Day 32: I leave the house, a storm approaches and a sugar mill collapses
I woke up itchy with bug bites. The sun was low in the sky and the beach looked strange in the light. My head hurt.
Federica stood up and stretched her arms up towards the palm trees. I got a toothbrush out of my backpack and we brushed our teeth in a water fountain near the bathroom. Early morning joggers passed by, but didn’t seem to notice us.
There was a cargo ferry leaving for Vieques at 9:30. Cargo ferries are like regular ferries, except that people can bring their cars on the boat. We drove over, bought two tickets, watched the beer and rum trucks load onto the ferry and then boarded.
I walked around the passenger area looking for Stefan. He said he was bringing his car to Vieques and he was probably on the same boat. I didn’t know what he looked like, but I knew he was a New Yorker and New Yorkers are easy to spot in the tropics. They’re the only people wearing black.
I saw two guys in black graphic T-shirts with sunglasses and I walked over. Sure enough, it was Stefan and his boyfriend. They were surprised to see me.
“I thought you were in Vieques,” Stefan said.
“Yeah, I was going to take eight o’clock ferry last night but I missed it by a minute, literally,” I said. “It was fine though, I slept on the beach.”
They looked at me from behind their bug-eye sunglasses and didn’t say anything.
“So yeah, do you have your car on the boat?” I asked.
“Yep, I guess we can drive up to the house together.”
“Sounds good to me, I’ll give you the grand tour and everything when we get up there.”
“Sure, yeah,” he said.
I’m gonna pass out for a bit, I’m still tired,” I said. “See you on the other side.”
I heard Stefan say “Wow” in snooty tone as I walked away.
We got to Vieques and drove up to the house. I gave Stefan and his boyfriend a rundown of the housesitting duties. I showed them how the solar panels worked and how to fill the water tank. I pointed out all the places where the roof leaked and all the plants that needed watering, but I got the feeling they didn’t really care. They just wanted me to hand over the keys and leave.
Instead, I took my time. I took one last shower, cooked one last pot of oatmeal and packed up my few belongings. Federica was sitting on the porch overlooking the valley, the mountains and the ocean in a distance and I sat down next to her. We sat quietly and watched the horses eat their way through the grass below. I wondered if Stefan would take good care of the house.
Just like that, it was over.
Federica and I hitched a ride back to Isabel. We had an hour before the next ferry so we went to the bar. The bartender, Suzie, saw me with my bags and asked if I was leaving.
“Unfortunately, my time is up in Vieques,” I said.
“Aww, already leaving us?” she said. “Well, your drinks are on me, what’ll ya have?”
“Really? How about whiskey? I’ve been drinking so many Medallas my stomach’s starting to rot.”
“Is Jameson alright?” she asked.
“Jameson is my favorite.”
She poured three shots and we drank them down together.
“Where ya flyin’ taw?” asked a woman at the corner of the bar. She had a graying buzz cut and biceps to match.
“Well, I don’t know if yer gunna make it, s’posed to be a big storm tawnight,” she said, pointing at the television above my head.
I looked up and watched a meteorologist point repeatedly at a green blob as it slithered over the entire northeastern section of the United States.
“Shit,” I said.
“You betta cawl yer airline and see if yer still flying today.”
I pulled out my laptop and checked the American Airlines web site.
Flight 1568: CANCELLED
That’s all it said. Cancelled in capital letters. There wasn’t a number to call or any indication that I was being put on another flight. Nothing.
“Ok, so now what? I’ve never had a flight get cancelled,” I said.
“I don’t know,” Federica said. “We should still get on the next ferry, I can’t leave my car in Fajardo.”
“Yeah, we can’t stay here anyways. I don’t have the house anymore. I guess we’ll figure it out when we get to Fajardo.”
“Woooo! We get to spend more time together.”
“This is true. Damn, I wish I could just stay here with you. I’d do it if I didn’t have to watch my friend’s dog. I don’t want to go back to New York and the cold and a fucking winter blizzard.”
“You have to watch someone’s dog?”
“Yeah, as soon as I get back I’m supposed to stay with this dog while my friend is in Madagascar. I agreed to it a long time ago. I hope the dog will be alright if I don’t get there tonight.”
We finished our beers, bid farewell to Suzie, the bar and the tropical paradise known as Vieques, and got on the ferry. When we got to Fajardo, we parked near a Burger King and I used their free wi-fi to book a flight for the next day. That was that.
Federica and I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring a collapsed sugar mill just outside the town. The roof of the structure caved in the day before and locals were walking around the site to gather scrap metal.
They asked us what we were doing there. I told them I was interested in history.
© Diego Cupolo 2011