts seemed to flow naturally.
The only thing my heart desires is to see you after work, have dinner together and make love; On the weekends, we would go to the movies, concerts or art exhibits that we both love; And in the summer, we would spend time in your parents cabana on Lido. Oh, I feel so terrific when I'm with you; And then fantasize about you as the father of my children; I should be so lucky, you are the most wonderful man I know; I know that you are only human but I do not know your bad qualities; What a fantasy you have given me -- you, the dreamer; Why, Stefano? Why do you make me feel so special; Come ti amo, baby (how I love you, baby) You take such wonderful care of me; You always worried about whether I was comfortable, happy, satisfied, hungry, or tired. You didn't even allow me to carry my own luggage! You are amazing, amore e ti voglio bene (I love you;) How much longer can I keep this very hot burning flame inside my heart; My desire for you is so strong; Oh, Stefano, I do not wish to make you wait a very long time for me; As I told you before, it is not what I want for you;
With all my heart, I have always hoped for the woman of your dreams to be close to you; I always prayed for you and Maria to be together soon; Isn't it funny how I now selfishly hope that it is me; To see you every day, to be around you, to watch you speak with your friends; To watch you walk, to see you after a shower -- all clean with wet hair, wrapped in a towel; Your tanned chest glistening with drops of water -- oh, how I love to run my fingers through your chest! Like electricity in my hands! Amore, please remember everything we did together; Remember my laughter, you always make me smile and laugh loudly; I haven't laughed so loudly in months nor, as often; Remember my big "lionessa" (lion-like) smile that you love so much; But don't remember my legs which were once full of mosquito bites at the end of my trip - they are still so red and ugly with bruises and scars from my stupid fall at the hotel; Try to remember the beautiful pictures we took at the Guggenheim museum, the Doge's Palace, La Sacala di Bovoli, La Fiorita where we had our first kiss under the stars, the fish market -- oh, so many memories; I love you, amore; I want you; I need you; I want to give you a thousand kisses and feel your mouth all over my body; Remember this morning at the Hotel Colombo; The long time we lingered in bed making love; I'm wearing the perfume you gave me named 'Venezia' to torture myself with thoughts of you; Ti voglio molto bene, Stefano, per sempre (I love you very much, Stefano, always.) Do you think that I can make you happy for a long time; For thirty-five years as long as your parents have been married; Do you thing we can have beautiful children that would look like you; What am I going to do with this wonderful that we share; I wish I knew; We will have an answer someday; If it's meant to be, so shall it be;
I must thank the Universe for sending me to you in another way; The best way I have ever known; All I know is that I must be patient; I must not force the love I have for you, Stefano; If what I want is to be with you, I have to really want it with only good intentions in my heart; If it's true love; everything will be easy and we will be together soon; If you stop loving me, please tell me the truth, sweetheart; I will be hurt but I also want you to be happy more than anything; Do not worry, for if that happens, meaning that if you fall out of love with me, then I will know how heartbreak feels; Stefano, never in my life have I written letters such as these which I write to you now; Mai (never;) I didn't even know myself that I had all these dreams, desires and needs inside me until I spent time loving you; I feel like a lovesick poet; Are we two dreamers or what; How romantic we are; No one else could ever understand our dreams nor our desires the way we understand each other, as we have;
Do you remember the reggae concert we went to and then sipped a double amaretto and double Grand Marniers afterward; And how we spent your birthday after the violin concerto - the sweet love we made; You had to go to work early in the morning and we barely slept five hours that night; Now I feel a little guilty for being so sexually demanding; I persisted in touching you, scratching you, liking and biting your neck softly...I had ugly bruises between my legs from our first night together I think you can now file a new record with the Venetian Tourism Office - we spent 7 days in 5 different hotels; You know, I can write to you endlessly but I promised myself that I would write shorter and sexier letters; It has been exactly five hours (it's 23:04 hours) since I last saw you, Stefano; Only an hour and twenty minutes have passed since we spoke on the phone when I switched trains in Milano; I miss you and I didn't want you to worry about my trip tonight;
I love you, baby"
The heart has reasons that even Reason itself does not know. -- Anonymous;
For my twenty-sixth birthday, I boarded a plane to Paris in 1997 for the first time I ever went to Europe in my life. Despite the fact that I didn't know anyone in France and only spoke a few phrases of courtesy French which I learned from audio books authored by French for Beginners. The incredible rush of discovering Europe on my own was both electrifying and a little scary.
"What if I get into trouble? Or I am rushed to a hospital," I thought. "Who is my emergency contact?" I put those thoughts out of my mind and allowed only happy, positive thoughts to flow.
Europe had always beckoned me and I had to find out why. Did I live a past life in Europe that I was driven to discover? Was it my destiny to find my soul mate in a foreign country? So many questions filled my mind and haunted my dreams since I was a child that I was determined to solve the mystery in my heart. Besides, I really needed to regroup and figure out how I wanted to continue living my life - now that a very long chapter had been closed.
Only a month before, I lived in New York City with my boyfriend, Jake Klein. Inevitably, after six years of being together, our relationship had reached a plateau of 'it's time to move to the next level.' Jake hinted at perhaps becoming engaged and I panicked. Of course I loved Jake deeply and had moved to New York City from Miami where I grew up to be with him after I graduated, however, moving forward with an engagement frightened me. Maybe I'm simply the non-committal sort? Yes, I think I am. I have a fear of commitment. Well not exactly of commitment but of marriage. In my family, every woman on my mother's side has either been divorced or separated at least two or three times and I didn't want that to happen to me so I managed to avoid the topic of marriage altogether. When I was younger, I went to a psychic that scared the wits out of me. She told me that a woman that was very jealous of my grandmother buried a strand of her hair in a cemetary and cursed her offspring and future offspring to have "hearts of stone and would never be able to love." Can you imagine?! I ran out of that lady's house so fast, I'm sure I left skid marks on her carpet. And this ridiculous statement has haunted me ever since.
Jake and I met in Miami when I was twenty-one. The moment he saw me, his eyes pierced my heart. Do you know how it feels when you simply know that someone will be a big part of your life? It felt like that. Jake loved a challenge and was driven to dazzle me, as if it were his sole purpose in life.
The day before Valentine's Day, the phones were ringing off the hook and all hell was breaking loose at the office when out of nowhere, a dozen long-stemmed red roses were delivered to the front desk.
"These are for Sofia. Someone needs to sign for these," said the delivery man. Unable to move my legs, I watched as the receptionist cheerfully signed for the flowers, "Oh, how romantic! It's Valentine's Day tomorrow, you know." I felt my skin become red and slowly opened the envelope. It said, "Happy Valentine's Day! I hope that you don't have any plans for tomorrow night (look inside.)" Nestled within the roses were two front row tickets to a concert on Valentine's Day to see my favorite romantic crooner, a modern-day Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick, Jr.
Needless to say, Jake swept me off my feet from the moment we locked eyes. For the next six years, our life together was an adventure-filled romance of passion, laughter and excitement. Compared to a small-town girl from Miami, Jake Klein was a sophisticated New Yorker. He exposed me to many new ideas and places so that it felt as if was living in a bubble for twenty years. On our second date, he picked me up on his Harley Davidson motorcyle and drove us to the zoo. Upon leaving the zoo, a heavy downpour of rain befell us; we were soaking wet as we headed towards a quaint eatery several miles away. Laughing hysterically at the situation, we popped into the restaurant and ended the day at his apartment which was invitingly filled with candles and incense.
A few months later, he surprised me with "We're going to New York City this weekend in my father's jet! It's a bit cold so pack a warm jacket." Having lived in Miami most of my life where it isn't cold for most of the year and, not knowing what true cold weather truly felt like below fifty degrees, I stressfully packed a few (I thought) warm clothes and pretty much froze the whole weekend. It was only September.
I was in awe as Jake hailed a cab and swooped us underground to ride the subway. I had never been on a metro before and as far as I can remember, I had never ridden a taxi either. We met up with his mother, another savvy New Yorker, for lunch one afternoon in SoHo (downtown New York City.) We walked through Little Italy and Chinatown, then went up the Empire State Building. I am still very fond of the beautiful black and white pictures I took on my first glorious trip to New York City in 1991. I felt like a little kid in a candy store on that trip and actually, Jake always made me feel like a kid on a rollercoaster.
So, when Jake brought up our engagement, I could only envision living my life away from my beloved Miami and living as a New Yorker, destined to live in an upstate suburb as a mother to half-Jewish children. The problem was that I was raised a Catholic and did not want to become Jewish nor have half-Jewish children because I did not understand nor know of that faith although Jake completely understood my anxiety and most certainly did not expect me to convert to Judaism as he never brought it up anyway.
Deep down though, I knew that our social circle was mostly Jewish as well as were Jake's family; any future children we may have had would be influenced by their peers. Please don't get me wrong as I'm sure that Judaism is a lovely religion, however, I was born into Catholicism and was rather skeptical about Christianity anyway. Actually, I am quite open-minded and a kind of spiritual vagabond, if you will, and embrace a variety of theologies which refer to Universal Energies and Truths not blind worship.
And yet, I was plagued by a nightmare of raising my children outside my Latin culture, uninvolved with my close-knit family. I did not want that to be life nor destiny; it was the end of our relationship and, being the head-strong woman which I am, I left New York City and returned to Miami to live with my mother for a little while while I re-grouped.
It was the hardest decision I ever had to make until many years later and that decision was filled with heartbreak and perhaps regretted that decision but, I never looked back.
Happiness is hidden everywhere, you simply have to look for it. -- Anonymous.
"Would you like some orange juice or coffee?," the flight attendant asked me in her accented "Franglais."
"Oui, d'un cafe, s'il vous plait," I answered.
"Oui, mademoiselle. Parlez vous Francais?," she replied.
"Soulement un pou. Merci," I politely answered the lady that barely spoke English and thanked her for the strong coffee and flaky croissant.
Stepping onto the terminal, I had no idea which way I was supposed to go to claim my luggage. Every sign seemed to say 'Sortie,' or Exit. I decided to follow the rest of passengers from my flight and found my carousel. The next mission was getting from the aerogare, or airport, to the City of Lights. My travel book warned me that Paris was a long way from Charles de Gaulle Airport and suggested that the best way to get to Paris from the airport was via its shuttle system. Somehow I managed to buy a bus pass for fifty-five francs, the equivalent of ten U.S. dollars, loaded by heavy luggage into the belly of the bus and sat behind the joyful driver whom was singing French hip-hop songs which played on the radio. My hotel was near the Eiffel Tower and the bus only offered a limited number of stops. "L'Arche de Triomphe," the driver announced as the next stop; I motioned that I would disembark precisely there, fearful that he would return to the airport after that last stop and I would still be on the bus
At L'Arche de Triomphe, cars whizzed around in dizzying speeds. I sat on my luggage and watched others hail cabs. When I felt confident enough that I could hail a cab as well, I stood up and waved until a taxi stopped for me.
"S'il vous plait, pour il Tour Eiffel?," I said softly. I gave the driver a small piece of paper where I had written the name and address of the hotel where I had a reservation. The driver nodded and raced through winding city streets until we came to a narrow street near the hotel. The car could not drive through the cobblestone street and I had to walk a few meters to the entrance of the hotel. I had no choice but to wobble down the road, rolling my luggage and feeling weary from a long flight and unfamiliar travel.
I checked in with the front desk in weak French, "Bon jour, je sais Sofia Betancourt."
"Bon jour, mademoiselle. Welcome to Paris," the front desk attendant said.
As most Americans, I half-expected an elevator to take me to the third floor. Or at least a bellhop whom would assist me in carrying my bags. But there wasn't a bellhop. I dragged myself and my belongings up the winding staircase and thought, half-grumbling to myself, "Welcome to Paris, Sofia," and passed out on the bed, exhausted after the ordeal.
Bustling foreign rumors woke me up in a panic. "Where am I?," I asked myself. Nothing looked familiar and it felt as if I had been sleeping for days -- but I wasn't. The tiny room had an even tinier shower and sink. "So this is jetlag?" My stomach growled and I was dying of thirst but I needed a shower badly. Of course, the shower was actually a tub with a hand-held shower head. "Was I supposed to manage to shampoo my hair while holding the running shower head with my free hand?," I asked myself. How was I supposed to turn off the water to rinse my hair? Oh, so frustrating was the dilemma. Needless to say, I nearly inundated the bathroom floor in a pool of water and couldn't figure out how it would drain from the floor before the maid came the next day when she would tidy up the room. I'm sure that she'll figure out that I'm an American. I left her a big tip because afterall, she had to clean up the mess unfortunately. How embarrassing.
Love, and do what you like.
With my trusty handbook of French phrases and city maps, I wandered past the Tour Eiffel and towards the River Seine. The amazing weather lured Parisians to stroll along the Left Bank onto its green parks. Children played together and happy dogs ran around fetching frisbees. Romantic couples strolled hand in hand and stopped to kiss, most likely on their way to a lovely Sunday dinner. Actually, I didn't feel tired anymore; the energy of the Left Bank revived my spirit and I decided to splurge on a good dinner in a busy bistro. When I asked the maitre'd for a 'table pour un', a table for one, he seated me at a table for four in the middle of the restaurant. It felt like everyone could see that I was dining alone. Did I have a sign that said, "Lonely American Girl?" He brought me a skinny laminated menu, an overflowing basket of warm bread and a bottle of Evian.
"Hmmm...I've always wanted to try steak tartare...this sounds great, with lemon juice and capers." Shocked when I saw the raw ground bee molded like a donut dusted with four small capers, I knew immediately that I had ordered the wrotng thing and yet I was determined to try it (just to say that I at least had tried steak tartare once in Paris', ha, ha.) Having barely touched the meat, I ate most of the bread, drank a few glasses of red wine and polished off the bottle of Evian. Still rather hungry, I ordered a creme brulee. It tasted as if the chef had used too much butane or whatever it is that they use to burn the top of the dessert.
The next morning at 7:00 a.m., I awoke to the sound of Parisians shuffling to work and opening their stores for business. My first impressions were colorful fruit stands and fragrant flower stalls at the end of the street. A sweet smell wafted in the air from the creperie at the corner of the cobblestone street. I watched the crepe maker carefully pour a thin layer of batter over the hot silver dome with a ladle, peel it off a few seconds later and then lay it flat on wax paper. One could choose from a variety of fillings including jambon et Gruyere (ham and cheese), Nutella et bananas (Nutella and bananas) or, fresh spinach et fromage Swiss (spinach and Swiss cheese.) These were my three favorite crepes and each morning, I would buy two; a crepe with Nutella et bananas for breakfast to accompany a café au lait and another of jambon et Gruyere that I saved in my leather backpack for a snack during the day.
I spent my first full morning in Paris hopping on buses to feel my bearing. My guide book mentioned that viewing Paris from a window on a bus is the best way to understand the city's layout and its surrounding arrondissesements, or neighborhoods. I planned my next five days in Paris carefully according to my points of interest. I jumped off at Sacre Coeur to visit the famed Sacred Heart Cathedral in Montmartre. Artists cleverly sketched drawings on their easels and filled the sidewalks with beautiful oil paintings.
I climbed up the hundreds of steps to the top of the cathedral and watched Paris unfold from one of the city's highest points. The sky was a cloudless bright blue and in the distance, I could see the Eiffel Tower. It felt so peaceful on this side of the capital city and at the little park at the bottom of the hill where children played on the slides and carousel. I sat on a white wooden bench, pulled out a delicious crepe and let the sun warm my face-BibiLuzarraga.