It was the last evening of my trip. Three weeks previously, I had complained to my friend M about another friend having to bail on a planned trip to the Bahamas. She asked me to go with her to Puerto Rico instead.
It was a time in my life when I was ready to say “yes” to any new experience. Since the age of sixteen, when I first figured out the “they” and “we” of boys and girls, I had been a serial monogamist. When my first fledgling relationship splintered, I leapt into the next one with the eagerness of a novitiate embracing her faith. My faith had remained unshaken through several disappointments, and had finally given way a few months back, when a serious committed relationship of seven years had ended. I was twenty-nine, and determined to reclaim my un-lived college years.
The trip lived up to every unspoken expectation. I learnt to snorkel, hand held by a kind stranger. We both learnt to surf — she like a mermaid with her knee-length golden hair, I like a particularly inept ninja. We flirted with men of different nationalities and different ages, went spelunking in Rio de Camuy with three guys we had just met, and gaped at a mommy-and-baby pair of whales while out on a tiny and ancient motor boat piloted by a tiny and ancient cocaine addict.
This last evening, we were at a beach bar just before sunset, and I started a casual conversation with someone there. Two sentences into our conversation, I was hooked. S was a pilot. I had just taken my first (and sadly, only) flying lesson. More importantly, I had been an ardent Biggles fan since second grade. In some time, S’s friends asked us to go dancing, but I rebelled. I loved the ocean, and lived in landlocked Michigan. I wanted to go walking on the beach. Feeling ungracious about turning them down, I asked if anyone wanted to accompany me. S did.
I no longer remember all the things we talked about, but we walked and talked for miles. He must have had an appetite for weird and quirky conversations (that is how most of mine turn out). At one point, I spotted a bonfire in the distance and insisted on checking it out. S (I later discovered) very reasonably thought this was foolish and unsafe, but felt compelled to come along. Finally, at 4:30 in the morning I begged off — I had to be on a 6 am flight. I gave him my number, but expected nothing to come of it. We would go back to to our own lives, S in New York, and I in Michigan.
Four years later, S proposed to me on a beach in Puerto Rico. We have now been happily married for four and a half years.