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I wake up early and say goodbye to the hostel that I’ve called home for the past three days. It’s kitty-corner from the bakery that Barrack Obama visited in Puerto Rico on vacation.
I locked the rod iron gate one last time before leaving for the airport to pick up my rental car. I’m anxious to drive with Puerto Ricans. They weave in and out of traffic without blinkers. Their chaotic swerves create a unique lattice that only locals know the design of.
I braced myself for the first leg of my road trip. One hour to the Caves of Rio Camuy.
The caves dripped with water and looked out onto vistas of lush jungle vegetation. After the caves, I ventured toward Aguadilla where I drove to Crash Boat Beach. I spent an eternity maneuvering my rental KIA into a parking space while receiving directions from a local. Not worth the money!
The beach is much more than San Juan or Pinones. A line of vendors border the beach barbecuing and selling other delicious Puerto Rican food. The beach itself is narrow, but the sand is soft and clean. On the north edge rest the famous crash boats.
They’re painted in bright primary hues waiting to go on a coastal excursion. The boaters literally drive the boats onto the beach to park them. They look like small Hotwheels banking themselves off a self-constructed ramp made of Legos and cardboard.
Vintage fishing boats sit out on the water adjacent to large wooden docks filled with teenagers trying to impress the opposite sex. When one takes flight toward the water below, their entry splash is followed by whoops and hollers from the other daredevils that crowd the dock. I’m venturing now to find food.
The chicken kabob tasted like American barbecue sauce, but it was more delicious digging my teeth into the tender, juicy meat while resting on the sandy park bench. My mouth waters recalling the flavor.
I ate my kabob and watched the locals compete in a friendly volleyball match. The vibrant ball flew through the air doing acrobatic stunts as it hopped over the sagging net.
Also painted in vibrant colors are the cement edges and supports of the docks and pier. Rainbow umbrellas shade locals from the blazing afternoon sun.
After an afternoon of lying with the vibrant hues, I made my way to Aguada.
The same local who helped me shimmy my KIA into a small space next to his work shed, next to another fancy economy car and in-between four others, attempted to speak in Spanish to me. I wasn’t able to understand him until he repeated himself for the 10th time. He offered to back up my car for cinco dollares. I declined and instead had him yell at me in his broken Spanglish and maneuvered myself out of the beehive of cars.
Aguada is a small coastal town where the waves pumble the shoreline. It’s not far from Ricon, which is known for its world-class surf. I’m staying in a home called the Surfer’s House. Eerily, it’s just me. There are no surfboards hanging on the pegs in the bedroom. All the bunks are made and vacant. Sitting in the common area — well I suppose my living room since it’s just me — is haunting. I have Shakira serenading me in the background, singing Spanish lullabies.
Outside the crickets join in. The choir around me grows louder as I sashay around the kitchen warming up my leftovers. The thud of the waves kept the Latino choir in rhythm and are not drowned out during the crescendos of my lullaby.
The cool tiles against my feet make me feel alone. At home, there’s usually carpet undertoe. At home, there are other things I miss: the softness of my comforter, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and peanut butter, but mostly the people. Especially my love…
As I venture further and further into this tropical paradise, the more he appears. I think of his broad shoulders as I watch the volleyball players raise their arms to spike the ball into their opponent’s court. When I eat my leftover rice, I think of his Arabic cooking and how the smell fills the apartment. I love how he dips his fingers into the rice to taste whether it’s salty enough and how he shakes the moisture from his finger after. His face is always scrunched in deep concentration as he completes the task.
It’s the little things that remind me of him and make me miss him. He would’ve laughed at me today as scampered away from Crash Boat Beach’s own Bird Man, who has befriended all the winged beasts on the island. He waves his bag of goodies at them and they flock towards him — and ironically me, the one with a phobia of birds.
He’d love feeling the salty ocean breeze like I do. We would sit on the beach for hours and talk about absolutely nothing.
I thought I knew what was love. Not until now. And not to this degree.