The first time I saw you I was intrigued. There was something there that was definitely missing from the long term relationship I was in. We met at the most common of places: my work, not a crowded bar, not at a grocery store, and certainly not anywhere romantic, like a white, sandy beach. You were tall(ish), with black wavy hair, green eyes, and an olive completion. I spoke first–the most banal of opening lines–, ‘Can I help you?’ and on the surface, his reply was just as common– ‘oh, yes ma’am you can’. But it was the way he said it, the glint in his eye, the accented English, that flirty smile. I knew I was in over my head.
Weeks later, after heavy flirting, I finally agreed to go out with him. The LTR was still hanging on by a thread, and you knew this and liked to tease me about this. ‘What would your boyfriend do if he knew you were out to dinner with me?’ you asked. ‘He’s not my boyfriend.’ I’d reply. “So it’s OK if I kiss you?” as you lean over to do just that. ‘Oh that’s definitely OK’ I replied as I kissed you back. In that moment, I fall in lust. It’s everything I’d hoped it might be and more, and it was so incredibly different than before.
Two days later, I finally end the LTR, and that weekend we were back together for another hot sultry summer night. We drove down to the river, and open the moon roof of the car. I crawl on top of you and we kiss, and occasionally, I stick my head out of the moon roof for a literal breath of fresh air.
“Come home with me” you implore. “I can’t do that. I have work in the morning” I try to explain, but you interrupt. “No, no, my darling Micaela. Come home with me to Cartago.” “To Costa Rica?” I ask. “Yes, mi amor. To Costa Rica. You will love it there.”
Suddenly I can’t breath. It’s as if all the air is sucked out of me. Despite the 80 degree temperature and near 100% humidity, I am shivering. Even the heady combination of tequila, salt, and sweat can’t shake this chill. Although the full moon is nearly as bright as the sun, everything in my world has gone dark. All I can hear is the sound of my own heartbeat echoing in my ears.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. You were a breath of fresh air. You came around just in time to save me from a catastrophe. You were supposed to be a short term fling. A summer romance. And now. Now you are asking me to go to Costa Rica with you.
In that moment, I hate you. You know my weakness for far-flung places. Places I’ve never been. You know how I hate monotony and routine. You know that I’ll say yes to Costa Rica even if I’m not exactly saying yes to you. You are a beautiful man. So sexy. So sensual. So what I needed in the moment we met. But I cannot go to Costa Rica with you. I. Can. Not. Leave. The. Country. Again. I haven’t even been back that long.
*** *** *** ***
Three weeks later I quit my job and I arrived in Cartago. I call you, and you seemed surprised to hear from me. A little distracted, perhaps, but you agree to come pick me up. I see it in your face: despite your words, you are not happy to see me. “What’s wrong?” I ask, as I reach over to kiss you. You turn your head and my kiss lands on your cheek. “I did not expect that you would come. Micaela, you said you could not come. You have work. You said you had no vacation available. I have many things going on. I have work…”
“But I did. I came to see you. I want to meet your family and I want to see where this goes.”
“But Micaela, where will you stay?”
“With you, of course”, but I knew as soon as the words we coming out of my mouth that it was not to be.
“Let me make a some calls. You stay here. Micaela, mi amor.” The way the said my name was almost a threat.
A relationship ending just as it’s beginning is never quite what one imagines it will be. One imagines it will be painful, and it is, but it isn’t painful all at once. There is the surface cracking… where all the hopes and dreams one may have had disappear shattering the illusion of perfection, and then there’s the deeper cracks. The things that pop up after the initial injury. The ones no one else can see, like the fracture of a bone. It hurts much worse than imaginable.
The next two days are torturous as we spend time together, each knowing that this–all of this– was a mistake. You show me the volcanoes, and around San Jose.
The volcanoes are beautiful, just like the beginning of the relationship, but there’s hardness here too. A stumble, a fall; it could be the end. And I’m acutely aware that I am in a remote place with a man that seemingly has much to hide. I don’t want to be here anymore. Not with him. I don’t want to look into the green-eyed abyss any more. I used to think that I could stare into those eyes for an eternity. Now those green eyes stare back at me with an emotion I can’t quite place. Not hatred. But certainly not the lust from the summer.
After coming back from the volcanoes, I say “I don’t want to be here anymore. Not with you.” Even though my heart is breaking, I refuse to cry. His jaw tenses, and he put his hand on top of mine.
“Micaela.” Just the sound of my name in his accented voice almost causes the dam to break. “Micaela. I did not want to hurt you.”
I pull away from his hands, look into those green eyes, now heavy with regret, turn around and walk into the city. I do not look back.
I imagine, as I am walking away, that you feel sadness. Sadness of what was never meant to be. Sadness for taking a chance. Sadness for keeping secrets. Whatever those might have been.
*** *** *** ***
I head to the bus station seeking the first bus to the coast. Caribbean? Pacific? It doesn’t matter. I just want–no need– to be surrounded by salt water. I get seated on the bus, my backpack on my lap, and the tears start to fall. Slowly at first, almost as if they are waiting their turn, and then, much more rapidly.
I opt for the Caribbean side of Costa Rica’s and end up in the sleepy town of Puerto Viejo Limon. It is a hippy, dippy kinda of place where some people come to visit and never leave. It had a small guest house, a bar, beaches as far as the eye can see, and some very interesting neighbors.
The first two days I ate nothing but fresh fish, rice, and a variety of fresh fruit, and drank nothing but passion fruit and vodka. I tried not to think of him. I tried not to remember the way his green eyes sparkled in the morning sun. I tried not to remember how those green eyes faded to black when he saw me at the airport in San Jose. I tried not to remember how incredibly sexy he were, shirtless, brown skin glistening in the moonlight, down by the river on those hot summer nights. I tried not to remember that I was also shirtless. I tried not to remember how he took ice cubes and melted them on my skin. I tried not to remember how the coldness of the ice melting and the heat of his breath drove me mad with desire. I tried not to remember how time stopped when our lips met.
But remember I did. All these moments and so many more. No amount of passion fruit and vodka could make me forget. But I wanted to forget. I wanted to forget so badly, and so I looked at the bartender and said ‘Uno mas, por favor.’
*** *** *** ****
Somewhere around day 5 I notice you staring at me. You are definitely not Costa Rican or even Caribbean. I look at you and you stare back, our eyes locking.
“I’ve been watching you” you tell me. Your English is good. Definitely not North American, but it doesn’t sound quite British either. I tend to notice things like that.
“Oh? Seen anything interesting?” I reply.
“You’ve been drinking entirely too much vodka.”
“Obviously you haven’t been watching me too closely or you’d know I haven’t been drinking enough vodka because I still remember.
“What do you remember?” you ask.
“Everything. Everything I want to forget.”
“Walk with me” you implore.
“I can’t go with you. I know nothing about you. You could be a serial killer for all I know,” I reply.
“I’m not” you say. I notice that I’ve hurt you. The expression on your face is that of a small child who has just has his favorite toy taken away. “Walk with me.”
I get up… Slowly, partly due to the vodka, and partly because I’m just now noticing how attractive you are.
“But I still don’t know anything about you…” I say as we begin our walk along the white sandy beach. “Why are you in Costa Rica?” I ask, then ponder as to why that’s my first question as opposed to something more useful like ‘what is your name?’
To be honest, I don’t even remember your reply… something about Costa Rica and biodiversity and research. I realize I am drunk, and wonder how long the copious quantity of vodka I’ve consumed will stay down. I also wonder if you will kiss me. And if drunk vomiting is the worst turn-off imaginable.
“I need to sit down” I say, probably slurring my works. I notice you steering me towards another beach-side bar. There seems to be one about every 500 meters or so. “No… no more vodka” I muster. I noticed you talking to the bartender and you come back with water. Nice cold water.
“Why are you drinking yourself into oblivion?
“Because I’m trying to forget”
“Forget what?” you ask.
“The reason I’m in Costa Rica. Everything about Costa Rica. Just everything.” I look at him with sadness. There are no more tears. The sea has swallowed them whole, but there is still sadness inside.
At the random beach-side bar, where the not quite English, yet definitely not North American cute ecological researcher gave me water, I notice a dart board. Suddenly I’m feeling better. “Wanna play?” I ask. He’s not so sure about letting a drunk person throw sharp, pointy objects. “Where are you from, anyway? I ask.
“Wales” he replies “It’s near…”. I cut him off and asked “beth yw dy enw?” His jaw dropped to the floor and said ‘You speak Welsh? Where are YOU from? I just smiled and said ‘I asked you a question?
“My name is Matthew. I grew up in Ceredigion.” “I’ve been there” I reply. You look at me, curious. Curious as to whether I am telling the truth or just trying to impress you. “It’s near Pembrokeshire” I reply. I can tell you are impressed. In that moment, I forget about Costa Rica, the reason I came, and everything that has happened in the last 10 days. I look into your eyes, green with a hint of gray, and kiss you. And finally, I forget.
*** *** ***
Two years later on a cold dreary November day, I hear the version of my name that only you used… Micaela.
I turn around and look for you. Two years have aged you a lot. I stare into the familiar green eyes and feel nothing. I always wondered what it would be like if I saw you again, and now I know. There’s no bitterness. No hatred. No feelings of lust. Just you, smiling, searching for something in my expression. He says hello, and I reply in kind. How about a drink, he asks. No thank you, I say for the first time. It was good seeing you. And it was.
I will forever be grateful that he came into my life when he did. Sometimes, even now after all these years, I wonder what he’s doing, and where he is. In my mind, the entire country of Costa Rica will forever be linked to heartbreak, a green-eyed lover, vodka, and the one who made everything OK.