The Right Choice
The sultry voice of the Mexican singer Lola Beltrán ripples through my mind. “Soy infeliz….” It’s the song that streamed through the restaurant’s sound system in Mexico where Daniel and I met
several times for dinner. I now play it continously to travel back in time to that week on Riviera Maya.
At times I feel silly, mopping over a man thousands of miles away who never voiced an interest in me. But, as the saying goes, the heart has its reasons which reason does not know. I’ll get over it
— eventually. But for now, I feel incomplete, like a puzzle missing a piece at its center. It’s just a blank piece without any relevant detail, but the empty spot is all the eyes can see.
We spent less than a week together, a month ago, but it seemed so much longer. I just got my PADI certification and set out to explore the Mexican waters. On the second diving day, while everyone
moved to the uncovered benches to perfect their tan and check their cell phones, I headed to the tray of oranges. I filled a small plate and set in the shade. A handsome man with luscious black
hair pulled back and dripping with salty water joined me and asked why I was sitting alone. I confessed my sun phobia.
In that initial casual chat, I learned he was an architect and lived in Buenos Aires. I noticed his eyes scanning me head to toe so I returned the favor. That’s the thing about being in the water,
everyone is exposed “au naturel.” But the view was not unpleasant. He had a beautifully sculpted chest with a few hairs competing for territory. The belly was timidly protruding which signals the
arrival of the forties but he was otherwise in great shape.
At each of the remaining dives, he kept me close to him. He tried to help me with buoyancy and reminded me not to use my arms. At some point, he stood in front of me and crossed my arms on my chest
so I’d stop swimming. He gestured to a fish as to say, “fish don’t have arms. Just use your fins.” After the dive he’d help me with the gear removal and sit next to me again. I felt both
protected and embarrassed. My legs were scrawny, my feet too big. My hair was curly and messy, and the face naked with freckles and all. I covered myself with a towel best I could but it’s no
use. All the imperfections were on display for all to see.
After each dive, we all came back to our bungalows to shower and change. Sometimes a few of us met for lunch; others went sight seeing; but we always had dinner as a group. I so hoped he’d
invite me to lunch or dinner without anyone else. It never happened. But every evening, he knocked at my door to accompany me to dinner with the rest of the group. He always set next to me. He only
glanced at the menu. When the waitress came, he addressed her in Spanish and often ordered a burrito with rice, beans, avocado, salsa, and a tray of sautéed vegetables. One evening, I decided to
inquire about his food choice.
“Are you vegetarian?”
“Nooo,” he says with a sarcastic glare and half a smile.
I almost apologized. From the look on his face, I violated some sacred diet labeling law. He then went on to explain that he was vegan and launched into a speech on how vegetarians were hypocrites;
they made it difficult for vegans to get food in restaurants without any animal products. Worse, he continued, there are countries where the word vegan does not exist in the vocabulary yet. In
Ukraine, for example, a vegetarian is someone who does not eat beef; In France, restaurants won’t even talk to someone who doesn’t indulge in the French cuisine. In Spain fish is served in vegan
restaurants. I did not need all that information but I found it fascinating how his dietary struggles span several countries. Maybe he was a vegan spy and architect was his cover.
I took special care to order only meatless meals. I remember a vegan slogan I saw somewhere on social media “Peace Begins in Your Plate.” Since he always sat next to me, I didn’t feel comfortable
chewing some dead animal under his gaze. Each time, I learned a little more about him, but he always avoided talking about anything personal. We talked about politics, art, history, our jobs, and
inevitably, the President of the United States. A subject I tried to divert from each time it came up but, like a car wreck, you avoid the accident but you’re still caught in traffic.
“So how’s that wall going?” he asks with a wink.
“Slow. Construction workers are unreliable.”
I immediately changed topics to get him to tell me more about his life — particularly his marital status.
“Is your family from Buenos Aires?”
“My grandfather is from Spain actually. My grandmother is Polish, she came here during World War II.”
“Your grandmother was Jewish?”
“Polish. Just as bad as far as the Nazis were concerned.”
He drifted into the history of Argentina during World War II and I was left guessing since I could not come up with an effective and discreet way to ask him. Particularly, since he never asked me
if I were single. Then there is the most blatant sign of indifference: he never asked for my email or phone number.
Every evening, he walked me back to my bungalow after dinner and we wished each other a good night. There wasn’t one hint of romance, but I definitely felt something as I watched him walk way. That
good feeling that makes the veinous system dilate and lets blood flow faster, generating a little heat as it travels. He had a light about him that drew me in and made me feel relaxed. His face was
soft and smooth; thick eyebrows accentuated wide green eyes filled with curiosity and playful sparks as he looked at me.
The more we interacted the more I was mesmerized by his elegance and his old world manners: he always opens the door to let me in first; he never sits before me; he keeps a close watch on me
underwater — I tend to stray from the other divers. When he enters a room, he takes all the space. He is not very tall, about six feet. When I stand next to him, I look a little taller with my 5’9
frame. He must be in his early forties. There are no wrinkles on his face. A few lines furrow his high forehead, giving him an intellectual stamp. I always found wrinkles sexy on a man. He has a
square jaw with high cheekbones. He wears mostly black, sometimes a white shirt or T-Shirt. Blue and purple also seem to be his favorites.
I keep revisiting every moment and every conversation we had. I keep reliving all the sensations he triggered in me. I miss his protective presence, his enchanting smile, and that uplifting feeling
when he put his hand on my shoulder or stood behind me to help me remove my diving gear.
Soy infeliz si porque tu no me quieres, piensas que yo he de morir
Que me sirvan otro trago cantinero yo los pago
Pa' calmar este sufrir
I should have gone to that last dinner, if only to say goodbye. But I couldn’t. It would’ve been too painful to have him shake my hand and say, “It was nice meeting you.” I wanted more. But he
never mentioned staying in touch, not even through social media. So to spare myself the harrowing experience of a silent rejection, I changed my flight and left Mexico right after the last dive of
the trip and tried to shelf my feelings.
My feminine intuition tells me he was interested. My clinical education, my counseling experience, tell me he has a secret and I am convinced it’s more than just another relationship. I have to
stop spinning before it turns into obsession. The first patient arrives in twenty minutes. I’d better get ready. I turn off the music and take another sip of tea — gone cold.
The phone rings. I recognize an international number, probably spam, I ignore it. It rings again with the same number. I decide to pick up, just in case a patient is traveling and calling from
overseas. It’s rare but it has happened.
“Hindsight Therapy, how may I help you?”
“May I speak to Dr. Seylor please?” says the voice with a light Spanish accent.
“This is Daniel from the scuba diving group. Do you remember?” I felt a pang and took a deep breath before answering.
“Yes of course. How are you? How did you get my number?”
“You told me you were a therapist so I googled you. I hope it’s all right that I’m calling. Google said there is only one beautiful therapist and scuba diver in the United States.”
“Haha, you want money or information?” I blush and scratch my neck.
“Information. I want to know if you find me irresistible like most women around the world do.”
“Is that what your mother told you?”
“That hurts. Let me wipe off the blood. I was calling because ….. “ he paused for what seemed like an hour.
“… I miss you. We had such a good time in Mexico. When is your next scuba trip?”
My heart flipped. I started to tremble. My neck keeps itching as it always does when I am nervous. So I grab a pen and hold it in my hand to stop scratching.
“It depends on how this COVID situation develops.”
“There is a solution now. Just get an injection of Ayudín.”
“What is Ayudín?”
“It’s a disinfectant. Your president’s recommendation.”
“I’m sorry the world had to hear that.”
“Hey, serves you right. You inflicted Madonna on us. As if the people of Argentina haven’t suffered enough.”
Before we hang up, he asks to do a Zoom session in the evening.
Hearing his voice now, miles away, brings back all those feelings of beatitude. I feel my body become lighter again. I go on with my usual schedule but my mind is still floating in the blue Mexican
I wrap up my work early and hurry home. I lost interest in the kickboxing class, although I probably hurt something last time I was there. My arm feels funny and I have been getting headaches.
I open the computer half an hour before our scheduled date and keep checking for a message with a Zoom link. As I wait in front of the screen, I can’t describe what I feel as butterflies — more
like birds flying everywhere under my skin. It’s a combination of fear and desire. Fear of sounding stupid or ridiculous when I talk to him. A PhD in clinical psychology is useless in a dating
setting with such a charismatic man. Yet, the desire to see him, hear his voice, and feel his eyes on me again, is too strong and keeps me glued in place.
That evening we connected over a computer screen. In his own environment, Daniel is poised and captivating. We talked for over an hour but again, nothing personal. He remained evasive whenever I
mentioned anything about family, background or even his friends. I tried to share more about my life, my love of kickboxing, and my friends, hoping it would trigger some reciprocity.
“Today I learned that one of my friends is expecting his first child.”
“Is that good or bad news?”
“They’re ecstatic and I get to babysit. I love babies, as long as they don’t call me mom.”
“Did you know that you could pacify a baby with sugar? If you don’t have a pacifier, you dip your finger in something sweet and let the baby suck on it.”
“How do you know so much about babies?” I ask surreptitiously.
“I watched a lecture with some scientist about how sugar stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain.”Once again, I hit a brick wall. We drifted back into more politics but this time we shared
jokes rather than the negative news floating about the American government.
He’s definitely hiding something. Maybe he’s in the middle of a divorce or a separation. It can’t be marriage, he’s talking to me late at night from his home. I will find out soon enough.
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