The blue neon sign outside the hospital glowed, with the yellow text, â€œGeorge Washington Hospitalâ€ neatly framed inside. Beneath the sign stood four, rectangular, brick pillars, two flanking each side of the relief of the massive, red brick hospitalâ€™s main entrance.
Circling the base of the pillars and chattering like two small school children, Conchita and her father Eric giggled while a nurse, bundled in a black fishermenâ€™s coat, stood looking on in the biting, winter cold.
â€œLook, Dad, Iâ€™m smoking,â€ nine year-old, Conchita, held her two fingers to her lips, inhaled and then exhaled cold air in white wisps of hot air.
Her father Eric laughed, took a pull from his cigarette, and blew smoke through his nose in short, blustery, bursts. â€œNo, look, Chita, through the nose is best. No boy in his right mind would kiss you if he smelled smoke on your breath.â€
â€œDa-ad.â€ Conchita admonished him, then immediately pictured herself kissing Robert Kramer, the dreamboat president of her sixth grade class. One day at school in the lunch line, a couple of boys had called her Big Bird, because she was so much taller than everyone else in her grade.
Robert had rushed to her defense. â€œTheyâ€™re just jealous they arenâ€™t taller. By the way,” he casually said. “I am, too.â€ He gazed into her eyes, his aqua, green eyes twinkling back at her.
Robert was almost a full head shorter than she, but that didnâ€™t bother her. So, whenever she heard the Hall and Oates song, â€œYour Kiss Is On My List,â€ she imagined Robert Kramer grabbing her passionately and kissing her. His kiss was definitely number one on her list, and sheâ€™d play the forty-five with the song on it until her Mom came in her room to tell her to turn the music down.
Heâ€™d definitely need a stool though.
At 12 years-old Conchita was 5â€™4â€. Sheâ€™d gotten her height from her father, but her coloring was definitely her motherâ€™s, darkened hair and eyes. â€œYour eyes are like the exciting nights in Sal Paulo, Brazil,â€ her father once said when he was in a good mood.
Now, Conchita watched her Dad finish his cigarette and stub it against one of the brick pillars.
Conchita shook from the bitter cold. â€œDad, can we go back inside now?â€
Eric pulled out another cigarette. â€œThe Marlboro Man isnâ€™t finished rounding up his cattle. In fact, itâ€™s time for a cattle drive.â€ He stooped down, held his hands in front of him, pushing them forward, and ran after Conchita squealing in delight.