Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love
Chapter 6: Sandra Peralta
During the day and on weekends, I was peddling shoes at Kinney’s. During the week, I coached a Catholic school baseball team at Welch Park in east San Jose. One day, while hitting ground balls at practice, I noticed a shiny car slowly rolling down Santiago Avenue, the roadway that ran between Welch Park and the row of houses across the street. The driver of that silver 1984 Firebird turning left into the driveway of the house right across the street from home plate would forever change my life.
Every day I stopped practice, to the merriment of the thirteen- and fourteen-year-old boys, as the beautiful young woman drove up to her house. I watched her gather belongings from the car, sling her backpack over one shoulder, and sip a soda as she walked into the garage that led to the house. Day in and day out, every afternoon, like clockwork, she rolled down the street and turned into the driveway in her silver Firebird. I always stopped practicing to watch her routine. The adolescent boys chuckled and teased at the spectacle.
After a week or so, the mischievous boys dared me to walk across the street and ask her out on a date. As I approached her in the garage, I finally had the chance to see her up close. She took my breath away. She had smooth, fair skin; high cheekbones; long, flowing brown hair combed in the style of the day; big brown doe eyes; and cute lips that curled just slightly at the top. With confident reserve, she said, “My name is Sandra.” I nervously introduced myself. I shuffled my feet without taking my eyes off her eyes and mumbled several things I don’t remember. She left me speechless. I didn’t have the courage to ask her out, even though that’s not what I told my players.
During the next several weeks, the kids on the team kept asking if I had gone out on a date with Sandra. I told them with authority that a gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell. Of course, there were no kisses and nothing to tell. Every afternoon, when she slipped out of her car, I waved my hand to say hello in an effort to catch her attention, but I don’t remember if she ever waved back. When the baseball season ended, I had no reason to go back to Welch Park. I kicked myself for not asking Sandra for her telephone number.
A couple of months after the garage encounter, I was hitting the town with old high school friends barhopping. I suggested that we stop at a wedding at the invitation of a friend. On that summer night in 1985, I walked into the reception hall wearing a dark suit and blue tie acting like I owned the place. I instantly saw Sandra. She was radiant, wearing a navy-blue pencil skirt and starched white blouse. She smiled demurely when our eyes made contact. Up to this point, Sandra and I agree on how the events unfolded. We have vastly different perspectives on what happened during the next few minutes. I remember walking to Sandra and respectfully asking her to dance. She insisted that I waved from across the room and pointed to the dance floor, as if to say, “Meet me there.” We’re the only witnesses to the disputed incident, so I’m sure the whole episode will go with us to our respective graves. Nevertheless, we danced.