The Greatest Moment in Puerto Rico (Day 4)

The rain woke us again.  We’d gone to sleep staring out of an open-windowed tent and it wasn’t the sound, but rather the feel of tiny wet splashes on my nose that woke me.  It was still dark and my body told me it was the middle of the night as I scrambled to attach the rain fly.  Apparently, in our hustle we woke Savannah, the Rottweiler.  She repaid the favor by circling our tent and barking for the remaining hours of night.  Tom felt that intruding on a dog’s territory in a space craft shaped tent put us in the wrong and let Savannah off the hook, but I was pissed.

When we rose with the sun, I phoned the number that Rafi, our publico driver to El Yunque, had given me for his wife to see if she could drive us to Fajardo, the next town over where we’d catch the ferry to the island of Culebra.  She said she wasn’t close and would have to charge $10 each to come get us, so I told her we’d find another way.  By the time I had my sleeping bag stuffed she called back and said she was at the McDonald’s around the block and would take us for $3.  “But come now,” she said.  “I won’t wait long.”  We finished packing on the run and met Mercedes and a loaded van on its way east.

There’s a scene in Darjeeling Limited where Adrian Brody is running and catching a moving train.  The moment happens in slow motion.  It is joyous and inspiring.  Uplifting and resolute.  Watching that scene is the closest I’ve ever gotten to reliving the feelings I experienced during the next set of events.  I’m sorry if you’ve never seen the movie.  Sorrier if you’ve never ridden the rollercoaster thrill-ride of losing and then reuniting with friends.

By the time Tom and I reached the unopened window counter where we’d wait to purchase our $4.50 round trip ferry passes for the 9:30 cruise and settled into a corner to wait, a heavy sense of something seemed to overtake us both.  We were both having contact trouble and Tom had managed to lose a hidden reserve of cash somehow.  Besides that, we realized that after having our greatest blessing of the trip dropped in our laps, we’d sprinted off to stick to some loose itinerary of our own.  We’d been hoping for some traveling comrades and the feast in Luquillo had been more of an adventure that we ever could have planned.  But we’d gotten greedy and run away from two of the coolest people we’d ever met.  I was wallowing in the stench of my self pity with a finger in my eye and a bottle of saline when my phone rang.  It was Jen.  And like so often happens while traveling, our blues faded and our joys restored.

They were on their way.

Hurry, I said.

I know, can you buy the tickets for us?

Of course.

Five, please.  Gotta run.

And with that she was gone and coming with who, I didn’t care, but she was on her way.

As the time neared 9:30, we crossed the street from the ticket booth to the shiny tiled loading area of the Puerto Rico Port Authority.  An elderly couple noted our packs and asked about our stay on the island in a manner that seemed accustomed to seeing travelers of our sort, but still genuinely interested.  In time, they shared our concern that our friends may not arrive in time.  A loading attendant called for our ferry to board and we exchanged worried looks with the couple.  Tom asked a man standing by in a captain or maybe just a guard’s uniform how long we had to board and he replied as politely as he knew how, “Now.”  A woman called for boarding again and the man gave Tom and me a stern nod and head jerk towards the boat.

“Could you leave their tickets with us?” asked the old woman seated nearby.

It was a kind question, but the next ferry didn’t sail for hours and they’d printed all our tickets on one receipt anyways.

The man pointed at Tom.  “Last chance,” he said.  “I’ll leave you and your friends.”  And just like that we felt ourselves plummeting again.  We stooped to hoist our packs and offered our best to the old couple.

“We’ll send them your sadness,” she said, “and tell them you waited as long as possible.”

We boarded the boat feeling defeated and solemn.  The last to board, we made our way to the front through a crowd of sunscreened vacationers.  I tried calling Jen a last time, got nothing, and sank deep into a red pleather backed chair and returned to my trench of self pity.  My phone vibrating in my pocket grabbed my attention and I opened it to a missed call from Jen.  I rose to the window, but the adjacent building prohibited any view of the street running perpendicular to the ship.  I rushed to the back of the boat to improve my angle of visibility towards the road they’d be traveling down.  Still no luck.  Finally I exited the air conditioned cabin of the ship and stepped onto the back deck of the ferry.  I leaned over the railing and caught a clear line of sight to the road that ran in front of the dock.  The vision of that curly haired girl in an orange bandana and the preceding blurs that flashed behind her still plays vividly in my mind.  I ran to alert Tom and he joined me at the back of the ferry.  With some help from the couple, Marck, Jen, Gabby and Nick were allowed to board.  I met Marck with open arms and fellow cruisers couldn’t tell that we weren’t long lost brothers.  We moved our packs to the back deck and reunited with our lost friends watched Fajardo disappear behind us.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Cole on June 14, 2010 at 3:14 am

    sweet story. this was a great read! miss you bro!

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