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Friendship Adventure American

Sitting in the terminal, I began to realize how empty the place was. It wasn’t exactly a peak travel day, but still it was a 9 AM flight to Orlando in March. Usually, one cannot help but be surrounded in a sea of spring breakers jetting down to whatever swath of beach they swear is the best down in the peninsula. I got through security fast, though it was annoying that the TSA has time to security-wand down everyone now. Are these random checks anymore or just some result of boredom? The McDonalds guy looked at me like “I’m going to have to turn everything on” when I ordered a coffee and hash brown. It was strange. I didn’t mind wearing one, but I was curious why I was wearing a mask this year in an empty airport and I had gone maskless last year in the pilgrimage to sun-burnt debauchery down south. 

I had some vacation days piling up and no good reason, so I downloaded expedia and started searching. At first I was just doing it during the day when I got bored while working. A person’s line of work can be personal to them, so I won’t say more than work is essentially replying to emails all day which I have been allowed to do at home now for the same acceptable wage. It afforded me enough extra cash and some accrued days off to take some sort of trip in the first place. I was just waiting for a reason to go. No reason came. I think I just had taken enough of living in the same 500 square foot room for a year and watching as my ‘friends’ on social media carried on with the ski trips and obligatory beach blackouts. The same friends never had any posts about their relatives getting sick or losing their jobs, so I figured why not me. I know, dangerous thinking, but we all get jealous sometimes.

The app had me looking all over the place. I had at first thought that my dream vacation was somewhere to the West in the mountains or valleys among nature. Then, I realized that doing something like that alone would only leave me terrified of mountain lions and or bigfoot. And I certainly did not have anyone to go with. So, I was browsing and the app kept pushing these deals. “BOOK NOW AND SAVE”. The advertisements showed these lovely images of resorts at dusk with big ribbons across them with 50, 60, 70 percent off on them. I said I had some extra cash, but not that much and who doesn’t love a deal? I went for three days (2 nights) in Daytona Beach at one of the ‘whatever sands’ resorts. It was bundled with the plane ticket and I fancied myself a savvy spender. I’d just take a Friday off work and be home to answer emails on Monday.

The flight was not bad solely due to the fact that I had all three seats to myself and I could have had three rows. When I got there, I found that my booking site and or the hotel had made some error. The deals were on certain rooms, which they had underestimated the appeal of. This is how the manager explained to me that some doubles rooms had been purchased together separately and long story short; I had a roommate. The same thing has happened to me with doordash. The restaurant knows that your order can’t get cancelled, so it gets sent to the back of the line. Anyway, I had the pleasure of spending this weekend in the company of Emilia. 

She was from Spain and she was in town to meet some friends who she had met in I think Brazil. I gathered this information slowly as we did not hit it off at first. I said, “Como estás?” in my admittedly awful American accent which I assumed gave her the impression that I didn’t know how to say much else since she responded with English. She was nice, but it was an awkward situation. I wasn’t thrilled about getting stuck with some stranger and I was lucky enough to end up with someone like Emilia. I felt bad for her getting stuck with me, some random guy. Although, I was the one out of my element. She was a world traveler and I was just another migratory American headed down to Florida to shake off the winter blues. I confirmed my suspicion that she thought I didn’t speak Spanish when I heard her talking on the phone with her friends. I could be accused of eavesdropping, but it was a tiny room and I do know some Spanish. They were making their plans for the evening, but I got a slight mention. “Simpático, pero habla nada,” which is roughly “nice, but says nothing” I think. 

Emilia left for the evening and I was happy to have some alone time. After a whole year of alone time, one day of travel made me ready for more of it. I laughed at that and then continued on with vacation. This meant walking to the local liquor store, bravely (in Florida) with a mask on, and buying more beer than I needed. Then, I rambled on back to the hotel room to watch some trashy television. It was good fun and I only felt bad for myself when the channel switched to infomercials. 

I woke up to a half readable note; “verdad. Tell Emilia you know spanish”. It was not the message that I thought beer would give me, but it was not half bad advice. I was just waking up and feeling the pain, when Emilia walked in the door. She was just getting home I think. There were two beds, but it still would have been awkward to share the room. “Que pasa?” I asked. She said, “Good. And you?”. I said, “Emilia, I’ve been meaning to tell you. I know some Spanish”. Emilia smiled at me as if to say ‘I know you might have studied some in high school but I’m good at both thanks’. “I worked in a kitchen,” I said “the cooks taught me”. Emilia’s smile turned into a blush as she put together that I was basically saying I heard you last night. We laughed and agreed that I was shy.

She went on to tell me about her decision to study ‘university’ internationally. She had been to more countries than I had been to American states. She had friends in Brazil and Australia. I had friends in Peoria. We actually started to hit it off. When I asked her why her friends chose Daytona, she said that it was a great meeting place. That made me laugh. We both had plans for our last full day in Florida, but we agreed to have dinner together in the hotel. I met up with a guy from my high school and his soon to be wife. We had kind of known each other, but it was more like one of those ‘hey, we’re both in this place and clearly neither of us know other people around’ things. I left abruptly in fear of being late for my dinner with Emilia.

I got there early and ordered a beer. I was actually pretty nervous even though I had no intentions of making a move. She was just such a cool person and I had not met one in a while. So, I sat there waiting around for a while. Eventually, I got hungry and ordered some nachos. I did not remember that appetizer portions in America are meant for at least a family of four. Four Americans that is. I was getting full right when Emilia walked up. I apologized and of course offered to share, but she apologized for being late and said she had already ate. Not wanting to miss out on at least one more conversation with her, I asked “Vamos a la playa?”.

We walked down to the beach and both instinctively turned when we got right at that point where the water meets the sand. We walked up the beach towards the ferris wheel and the staggering, “luxury” towers that seemed to have sprung up from the sand. It was getting dark so the masses were gathering to watch the sunset. I wondered where all of these people came from considering my flight had been empty. This pandemic might have actually given a lot of families a chance to vacation with deals that otherwise wouldn’t be there. I almost can’t blame them for wanting that normalcy and joy amidst the pandemic even though their actions fly in the face of CDC protocol. However, walking with Emilia next to me, I couldn’t help but be embarrassed by my fellow Americans. Parents, half-sober and half paying attention, sit on plastic chairs and leave plastic trails behind them as their kids tumble about with no regard for passers by. 

We stopped to watch the sunset and then turned back towards our hotel. We had had nice conversations about our lives and what was next in the months ahead of us after this ad hoc little vacation. I felt the need to bring up my culture. I don’t know if I wanted to defend it or distance myself from it. I said “this beach must seem like a garbage dump compared to the ones you mentioned in Brazil”. She said, “They aren’t really that different. Americans see the beach as ‘theirs’ and Brazillians see the beach as ‘ours’, but they both party on them”. “And the sunsets are the same,” I said. “Not always” was her reply. 

We got back to the part of the beach in front of our hotel. “¿Quieres cerveza?” I asked. “No thanks. I don’t like beer”.

March 06, 2021 02:20

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