Across the Milky Way By Robert Arroya
In 1922, a man named Frank Mars created the first chocolate candy bar with a filling in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Meanwhile, 1,302 miles away, a little girl was born; her name was Virginia Gonzalez. She didn’t know it at the time, but that candy bar would become a symbol that would follow her throughout her life. Virginia was the daughter of a railroad inspector and a stay at home mom. She had three brothers and three sisters, out of which, she was the oldest. Virginia and her family grew up in Mata Ortiz, Mexico, about three hours away from Juarez. Virginia had a happy childhood, typical of the time. Her favorite pastimes were going to the movies and the circus. Back then, in smaller towns, movies were shown under circus tents and projected on screens. A man with a loudspeaker would stand outside of the huge tent (I imagine it being red and white, of course) and announce the movie that would be showing that night. Virginia always listened attentively, and then asked her father what she could do around the house, so that he could take her to the movies later. She would clean, work outside, and even chop wood so that she could catch a movie at night.
Virginia’s father often traveled between their hometown, Mata Ortiz, and Juarez. After several trips, Virginia’s father decided to relocate the family to Juarez. There were better opportunities for the education of the children, and along with a better education, came the promise of a better future. Virginia was fifteen years old when her family packed their few belongings and moved to the place that she would call home for the rest of her life. Virginia spent her youth at home. Her father was a traditional man, and held the belief that women should not work, but only be housekeepers. As a result, Virginia took to arts and crafts, particularly knitting. Bored at home, Virginia would take advantage of any opportunity to leave her house. Among the few escapes she had was going to get groceries at the local store.
On one of those visits to the local store, she ran into young man named Luis. Luis had the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen; he was kind and nice to her too. Luis was a soldier from the United States, but he frequently made trips to Juarez. After they met for the first time, Luis asked her what she wanted from the store. Virginia was shy and undecided, so Luis bought her a Milky Way candy bar. No man had ever come close to Virginia before. Her strict father would certainly not allow it in his presence, and she hardly ever left home. After meeting Luis, the store became her favorite place. Anytime anything was needed in the house, Virginia volunteered. “I’ll go get the milk!” “I’ll go get the bread!” She certainly could not go to the store without a reason, so she took advantage of every opportunity. And, on every one of her visits, whether Luis was there or not, there was a Milky Way candy bar waiting for her.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japan launched an attack on Pearl Harbor, near Hawaii. This attack caused the United States to officially enter World War II. Luis was in the Army, and being a strong, young man, he was called on to serve his country. Virginia and Luis said goodbye. They somehow knew that they would see each other again.
After Luis was gone, Virginia returned to her old lifestyle. She would stay at home doing housework and knitting, and wait to go to the movies or the circus on the weekend. She was older now, and her father would occasionally allow her to go to the movies with her cousins instead of him. On one Friday night, Virginia was at the movies with her cousin, Soledad. “Fire!” someone screamed. “Just kidding!” they said, after a long delay. Virginia and Soledad were sitting in the middle of the aisle, so they didn’t have a chance to get up. Two young men that were sitting nearby took advantage of the situation and moved next to the girls. “Nice to meet you, my name is Roberto Giron” one of them said to Virginia. Little did she know, he was the one that screamed “Fire!” and his sole intention was to sit next to her.
Roberto Giron was a sweet talker, the kind of guy who could have any girl he wanted, and he wanted Virginia. He started following her around the town, talking to her, and eventually charmed her into being his girlfriend. Apparently, Virginia had moved on. It didn’t take long for things to get serious between Roberto and Virginia. They married quickly, and within two years, Virginia was expecting a baby, a little girl which would be named Carolina.
“Knock, knock” Virginia heard at her door. She peeked through the curtains from a window. It was Luis; he had come back from his trip overseas. She was devastated and embarrassed, far too embarrassed to show her face. He waited for a while, not knowing that she was staring at him, and missing him as much as he missed her. Virginia settled back into life with Roberto. They were humble, but managed to find happiness with each other most of the time. In the next five years, they would have two more children, Roberto and Rodolfo. The family would also move several times in the process. She had all but forgotten about Luis, when once again, she heard a knock at the door.
Luis had found her; more so, he knew about her situation and was willing to accept her and her children. “We will move to the United States and I will treat your children as if they were mine. I can make you happy.” Luis said. Virginia responded that her children loved their father, and as much as she wanted to leave with him, she could not bear to break up the family. Luis was devastated and walked away.
Virginia lived for another 58 years married to Roberto. They lived to see grandchildren, great grandchildren, and a golden anniversary. Virginia’s daughter Carolina moved to the United States. Being a single mother, Carolina asked Virginia to come with her and help take care of her children. Virginia and Roberto grew farther apart from each other. They didn’t get along in old age, but the family was together, and their job was done. Roberto Giron passed away on July 20, 2003.
Virginia continued to take care of her grandchildren, help with housework, and knit. Life had a way of returning to what she always knew. One day, Virginia received a letter in the mail. It was from one of her nieces in California. It was a cutout from a local newspaper that showed veterans celebrating in a retirement home. Right in the middle was a picture of the blue eyed man that once stole her heart. Virginia called her niece and they came up with a plan to reunite the two.
In 2006, Virginia made the trip to California. As soon as their eyes met, they burst into tears. The love they had for each other had never left, it had simply been covered up. Luis sang for Virginia; they shared stories and caught up with each other. Luis passed away a few years later. He asked to be buried in his uniform with a picture of Virginia close to his heart. He was fortunate enough to end his life with the woman he loved most near to him. Virginia still sighs every time she opens a Milky Way. She stares into space and remembers the days when she could escape to the store and forget about the world.