I was sitting in the hostel bar recovering from my volcano hike when I saw you walking down the street, backpack in tow, wearing Teva’s, khaki shorts, and t-shirt–the uniform of the Western backpacker. In my six weeks in Antigua, I’ve seen literally hundreds of guys, dressed just like you. At this point, it’s a game. Where are you from? Americans almost always wear baseball caps, and I see no cap in sight. Canadians almost always have a maple leaf sewn somewhere on their pack. Northern Europeans and those from the UK are usually pale or sunburnt and you are neither. That leaves me to guess Australia or New Zealand, but those guys tend to travel in large packs, and you are alone.
What can I say, I’m intrigued
I continue to stare, hiding behind my sunglasses and tattered paperback as you walk towards, then past me. There you are; I see you at the bar ordering a local beer. I turn back to my paperback–probably just something I picked up in the hostel lobby. You can find a lot of interesting books that way.
I call out to the bartender “Dame un toro, for favor.”
“Like what you see?” you say as you sit your beer at my table.
“Excuse me?” I stammer. One because you startled me and two because I felt totally exposed.
You call me out with “Do. You. Like. What. You. See?” You repeated the questions as if I were a toddler or someone who struggles with the English language. Cocky. I may have misjudged the American-ness of you. But your voice–it’s still not American.
I stammer and stutter, and actually make zero coherent sounds. I feel my face flushing and it’s not from the drink I’m drinking. Nary a single English word finds its way out of my mouth. You laugh. And sit at my table. Without an invitation.
Normally, I’d feel invaded. And I’d let you know about it, but for whatever reason, I choose not to say anything.
Not the art I’m in Antigua to see
I’d been in Antigua six weeks and planning to stay an additional two more before heading back to my temporary home in Mexico. I’d originally come to Antigua renew my tourist visa and check out the Mayan ruins [because #historynerd], but I was traveling for a much different reason. That’s the thing about travel–you can be anyone you want to be, or anyone you need to be. And at this point in life, I needed to be a confident, self-assured 22 year old, and so I pretended.
“Yes.” I replied, “I like the view. Do you?”
“Very much” you replied as you raised your Gallo and took a long swig. We began to talk and I discovered you were raised in Puerto Rico and South Africa with a little bit of the American heartland mixed in which is why I had such a hard time guessing your nationality. You we older than I originally thought–nearly 30– but I didn’t mind. We talked–for hours–about this and that, sports, and my go-to when I want to impress someone–Mayan art and architecture. (I can’t help it, I’m such a nerd at times).
Call me, maybe?
Well after midnight and with the bartender eyeing us suspiciously, I got up to turn in for the night. You grabbed me by the wrist, pulled me in, and kissed me hard–cerveza and tequila mixing on our breath. After what seems like an eternity we come up for air. I smile, and wish you a good night. As I turn to walk away, a million thoughts rush through my head. I don’t know if I’ll see you in the morning despite our hastily made plans, and truthfully, it doesn’t matter if you never call or write. Or if I ever see you again. You helped me forget, and for that, I will always be grateful.
Shout out to Carley Rae Jespen for this post’s title