They Met in a Hurricane.
February 14, 2010, 2:58 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I am a quiet instigator, not a leader.

I like to plant ideas in fertile soil and see what happens. Make suggestions slipped in with sufficient care no one can trace them back to the source. I like to see what happens and sometimes make things happen. I don’t know if it’s natural or developed out of necessity but, honestly, my greatest skill is observing others. Getting a clear read on their behaviors, what they might want, what they are looking for. Being able to read the subtext. I once took a seminar on negotiation and everyone thought I was cheating because I could always get the best deal – I simply asked people what they wanted and figured out what they would leverage to get it.

On the day in question, what I wanted was a party. The sea had gone flat and the wind was ripping onshore knocking off whatever the tides sucked in and out. It was cold and we were bored. The night before, I was sitting beside this young Brit who had bartended his way to a world trip and gotten stuck in my favorite town, a seaside spot somewhere in Africa. He asked our bartender if he could have a souvenir from a bottle – some string wrapped around it. Let’s call it sambuca though it wasn’t. The bartender said he could have it if he bought and drank the bottle, an estimated thirty shots.

I suggested that tomorrow we would have a theme day. The theme would be Sambuca day and we would get him the string. Someone else had a ridiculous souvenir puppet they’d purchased in a stoney haze. Tomorrow would be Puppets and Sambuca day. This conversation faded into a less memorable night and eventually we all slept, some warmer than others.

The next day I was in town and found a piece of felt, a small sewing kit and a Norwegian friend. By noon, I was making my own puppet at the bar out of a sock and some buttons. My Norwegian friend joined in, people would walk by and inquire. Eventually, four of us had puppets and we decided to split the Sambuca in succession, chased with chunks of mandarin orange.

Seven shots each, plus puppets, and things began to get a little out of hand. The puppets were making friends. We decided to take them on a road trip, including picking up someone’s laundry and tequila shots at another hole in town. The beach was empty, the wind whipping our hair as we stumbled along, yelling at each other via socks shaped like animals.

In town, we bought a magnum of sparkling wine while one of the puppeteers ambled down the street for his laundry. Drinking in the streets is fairly verboten, so we cracked it on the beach and drank the entire thing walking back. There are few things finer than something like champagne swilled from a giant bottle on an empty, stunning beach with a bunch of people who have agreed to a mutual objective in pursuit of nothing beyond fun.

When we got back, people came to join us. We began to lend out our creations, make more friends, invite people. Those who had watched things happen during the day were suddenly sitting beside us, crossing over from dubious inhibition. The music got louder, the room was full. The room became a vortex and everyone who passed pulled into the dancing and drinking. There’s a particular game played with a funnel in this place that happens at a certain point – the feeling in the air was so contagious that night that literally everyone in the room ended up funneling a drink as everyone else chanted their name and cheered upon completion. There’s something both strange and amusing in meeting a roomful of people by way of them chanting your name; more places should employ it as standard practice.

Sometime around dinner, L.G. had walked in with three of his friends. Two of them had stayed at this particular spot before, and though the original plan was to have a quiet night in L.G.’s cottage about an hour’s drive away, at the last minute they had decided the last road trip of their college life needed a run at one more party. He has always said he could feel the electricity in the room when he walked in, he knew it was going to be one of those nights.

The first time L.G. saw me, he later admitted, I was dancing on a table with a bunch of other girls I had recruited to the cause. The song is lost to history and time. After I got down, I parked at my favorite stool, the one where I’ve spent several months of my life watching the world go by. L.G. and his roommate pulled up on either side of me and L.G. began to talk… shit.

Here’s the thing, I will talk to anyone about anything if they’re friendly and non belligerent and aren’t using the conversation to wander into a narrow political debate that will alienate everyone. In the past couple of years, as earnest organized voluntourism en masse has bloomed in that part of the world, these conversations seem to have become more frequent. I don’t dislike these trips because they’re misled, the value of any purchase is to its purchasor, I dislike them because they all to often interrupt my end of the day beer with a delightful self-righteousness I was fairly sure I’d left behind when I abandoned formal religion.

This aside, I was fine with speaking to this guy who had just posted up beside me. I can’t remember if he bought me a drink, I likely would have turned it down. I could tell he was saying things with a view to impressing me, which I won’t repeat, but they were entertaining and I casually played along but made it clear I was looking for conversation only. I mentioned my best friend was coming to visit in a month and she was flying into his city and I wanted to know what we should do there because my past stops in that town had been somewhat uneventful.

He told me about his apartment on the beach with rolling longboard waves out front and offered to let us staying there.

If there is one lesson you learn, on the road and on a budget, it’s to accept non-creepy offers from people who can show you around, whatever they may be for. I took his number.

Meanwhile, my Norwegian friend had begun to lust in earnest after the British guy who had started everything and intermittently either of them would interrupt to update on the situation. He was not having any of her overtures, she was not interested in sleeping alone. Interestingly, she ended up sleeping the wrong bunk and was woken by someone else who told her if she wasn’t getting out, he was getting in…

Outside, a storm began to blow. The power went out and we thought we were done, but a 2008 investment in a generator quickly turned the coolers and the music back on.

To be honest, I wrote L.G. off the way I write off most guys who (claim to) surf and show up in that bar. I knew he was interested but I was pretty sure I wasn’t. At the same time, he was completely non threatening and wasn’t trying to get me into a dark corner, so we just kept talking. About everything.

Suddenly, around two or three in the morning, the bartender got serious about last call and shut off the generator. A remaining fifteen of us found ourselves in a very dark room suddenly conscious of how bad the storm outside had become. The place that’s a breezy paradise most months of the year was slamming doors and banging windows. I looked outside at a break I know well and saw the ocean slamming down on the sand, sucking up the banks and throwing them down again, churning and pounding. Boards were lifting off the lawn and anything misplaced over the day, shoes to wetsuits, was flying.

I immediately went to find my wetsuit, the second most valuable thing I owned at that point after my board. It had fallen six feet down into a thorny bushy area. L.G. jumped down and collected it. Back in the common areas, the crowd had fully dissipated. We stood in the kitchen alone.

The storm was making me nervous and I wasn’t sure how safe any given space was. This was an accurate perception despite high BAC, as the next morning the town was destroyed – signs blew down, houses lost roofs, and hurricane force rain forced many cars off the road. In addition to the threat of the whole place blowing down, everything was extremely cold. So we went to a central room and sat on a couch.

Somehow, I fell asleep. Somehow, I curled up into him. It had been well established this was not for the purposes of any making out, so he just wrapped one arm around me, found a blanket, and we slept. For hours. We woke up to cleaning staff and everyone from the night before arriving for breakfast. Hands down, he was and continues to be the most comfortable person to sleep with I have ever met. He told me, soon after, that I was the first girl who hadn’t caused his arm to go numb. We just sort of fit together.

An admission. When I woke up, I wasn’t completely sure I knew what the guy looked like. I had met him under darker, drunken conditions and had avoided much eye contact because I wasn’t encouraging anything. And we had just had the most intimate, comfortable night together wherein we hadn’t kissed and all of our heavy winter clothing remained fully intact.

Suddenly, his friends appeared calling for breakfast. Twenty minutes later, one of them suggested I join them on a side trip a few hours away. Given that the place we were staying had turned miserable, with everything still slamming and groaning, and cold wind hurtling through every time someone opened a door, I accepted.

Like I said, invitations from strangers.

I showered before leaving. L.G. has said that when I walked out freshly showered, with wet hair, I turned to him in the light and my eyes were sparkling and that’s when he absolutely knew he really wanted me to come.

Everything just sort of… developed. The roadtrip spanned two nights, I watched him watch me in the rearview mirror as we tracked the coastline and got lost on purpose and rode out the storm drinking bad white wine on ice around fires. The arm was just as good in sobriety as it had been before. The next weekend he drove down and we went to his cottage and surfed all day, made food under the stars at night. Eventually he joined my best friend and I on a roadtrip six hours away and organized a camping trip in the mountains. It wasn’t love at first sight, it was much better than that.

I’m not much of a country music fan but I feel like the song Five Days in May was written about us. Sometimes, in life, you need to find yourself at the center of a good storm and see what blows in.


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