Excitedly eating my second breakfast of the day at the bus station in San Jose, I alternated bites of food with turning the pages of the novel I didn’t want to stop reading. I was staving off the inevitable hunger that would come during the four and a half hour bus ride back to Puerto Viejo by eating, what I like to refer to as, second breakfast two hours after first breakfast. Knowing that I am an insufferable bitch when I’m overly hungry (I even annoy myself), I figured I ought to be stuffed before ascending the bus for the scenic ride back to my little corner of the Caribbean.
I had ordered the ubiquitous gallo pinto with eggs. Gallo pinto is a traditional Costa Rican dish comprised of rice and beans. Literally translated as spotted rooster because of the speckled effect it lends before delicious consumption. I giggled out loud at a line from my book and, not meaning to, attracted the attention of a man sitting in the booth across the way. He asked me what I was reading. I pretended to not hear him as I find a lot of men here are after one thing with blond gringas and we all know what that one thing is.
He asked me again louder in a bit of a southern drawl. I had pegged him for a local but he was definitely an American with that accent. I hesitantly looked up from my book, “It’s about three sisters who all return to their small hometown in Ohio to take care of their mother who is diagnosed with cancer.” His eyes were a dull, watery blue, as if he has seen too much in this world and perhaps disappointment had dimmed what once may have been bright. I would venture to say he was in his sixties, the same age bracket as my parents, ie: way too old to be making suggestive comments to me which I sensed the conversation was headed.
“I thought you were gonna say the book was about you,” he said as he took a sip of his coffee.
“Uhh, no. It’s not about me,” I half snorted half laughed as I said this. Wow, nice pickup line, I thought to myself. I am often struck between wanting to make connections with people here but also wanting to trust that that connection is something platonic. All spider senses pointed to the opposite direction of platonic with this fellow.
Without my inviting him to do so, he dove into telling me why he was here, like an overenthusiastic child excited about the prospect of opening a door into a room full of candy. “You see, I’m retired and I’ve moved down here to find a wife or a lady friend. But the problem is, it’s hard to find a woman who speaks English. I’m so surprised you speak English! I thought you were from here. My god, you have beautiful eyes.”
Jesus, I was in a bus station and all I wanted to do was finish my gallo pinto and read my attention grabbing novel. Now I had to ward off advances from a very clearly desperate and lonely man who came all the way down here to find a wife or a lady friend. He wasn’t seedy or sketchy, like some guys I’ve met here, he was just lonely, it was palpable. However, he was definitely optimistic. I suggested that he try to learn Spanish and he told me he knew a little bit. I wanted to say out loud but refrained, that it would behoove him to learn Spanish at a rapid pace if he was looking to live out his retirement with a woman from here.
Then of course, the question that every man asks here who’s looking for something, anything with a gringa. “Do you have a husband?”
“Do you have a boyfriend.”
I hate lying but sometimes it’s necessary, “Yes, I do.” But that didn’t stop him.
“Look, I’d like to give you my phone number and maybe we can get together sometime.”
“Oh, I don’t live here,” I told him, “and I’m probably never coming back this way again.” Second lie. What, in our conversation, made the idea in him transpire that I would call him if he gave me his number? I knew he meant no harm, you had to give him kudos for trying, but a man that forward about his expeditions is clearly looking for something that I am not. I wanted to tell him that by exuding a desperate vibe, such as he was, he was more likely to push women away by being too forward about what he was looking for. However, he had thirty years on me and perhaps hadn’t found love yet and felt as though time was running out. I did fear his asking me to marry him though, if I stuck around the cafe for much longer.
“You don’t live here?”
Somehow the fact that we were at a bus station and I was sitting at the booth with my backpack didn’t convey to him the fact that perhaps I didn’t live there. Especially note the fact that I had told him I taught English in Puerto Viejo earlier in the conversation. It must have simply flown over his head like fumes flying out of a rumbling bus. His optimism got the better of him, perhaps.
I stood up to pay my bill at the counter explaining to him that I needed to catch my bus, which hadn’t arrived yet but I figured I could make myself scarce in a different area of the bus station. “It was nice meeting you, good luck with everything.” I walked over and shook his hand. I silently and sincerely wished him good luck in his wife and lady friend endeavors. I hoped he would find what he came here seeking. I hoped he would find someone to love. One less lonely person on the planet can’t be a bad thing.