My sister once lived in the Caribbean, and my family met there to visit every year. At our usual arrival rendezvous, I found my mom at the bar, chatting up a diminutive tattooed dude who was carrying a sketchbook. She quickly introduced us, having vetted him as a suitable chaperone for me.
That night, dude and I stumbled through the bushes in darkness to skinny-dip at a secret beach. He spun fire (of course) and “casually” revealed his Prince Albert. Then suddenly, somehow, we were in his dinghy, paddling with a stolen oar to his apartment, a fifty-dollar-a-week derelict boat in the bay. (Um… hairy back. But the piercing made up for it.)
Last I heard, he’d robbed his best friend and disappeared. So much for Mom’s approval.
Wandering around Lima’s Barranco district one afternoon, I found a park where artisans were making jewelry. A Colombian guy with dreads and a lip ring was shaping wire into hemp-leaf earrings. I bought a pair of guitar earrings from him, and he said I should come hang out that night.
The guy was surprised when I actually returned, and he immediately twisted me a ring shaped like a music note. We sat drinking rum while his friend played a wooden flute. I brought the book of Neruda poems I was struggling with, and he read them to me with comic intimacy. We cuddled a bit on a bench, but I had to leave early the next morning to go to Machu Picchu. He asked if I was in love, and I said not right now. I asked him back and he said he was in love with life.
After Machu Picchu, I had one night in Lima before heading to Chile. This time when I showed up, he packed his jewelry up, and we went back to the house he shared. We went to the roof and smoked, and he took me to someone else’s bedroom. I was pretty high, and every time he touched me it felt amazing. It was fun to play with his lip ring. But while I was giving him a blowjob, I got silly and sleepy, so he walked me to the bus stop, both of us dissolving in laughter.
I used to spend a week every summer with my family in Cape May, New Jersey. It was the worst. And then I met Lauren. I was eighteen and smoking a poorly-rolled joint on a lifeguard chair at dusk, and she came up behind me and scared the living hell out of me. Based entirely on mutual hormones, pot, and room-temperature Yuenglings filched from our parents’ coolers, we developed a brief beach-week romance. By which I mean, we used to meet up around the same lifeguard chair, get high, and wander up and down the beach, talking about stupid teenage crap, trying to keep ahead of any authority figures and sporadically making out.
The day before we were both set to return home (I don’t think I ever even figured out where that was for her), as we were making on a blanket on a deserted chunk of beach, things started… “progressing.” Unfortunately, about ten minutes in, an enormous sand-combing tractor descended on us, and we had to flee. Apparently, jumping up in a hurry, gathering a blanket, and pulling on clothing in the harsh light of a sand-comber represents something of a mood killer. Lauren left with a quick “bye” and a lingering kiss. I gathered my thoughts and walked home, dejected, unfulfilled, and extremely sandy. Beach sex is overrated.
I met him the first night of an eight-day cruise through the Caribbean. I was walking on the deck with my sister when two boys said hi; since I wanted to practice my English, I walked over. It turned out I was five years older than the one I liked… and I was only twenty-two. Still, he was a sweet kid who loved sports and enjoyed my accent, so we got along. We ended up hanging out together every night, eating pizza at 2:00 a.m., trying to sneak in the disco, walking hand in hand, or just going to the back of the ship to make out under the starry sky. The fifth day, I decided I couldn’t let this hot kid go 2000 miles away from me without first sealing the deal, and after much trouble we ended up doing it in his cabin, with his friend and another girl making out in the next bed. The last day we took pictures and parted ways, ready to never see each other again, but with youthful masochism, we stayed in touch. Two years later we managed to meet again for four days of movies and sex in a cheap New York hotel.
I was visiting my mother in Denmark, during the 2009 Copenhagen Jazz Festival. I only had five days left of a three-week holiday, before returning to my job and boyfriend back in Portland, Oregon. I’d met some musicians the night before on the street, and they’d invited me to their show. As I sat in the club waiting for the show to start, I saw a man sitting across the way. Watching the way he laughed with his whole body, I thought, “That man is filled with joy.” When he would lean forward to touch his friend on the arm while speaking, I thought, “That man is so warm.” When he walked across the room and greeted people, I thought, “That man is honest in his dealings with people.” When he escorted someone who’d gotten too messed-up out of the club with care, I thought, “That man is so gentle.” Then I thought, “I can’t get anywhere near this guy, because I will fall terribly in love with him.”
But soon fate jumped in, and we were face to face. He kept trying to buy me drinks. I kept refusing. Then he bought me a raffle ticket. When the raffle began, I suddenly had a premonition: “If I win with this ticket, it is going to bind me to this man.” When they called my number, our eyes locked, my hand shot up in the air with the ticket, and he hollered like he had just won a million dollars. Three months later, we were married.