Carmen Ye l travel reflections #1
There is an older couple on this tour. They look like they could be my mother’s age. I see the way they hold hands and the way they look at each other. It makes me smile that two people who have seemingly been together a long time could still find this much joy in the act of touching. I tell her they look sweet together. She smiles shyly and says, ‘Thank you.’ Then, ‘I don’t tell a lot of people this, but we have been dating for about six months. My husband passed away from cancer three years ago. His wife passed away from cancer last year.’
I catch my breath. They have both known loss. And yet, right in front of me, is proof that there is hope everywhere, even after a loss as permanent as death. This explains why they act like they are still new to each other.
The tour guide tells me he has ni amistades ni una novia ni familia en Puerto Rico. I ask him how long he has been living here. ‘22 years. I haven’t been in a relationship for the last 10 years.’ I ask him if he is lonely. He shrugs his shoulders. ‘I am thinking about moving back to the States soon.’ Then, ‘Don’t tell the others this. Es un secreto entre nos dos. I don’t want them thinking I’m a loser.’
One of the hostel staff tells me how much his mom makes as a teacher. I say that she must really love teaching to stay for those wages. He tells me she suffered brain trauma from a car accident when he was young. ‘She lost a lot of her memory, and I don’t really remember how she was before it.’ Then, ‘I probably shouldn’t talk about this while I’m drinking.’
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have such honest features that invited strangers to open their painful truths. But tonight, even if it is just the alcohol bringing his past to the surface, I do not care. His bright face and buzzcut and beautiful eyes are still real. I would hold his secrets.