Everyone makes mistakes and I made one.
Without thinking, I set my cell phone down on the table just inside the doors of the trendy juice bar. Seconds later, it was gone.
My phone escaped in the hands of the innocent-looking man who walked up to our table soon after we plopped down, waiting for our drinks. I should have known better. I did know better, but my eyes, distracted by his cardboard sign and the English words handwritten on it for the tourists, missed the stealth grab of my tether to, well, life.
One moment I was taking photos of the blue and yellow tiled walls, the sloping cobblestone streets, and grinning stupidly at the music playing in the background of the juice bar as if my morning had been granted its own soundtrack—although I didn’t understand a word. The next thing I knew I was rushing into my hostel making a frantic phone call home to cancel my service and lock the phone. The stairs in the hostel seemed to take the shape of a never-ending spiral upward as I ran.
And that was that.
An unexpected sense of emotion swept over me. I think it was calm. I was in a stunningly beautiful city I’d never visited before and now, thanks to a mistake, I was without my biggest distraction.
I embraced it.
I also embraced him. But, I’m skipping ahead.
Being without a phone in a hostel left me without a way to distract myself whenever I felt like an awkward interloper around strangers. I was without a social buffer.
In the hostel common room, I gave myself permission to be seen watching others and I didn’t mind it one bit. My eyes shifted, scanning the room. They met his.
He sat down next to me on the small loveseat. He had nothing in his hands, nothing to distract him either. We’d met already and I wanted nothing more than to talk to him again. It seemed he had the same idea because his eyes were intent on mine. He was entirely focused on me. He was a little older. His accent wasn’t too thick but it was throaty, enough to make me smile. His English made up for my lack of anything else. The lamplight left a shadow over his face as we talked, giving me an idea of the time passing.
We spoke about books and movies and writing. Around us, people were watching “Black Mirror’ and I didn’t give a single f*ck. I wished I had a notebook so that I could take notes of the titles he was recommending because I knew I wouldn’t remember them. I also knew that I didn’t want to stop this conversation to write anything down so it didn’t matter anyway.
Hours passed and eventually, we morphed into a larger group. I nursed a double shot of Irish whiskey that had been pressed into my hands and curled myself up on the couch. He didn’t move. Though there were people everywhere, my memory only has eyes for him. There was a photo taken and we exchanged a smile, unspoken words louder than any I could have thought to yell over the din of the bar in the room next door.
When the bar closed, people left to go back to their rooms one by one. When the last person closed the door, it was as if a vacuum sucked the air out of the room. The hair on my arms was alive and well, standing to attention.
And then, it was just he and I—no distractions, not even my phone.
I don’t have photos from that trip but I have the memory of his hands in my hair, of the taste on my lips of the last of my whiskey as I tossed it back, of talking until the sun came up, and of laughing too loudly as the sounds bounced off the walls of the rounding staircase as we rushed so that I didn’t miss my early morning flight.