Her name is Maria. Just Maria. I must have known her surname at one point because we travelled together in Europe. She would have needed a passport and that would have included her surname. We started travelling in 1970, forty-two years ago.
I’d met her in an acting class at the University of California at Berkeley. I thought she looked pretty hot, but I was shy and didn’t talk to her. She later told me that she’d noticed me looking at her.
On Tuesday, May 4, 1970 I saw her on campus sitting and crying. I went up to her and she told me that four students had been shot by the national guard at Kent State the day before. That was the first I’d heard of it. The rest of the day was spent feeling the pain of that event with Maria and thousands of Berkeley students, every one of us knowing it could have been us. There were marches, speeches. I think there was tear gas. By the end of the day we were in love.
It was, for both of us, the end of our university days. I was going to Europe in November. Since I was suddenly in love I decided to take Maria with me. I didn’t have enough money to travel in Europe on my own and Maria had none at all. We went anyway. We landed in London with $500 between us. I have no idea how we did it but we kept traveling for three months or so until we stopped for a while on Formentera, and island near Ibiza in the Mediterranean off Spain. After a month there Maria got sad, then sadder, and finally decided to leave me. She broke my heart. The only time in my life that my heart has been broken like that.
The story doesn’t stop there. She stayed in my life one way or another for a few more years. We had adventures, intrigues and wonderful times. I visited her and her partner Jimmy in Guatemala. I stayed with them in Canada for a couple of months in the freezing winter. I was present at the home birth of their son Gabriel. The woman who became my first wife, Mandy, had adventures with Maria and Barry in Europe, America and Central America. There were many connections and many stories. Mandy has told me she’s writing a book about those times. I’m not surprised – they were extraordinary times.
The last time I saw Maria would have been in 1974 or 1975 in San Francisco. After that I never heard from her again. When I thought it would be great to catch up I realized that I didn’t know her name. She was just Maria. And I didn’t know Jimmy’s surname or her son Gabriel’s surname. I had nothing to go on. When I asked other people who knew her they were in the same boat. Everyone knew her as Maria. Jimmy and her had started using other names, Hopi and Santiago Sprout. That didn’t help. There wasn’t any way to find her.
Today I opened a brown paper shopping bag that I hadn’t delved into since I filled it maybe 35 years ago. It was full of letters. I had decided that it was time to let them go since I hadn’t looked at them in all that time. I didn’t read them all but spent a few hours going through them. A lot of memories came flooding back. I found a few letters from Maria that I’d forgotten about, but I didn’t find anything that would help lead me to what had become of her.
Then I looked at an ancient journal that I’d kept occasionally while I was travelling all those years ago. I’d looked at it before when I thought it might give me a clue to people in my past so I didn’t expect anything, but I stumbled on something in Maria’s hand that said “Great quotes from the lips of Daniel B. Weinstein as told to his paramour of sorts, Maria Dalagan:”. There it was, her surname. It didn’t ring a bell at all, but there it was. The writing was unclear; any of the a’s could have been e’s, but it was something. After 15 minutes on Google I’d found her.
What I found was a memorial page on the net. Maria died on 9 October 2008 in Bellingham Washington. I don’t know how she died, and I don’t know anything about her life from 1975 until 2008, but I do know that I didn’t find her in time. I hadn’t seen her in 37 years but I felt tears of loss welling up in me. She was someone who was very important to me at an important time in my life. She played a big part in the memories I have of breaking out of who I thought I was supposed to be. I don’t know if I really missed her very much in those 37 years, but today I discovered I really won’t ever see her again. Now I miss her.
She died young, at 59. I imagine cancer; that seems to be the main killer of the young these days. Because the memorial page didn’t say anything about Jimmy I suspect she was alone but I don’t know. I hope her life was wonderful, full of love and magic. For me she lives in memory as she always has. I don’t trust memory, but I value it. I’ll always value the memories I have of Maria, and be grateful for the gifts she gave me.
Now she has a name. Maria Dalagan-Cole. Mother of Gabriel Cole. A friend of mine.