I Can’t Feel My Nose

Ok, let me begin by saying I had a dentist appointment for 2pm.

I waited 2 months for my insurance company to get their act together, and today was finally the day I had approval. When they called to let me know, it was like I was Charlie and the woman on the phone was handing me the golden ticket in a Wonka Bar. Giddy up baby.

Given I was in the Bronx for an event, I had to speed bike through the rain to make it to my appointment. The winds were aggressively tugging against me, pulling me back two inches each time I gained one. It was a clever optical illusion — in the spirit of the ongoing presidential campaign — where my legs appeared to be pedaling forward, but my wheels were turning in the opposite direction. A delusional progression, you could say.

The appointment got changed to 3pm, so I grabbed some food and brushed my teeth (as if brushing my teeth right before I go in will make it seem like I have the best dental hygiene. Admittedly so, first impressions are everything).

I filled out the paperwork, and sat there organizing in my head the incredible amount of schoolwork and work-related work I had to complete by the end of the day. Needless to say, the task in itself kept me occupied for 20 minutes. At one point, the reception left the front desk unattended to speak with the dentist, so when a woman showed up for her appointment, she couldn’t get in. The door furiously rattled for a good… 6, 7 seconds before I stood up to unlock it for her. She then looked me up and down, glaring at me with a disgusted pout, muttering, “Fucking couldn’t even open the door, taking your fucking time, do I look like a fucking criminal to you? Who do you think you are?”

When the receptionist returned to the front desk, the woman’s eyes brightened as if nothing had happened. Night to day. Sometimes, I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND PEOPLE.

She then starts trashing my attire to the front desk. Alright, lady, I’m a sleep deprived grad student and I just got back from painting an elementary school; you don’t have to knock me for my sweatpants swag. Immediately, I decide it’s not worth the time effort, so I sit down silently and take a nap. An hour and a half later, I am woken up by the dental assistant. “It’s your turn to come in,” she says.

The dentist introduced himself, with a huge grin on his face. I stood in the hallway as he talked about how 93% of women with breast cancer have deformities on the same 4 teeth because they are on the same meridian lines (oh wouldn’t you love to know how this argument went), about how a man with a 1st grade education can cure cancer by the mere act of slicing skin without anesthesia, and about how Alzheimer’s is supposedly curable in Switzerland. He then asked me about my undergraduate education and seemed to inquire about my dating history (yeah right, like I’m going to stand here in the waiting room and tell you about my Tinder life with HotHead breathing down my neck).

Okay, yes, he was really nice. But he didn’t even talk about anything medically relevant for 40 whole minutes.

When the assistant finally brought me into the room, he was still talking. It was as if his brain would not allow for multitasking, because every time he reached for a tool, his eyes would light up with another thought, and he had to stop what he was planning to do, entirely. He put on gloves, which he coughed into, and then put on a facemask, which he wore under his chin like a fashion accessory (what is the POINT, my man).

We didn’t get started until THREE AND A HALF HOURS after the appointment time, because the guy would not stop talking. When he realized I was using insurance, and not paying out of pocket, he put me into a different room and had me sign off on CPT codes (billing codes, for insurance) that stated I had 16 cavities. 16 cavities? Oh, are these the same cavities that didn’t exist 2 minutes ago, when you were under the impression that I was paying out of pocket?

I get that insurance reimbursements are shitty, but damn. Talk about milking the cow for what it’s worth.

And you wonder why the reimbursement rates are so low. If I worked for Aetna, I wouldn’t trust providers, either.

Anyway, he then asked (again) about the times I had broken my nose over the years. We talked about that for another 5 minutes, before I interjected, reminding him that I was way behind schedule and needed to get going soon. He, without ANY warning, injected me with FIVE local anesthetic needles, which not only numbed my teeth, but my nose as well. I’ve had this procedure done before, but never that high and that much. I just bit down and took it in stride.

And by stride, I mean whimpering for mercy, as quietly as possible.

For the duration, I had to wonder if he was doing work he didn’t need to do — I had seen 3-4 dentists/orthodontists very recently, and they all seemed to think otherwise. I got out of that chair after a grand total of 4.5 HOURS. Treatment time? 20 minutes.

On my way out, he points at his meridian chart and tells me what other health issues I can anticipate (“if X tooth is damaged, then X body part will be affected” wonky logic). I politely nod, but all I’m thinking at this point is CAN I LEAVE NOW.

He then goes, Oh by way. Your nose is fine. I checked that out for you.

He had numbed my nose on purpose. MY DENTIST. numbed my NOSE. To test how strong it is.

This man has forgotten what kind of doctor he is. Next time, if there is a next time, mind your own meridian and I’ll mind my own.

The Text Message Break Up

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“I’m never going to talk to you again. See you never,” the message read.

Following a delay just long enough to process what he had sent her, in attempts to subdue the passive aggressive anger railroading through the text –because God forbid he actually let her have the satisfaction in knowing she got under his skin– he quickly typed and sent another: “Lol.”

Because Lol says Hey, I don’t care.

Lol means You don’t phase me, though she really really does. Without even trying. Damn it.

Upon receipt of the message (she had briefly glanced at the text from the sudden glow of her screen), her long, slender, unmanicured fingers clicked the power button on top of her iPhone to hide the message from view.

Seriously? she thought, eyes rolling north to a blanket of lids. Must you be so dramatic. 

The coarse brush of annoyance was enough for her to immediately decide: this kind of demeanor is not worth a response. She thought, can’t we resolve our issues like grown fucking adults… In person? Using words? 

How many times —she reflected on previous encounters that all too similarly left the same sour taste in her mouth– am I going to get dumped by a friend through a text message. 

She could not determine whether it was her that had become too insensitive, or if the modern digital culture forced others to grow soft, to wrongfully take 100-something character texts, in the absence of context and any sense of real human connection, to heart.

When you live in a world where lives, though consciously filtered, are put on display, it is incredibly easy to jump to conclusions that reside far from the truth. So, could she blame him? No. But the disappointment came from the fact that there exist people who breed a hatred from a subjective assumption and go the extent of cutting ties, void a conversation. Just a bitter, premature See-You-Never.

Never? Good grief. Never is hasty, you silly child — an impulse quite often regretted. 

To leave the opportunity of a text reply as the ONLY venue of communication… How does one reason with an irrational mind, in words that must again suffer the path of interpretation?

You don’t. 

You can’t, she just knew. This is why an argument on the internet has no end. This is why you cannot put sense into the head of religion. THIS IS WHY YOU DON’T ARGUE OVER TEXTS.

Was she lacking empathy or were they lacking maturity? She could not say it was either, because the former wasn’t true (or so she truly believed) and because there wasn’t enough juice in her superiority complex to sway her to the latter.

Good luck with your life, he added soon after. A miserable touch. It was surely meant to provoke, or to prod a response. But such petty behavior warrants dismissal.

I know you want me to, but I will not plead, she mentally noted. Why in the world would I chase after something that allows no explanation. Effort, in all scenarios, deserves reciprocation. Don’t you think? Of course you don’t. Your head is steaming, and elsewhere.

Over the years, she had learned about the brevity of relationships with the emotionally rash, but more importantly, the undeniable insignificance of such. They come, they go, like uprooted flowers in the wind –mere visitors caught in a passing storm, leaving the slightest trace of their beauty and a lasting impression of their hideous rage.

If You Jump, No One Will Catch You

“JANE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” he asked.

With a worried note to his call, his voice meekly carried over from a hundred paces away. “ARE YOU CRAZY?”

I had to assume it was not a question for me to answer.

Nick, along with two equally horrified passerby hikers, held their breaths as they watched me lower my body through a damaged gap in the tracks. We all stood on the burnt boards of an abandoned bridge that once supported the weight of a railroad train but has since deteriorated into a local attraction for daredevil hikers and photographers.

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Fires, from repeated horseplay, and heavy Washington downpours have led this second largest railroad bridge to closure, but that has done little to deter travelers from walking across it anyway. While he and the two others from Florida cautiously crawled across the wooden planks, I skipped ahead recklessly, joyously, and a bit foolishly, one might say.

When I got to a gap big enough to fit my body, I stopped hopping. Many planks were gradually degrading; as my weight pressed down, pieces of wood would chip away like the cheap acrylic from a Chinatown nail salon. Keeping the bulk of my weight on my arms, I dipped one foot down at a time onto a small sheet of metal beneath where the tracks used to be. It feels sturdy enough, I thought to myself.

So, I did what all normal, sane, and practical people would do in that situation.

I let go.

Flirting with the devil at nearly 400ft above ground, I tried balancing one foot at a time.  For some odd reason– my blood did not race in the slightest bit. My Fitbit confirmed: resting rate of 42, the usual pace at which my heart conducts its business (yes, I know, it’s weirdly slow. It’s always been that way).

I called out to the others, “Come here! It’s fine!”

But they shook their heads no and continued to watch me from afar.

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I don’t blame them.

When I leaned forward, this is what I could see below my feet.

I leaned back against the broken wood resting on the small of my back and scanned the view around me. I inhaled the greens and blues with a voracious greed in my eyes, because I knew, once I returned to the City, I wouldn’t be able to consume this kind of sight.

I don’t normally advocate for gluttony, but in this case, I certainly do.

Feed me.

I’m starving.

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Nick and I crossed the entire length of the bridge, and then we decided to climb the trestles that make up the bridge. We skid down a hill and made it up a decent height before acknowledging it’d be stupid to keep going without any rope support.

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Using our hands and knees, we made a nearly vertical descent down to ground level. There were logs, embedded rocks, loose roots, and one tattered rope that helped us steer our way down. I have to admit: this part, though tame in comparison to the bridge, had me extremely nervous the entire way down.

 

It wasn’t the height. It wasn’t the close snake encounter. 

What scared me was the chance of injury. Nick and I are opposites in the sense. He can scale down these dangerous paths with no hesitation, because he knows he can survive the fall, whereas he cannot if he were to fall off Vance Creek bridge (where we started our hike). I, on the other hand, having had many close encounters with death, think nothing of dying other than “I hope my parents don’t waste money on a funeral” and “did I ever send that email reply?” but am riddled with intense anxiety when I run the risk of breaking a leg.

We develop our fears through exposure and maintain our fears through avoidance. What oddly balanced creatures we are.

At the end of our descent, Nick and I were welcomed by a stream of clear water flossing and weaving through a bed of rocks. We took off our hiking boots and long socks to dip our feet in painfully cold water. Why? Because pain becomes tolerable over time.

Just kidding. It was because we thought it’d be warmer than that.

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At the bottom, we rested, occasionally dunking our feet in the icy cold (as tolerated). We refueled our heavy breaths with lush, fresh oxygen. It was then, with a clearer mind, that we could see how far we had come, but simultaneously could calculate the equivalent distance of how far we’d have to travel to get back to where we had started from.

Some metaphorical shit, I know.

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In times of taxing, physical exertion –believe it or not– I tend to hurdle over elementary thoughts of “When’s lunch?” and “That looks amazing,” for grandiose symbolic ideas that can be applied to the phenomenons of life (or used at the conclusion of a blog article).

It’s an obnoxious habit, but a habit nonetheless.

I usually try to keep it to myself.

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photo cred: NM

We hiked back uphill through an endless pile of thorny bushes. The dry foundation of dirt and sand would crumble away from our feet when we pulled our weight upward, so as we slid back down, we’d make an illusory progress — this is how I presume it would feel to try and run from quicksand.

Aaaaand good thing I wore shorts that were three inches long, because I really wanted to end the hike looking like a lotto scratch ticket.

We then jumped back in the truck and headed home to pick up Nick’s bike.

By bike, I mean a bike.

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If you only knew the irony of America fueling Britain on Independence Day.

I’ve always wanted a motorcycle license, so spending the afternoon zooming around town was as close to perfection I could’ve gotten.

Speeding, even against still air, helps you understand the undeniable force of a bullet: so minute in relation to the rest of the world, but able to penetrate, without bias, a crisp sheet of steel that has yet to be touched. She growled, snuggling against my thighs, and it shot pulses of adrenaline through my veins in a fearsome way no man ever could.

Does this make me gay?

We pulled into Chambers Bay, which was the golf course in University Place, WA that once hosted the US Open. It housed a beautiful bridge and a small, sandy beach riddled with beachwood. I told him the hills reminded me of velvet, because they looked soft enough to touch.

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We found a hut made entirely out of gorgeous, smooth branches.

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On the bridge, there were clusters of locks with faded initials, hinting at lovers that had passed through the same grounds and wanted to leave their mark.

He said, “If your lock gets cut, it means you will break up.”

I said, “Let’s come back with lock cutters,” like the good Samaritan I am.

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Love is forever (temporarily).

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As the sun stretched towards the Pacific, we made another pit stop at his garage to exchange the bike for a kayak. In my bag, I found battery powered Christmas lights (intended for the upcoming camping trip *which I recently found out was canceled), so I tucked it across the kayak skin to keep us illuminated in the dark. I strapped a headlight across my forehead, and we set sail.

There is no beauty quite like the soft dance of yellow lights on blue waters.

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Nick pedaled for about 40 minutes to get us away from the other speed boats and cargo ships. We then let ourselves float in the pitch black, inky waters, as fireworks began painting the sky from multiple directions. We had gotten there just in time for the show.

Directly ahead were lights sparkling along Tacoma’s Commencement Bay, to the right we could see Seattle’s show from a distance, and on higher ground were small clusters of fireworks coming from rich homes in the woods and along the shorefront.

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I will post a couple video clips on Instagram, so you can see it live.

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It was a nice day.

Happy fourth, everybody. I love you all.

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You Son of a Kitchen

Elbows in, I reminded myself, watching in the mirror the course of my knees tracing the length of my body. I squatted as low as I could, tucking the 70lb dumbbell into my chest, as the metronome of J. Cole and Kendrick kept pace with my steady heart. 

I was simply putting some work in at the gym, isolated in a decent radius and minding my own (as per usual) when a neighboring beefhead got up from his bench to wave a pair of massive Russian banana hands into my field of view. I turned to him, removing a headphone from the right ear just in time to make out “–fucking space.”

“Excuse me?” I said, pulling the other plug from my left, “What was that? I couldn’t hear you.”

He tensed his eyebrows tightly together and repeated, “I SAID, you’re in my fucking space. I need my space.”

Say what?

In the past decade of lifting, the only times I have ever been interrupted mid-set were when men wanted to ask for the number of sets I had left on the bar, or for the number they’d have to call to get me TO a bar. So, you can imagine why I, without processing his message, instinctively reacted to his hostility with a “My bad, I’m sorry,” and consequently shifted my belongings further away. 

Only after he resumed pumping his weights into the air did it occur to me that I had been standing, at the very least, a good 3 feet away from his bench. I wanted to stomp about 6 large steps away, to sarcastically curtsy and say, I’m sorry, Nancy, is that enough space for you? 

But I didn’t. 

One, because I often find it difficult to be an outright dick, but mostly two, because I thought of the quip a tad too late and it would’ve been weird for me to say it after that much time had passed. Eh, you win some, you lose some. Half of wit is timing.

Every time I re-encountered a glimpse of his smug face in the wall reflection, I could feel myself growing a tiny bit angrier. I removed myself from the dumbbells to the power rack, so I could put the negative energy behind me.

I finished up, then I left the facility shortly after to hop on the green line. Little did I know, as luck would have it, he was trailing right behind me. 

I caught the subway train as the doors were about to close, wedging my body into a pocket of commuters, and when I turned to face the other way, I saw him running to fill the last bit of space by my feet.

I couldn’t help but immediately think of Elaine with no toilet paper, when her stall neighbor does her dirty by saying she doesn’t have “a square to spare.” And how, at the end of the episode, Elaine steals all the TP from the bathroom before the chick walks in so that she can taunt the infamous line back to her.

Karma isn’t a bitch; people are.

Now, what I could’ve done in that moment is step forward a couple inches, and say as the doors closed on his face: “Nope, take the next train; I need my space.” How deliciously sweet would that have been — well, I’m not all that sure, because I didn’t do it.

If an eye for an eye makes the world blind, I don’t want to forget that I have another to spare. The unnecessarily rude can take out my eye, but at least I have sight, and that’ll do more for me in the long run than petty revenge. 

Although that would have been pretty fucking fun, too. 

Getting Quick Clean Money

Amidst the pristine reflections of glossy high rise buildings, I saw a man neatly fold up the bottom hem of his pants. This was after tucking his socks into the loafers he had set aside by the fountain steps. In wide, exaggerated steps, he trudged into the shallow depths of the cycling fountain, and for a second, I thought he was going for a business casual swim. Given the common absurdity of seemingly normal New Yorkers, I can’t say I would’ve been all that surprised. A few others around me pulled out their phones — a snap worthy moment, for sure. 

But alas, I saw him bend over to scoop, in both hands, the coins and long lost wishes of foolish tourists that had collected in the sediments of ten, twenty years prior. He pooled them into a soggy plastic bag, and scrambled without any notice to others clicking their phones around him.

And all I could think to myself was– Somebody’s eating some grass-fed, organic, premium Whole Foods steak tonight!

You go, shameless man. I can’t even judge you. That’s ambition, baby. 

Lesson #6: Don’t Kick The Drunk Horse

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March 23, 2016 @ Culebra International Hostel (Culebra, PR)

She opened the bottle that had arrived by plane and poured the pills out, one by one, into a Ziploc bag. Some have the resting bitch face. She had a resting bored-out-of-my-mind-when-can-I-clock-out face. I could tell, because that’s a face I sometimes recognize in the mirror at work on Wednesdays. With the stroke of a ballpoint pen, she scribbled some notes on the plastic baggie before handing it to me.

“This is it?” Confused, I lifted the contents to eye level. “You’re not giving me the full prescription?”

Peering through her eyeglasses, she said, “That’s all you get.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I suggested, nervously, “Well, I’m sure you know why I need the full round. I don’t want the infection to come back stronger.”

She held out a hand and replied, “You’ll be fine.” She then glanced down at her palm then back at me: “We accept cash only.”


 

The rest of the day, in contrast, went a lot smoother. I walked approximately halfway to Flamenco Beach — the most popular beach on the island — before a young man named Jarvis offered me a ride. He gave me such an uplifting boost of energy. It was a good way to start my morning, not to mention: Flamenco Beach was absolutely gorgeous. I am so glad I got there early in the morning, because by the time I left, people were pouring in faster than rain. Even the clear, crisp blue waters can look polluted when the foot traffic is heavy.

I took a público back, then reapplied sunblock for the walk to Zoni. I made it a small fraction of the way there before locals started offering me rides. It’s funny how you can’t go for a walk without being offered a lift. People are that considerate here. So much for exercise.

Culebra made me feel extremely safe, which is why hitchhiking wasn’t a big deal. Normally, I’m more careful about these things. Kevin –one of the nicest people I met on the island– explained to me that this close-knit community looks out for its residents, for the tourists, and for the island itself.

I got to witness how he takes care of everything and everyone around him. He’d wave non-stop Hellos as he drove, able to recognize every passing car. At night, when a girl was walking along the side of the road, he stopped to give her a ride, then handed her $40 from his wallet because she was having a rough night and wanted to grab some drinks. When I dined at his restaurant, he handed me a checkbook with nothing inside because he had put my entire bill on his tab. The next day, when I jogged to Zoni, he dropped off water bottles so I don’t dehydrate from the walk back. We had established a strictly platonic relationship, so it was amazing to see how his actions were derived from good upbringing and natural kindness.

We swam around for a bit, then he dropped me off back at the hostel. I went to an awesome dock bar called Dinghy Dock’s, where I sipped on orange juice with Mario (the owner Linda’s husband), Nikki (employee/family friend), Joe, and a girl who I’ll refer to as Frenchy. They toasted to the night, as life and laughter roared around us.

I guess Joe and Frenchy had enough drinks because when the topic of skinny dipping came up, they were eagerly on board. Another shot of no-pulp OJ and I was down, too. We ran over to the ferry, but I guess they were feeling shy, so we ditched the idea. Once in the water, I swam over to the side to take my Fitbit off. As I headed back to Joe and Frenchy, they stared at me for a good 5-10 seconds before passionately making out. Now, there’s a fine line between invitation for third party and being the third wheel; since I didn’t RSVP for the former, I ended up being the latter. They tried to get me in for a three person kiss a couple times, but I flashed them my tonsils and used a get out of jail free card on that one.

Soon after, we tossed on some clothes and stumbled into Sandbar. The police don’t care about open containers, so most people buy drinks from the bars then bring it outside/walk the streets. The salsa bar had a DJ/percussionist playing to an empty room; we opted to stay indoors. However, as you can imagine, a three person salsa is dangerously awkward, so I did my own thing until one of the workers swept me away into her arms.

She assumed I knew how to dance to Latin music, but I quickly admitted that though my hips are swinging, my feet have no idea what they’re doing. My lovely new friend taught me salsa, merengue, and bachata; I was having so much fun that I didn’t even notice Joe and Frenchy had ditched me at the bar. Funny, could’ve sworn Frenchy was telling me about the love of her life just minutes before Rounds 1 and 2 of tonsil hockey. Somewhere out there, in the corner of the universe, I swear… monogamy exists (Well, I hope so).

I really enjoyed hanging out with the bartender, my salsa partner, and the security guard. We joked around outside in the perfectly warm and breezy weather; we were probably out there for less than an hour before two drunken men, swinging empty bottles, rode downtown on their horses. I stared in amusement as the trained horses trotted sideways and in disconnected circles. Los caballos están ebrios, también.

The security guard walked over to one of the guys, muttered something along the lines of that pretty girl wants to ride your horse, and next thing I knew, I was being lifted into the air by two sets of burly arms. Nervously, I clutched onto the horse who apparently had a reputation for jumping, bucking, and running off into the distance. Lucky me.

Don’t touch the stirrup, he warned me, or he’ll go crazy. Shit, you bet I won’t. I had my feet extended so far out I looked like the poster child for a gynecological exam.

My salsa partner grabbed ahold of my phone (to take a photo of me, she said… See how nervous I look?), but I caught her scrolling through my private text messages. Guess they were a bit more heterosexually suggestive than she had hoped. Giiiiiiiiirl, if you wanted to know my sexual orientation, all you had to do was ask. Heh.

At the end of the night, I had a one-on-one conversation with Mario. He had recently lost a daughter, the one who I got to know through stories they had been sharing — she was an avid marine biology researcher and turtle advocate who humorously and viciously would defend turtle eggs from predators using fanned leaves — and by the end of the night, we came to a sentimental understanding. Mario and I reflected upon the saying: you die twice, once when your heart stops beating and once when your name is last spoken. We emphasized the importance of mental processing and emotional expression, in outlets such as writing. I promised to write about Nilani on this blog, to perpetuate her existence in text.

I ended the night in Kevin’s backyard, watching the full moon contrast the night sky like Yin had slipped away from Yang. It was a painting of brilliance. For a second, I lost myself in the feeling, because it felt so much like home.

Next Up: Jogging Across Culebra

 

 

Lesson #1: SPF100 < Puerto Rican Sun

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March 18, 2016 @ San Juan International Hostel living room (Santurce, PR)

It’s only 9:41pm, and as I type this, my Fitbit (thanks to Jason) tells me that I tracked 32,949 steps so far. I know Katie and I walked an incredible amount today, but a part of me is skeptical about the count. Until the Fitbit company figures out how to distinguish the difference between a marathon runner and a chronic masturbator, I refuse to acknowledge 100% accuracy. I don’t want a sense of achievement constructed off of false pretenses. Don’t give me an award because I was feeling lonely, Fitbit. That’s not an arm swing and you know it.

Kidding.

I am staying in a no-frills, yet homey and accommodating hostel located about 15 minutes away (by foot) in Santurce, PR. Katie, a fellow NY resident and well-traveled student, ended up here due to an overnight layover. Her golden locks compliment her bright smile the way the sunflower petals give highlight to the seeds. Though 6 years my junior, I bonded with her easily. When happy people unite in a happy place, it’s bound to be a good time.

On our walk, our eyes widened tenfold at the sight of Condado Beach. I hadn’t been to a beach in 7 years, so the spread of crisp turquoise stunned me into a brief state of paralysis. Instinctively, we quickly stripped down to our bathing suits and ran to the water, flooding our neurocenters with endorphins and adrenaline. The healthy waves knocked us on our asses like we were losing in a UFC match (but baby, trust me when I say: it felt like winning).

We trekked across a beautiful bridge and preserved architecture on our way to Old San Juan, which is over an hour away by foot. The first thing we noticed was driver courtesy for pedestrians. They stop driving in the middle of the road –no stop sign or red light in the vicinity of the area— just to let you walk. Sure beats playing Frogger across 6th avenue.

Old SJ was a delightful surprise: rows on rows of light pastel balconied houses, narrow cobblestone roads, and side-by-side shops. It led us to Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a magnificent fortress at the top of a grassy hill. We gulped down bites of fresh sea-procured air, watching groups of color-coordinated children chase after their kites. I’m not for tourist attractions, but this was well worth it.

Katie and I walked back to the bridge running across El Boqueron, a calmer portion of the sea catching reflections of painted light like crystalline chips of glass. We socialized with a man who moved here from NY and a woman who couldn’t possibly be anything other than a piña colada sorceress. Blame it on the rum, but I had half a plan to pack her in my bag. However, it would be a huge disservice to steal her from those in need of a boozy punch, so we resorted to picking up an extra cup to go and merrily hiccuping pineapple juice and whatever goes into these magical slushy concoctions (ps – it seems open container laws are merely a suggestion here).

Upon returning, I parted with Katie, who continued on her journey to Guadalupe. In the evening, I grabbed another pina colada (subpar, compared to my other lady) and some overpriced, cooked sushi (PR’s take on sushi: fry everything and shove it in a roll. Steak options available. Cream cheese almost always mandatory. Servers wear hawaiian shirts).

Then, I tried to hunt down some local music venues in La Placita, but got lost on the way. Cat calling, I learned, is quite common in this area, but when one of the men started following me home, I got a bit nervous. He followed me for about 15 minutes, chasing heel across streets and around corners, until I stopped outside a popular bar where many were gathered. I headed home in defeat soon thereafter.

I thought the night was over, but I had a hard time falling asleep. So, I jumped back out of bed and returned to Condado Beach, where I was able to get acquainted with a man who I shall refer to as Caramel (requested anonymity).

This tall, sandy-haired stranger certainly caught me by surprise; he had a dangerously attractive smile, but an even more appealing personality. Sitting on cooled sand and sipping on what we gathered to be cheap red wine, we watched the monstrous waves dance triumphantly, with full white bodies that dare to challenge the pull of gravity. Caramel and I joked around until past the darkest hour, touching upon everything from life choices to 3 million soulmates to squatting form variations to my apparent poor taste in wallets.

Almost as if to entertain us, the tide brought us its A game, colliding in synchronized currents like a parade of explosions in the final minute of a fireworks show. In the midst of the thrill, the brightest shooting star either of us has ever witnessed capped off the sky, leaving our jaws dropped in astonishment.

When we were distracted by the ocean, it sneakily reached out for skin contact: laughing and clamoring in shock, Caramel and I jumped to our feet as a wave aggressively swept our feet. I stopped laughing when I saw the blink of my phone fade out. I could sense it was dead before I even dared to check for a pulse. Book drafts, to-do lists, priceless ideas and thoughts, trip photos, important contacts — gone in an instant. My plans to backpack PR and end up in Ponce were trampled on as well. How could I navigate without a map or GPS?

To my surprise, Caramel generously gave me a practically new iPhone, which ended up saving my bright red ass from being phoneless and homeless for the rest of the week (and even my life — you will find out in the upcoming entries how this is so). The night concluded on a high note, with the ocean breeze tucking me to sleep, so it was hard to imagine my nearly perfect experience in SJ could be beat. Little did I know Puerto Rico had a lot more in store for me than crisp waves and New Yorkers who know how to make me smile.

 

Next Up: El Yunque, Luquillo, Fajardo