To say that I wouldn’t have fucked her under the right circumstances would have been a complete lie, though it’s certainly not beside the point. The first five minutes of our conversation shown a sense of humor so dark and lovely that it actually made me uncomfortable; I almost sobered up when she said “yeah, I can think of several easier ways to kill them. Here, let me write them down for you.” She was from Spain originally, and went to school for biology at Johns Hopkins, but she wasn’t annoying about it at all. Even though I couldn’t get a direct lead on her family background, I was comfortable talking to her in a way that typically unfolds between two kids who grew up in ghettos and ran away to a succession of private colleges and juxtaposing disenchantments. Now she worked in ecology. She was doing research in Costa Rica but traveling around Latin America whenever she had time off. That’s how I met Paola and her friend at The Snug in Antigua. It was cozy. The name of the bar was fitting, since you were essentially touching whoever you spoke to, which, especially in this context, I didn’t mind. I had already done the mental calculations of me and Paola’s life together: the one story house in Manuel Antonio with three baby goats, like one pig, three dogs and a little plot out front for the lazy ass kids to work the land. And while I couldn’t figure out if she was interested, her friend clearly was. Fucking dilemmas. The friend, whose name I now can’t remember was taller, and thinner, and direct. As soon as Paola went to the bathroom, her friend slid up right next to me like she didn’t see nothing wrong with a little bump and grind. Then as other people squeezed past us into the bathroom, she got beside me and put her arm around my waist. To be clear, she wasn’t making me uncomfortable, and she was definitely cute as hell, and I was drunk, and lonely. Conditions were tilted towards certain probabilities. But. She was just boring. Like super regular. Not a bad person or anything, just super regular. That didn’t matter for long though, because when she noticed how I looked at her friend returning from the bathroom, she hit me with a chuckle and a long “oh,” before moving her arm from around me and leaning on a stool.
Her friend Paola never made it back over to us though because she was stopped by two guys in the opposite corner of The Snug. Two became three, and then four. She had her foot up against the wall near the bar and some of the men were about half an arm’s length away from her. They were smiling and laughing; she was smiling and laughing, but from where I was, and having just met her, I couldn’t tell if hers was the fake safety smile and laugh or something genuine. So I asked her friend.
“I feel like we should–”
“No, no, don’t worry about her, she’s fine,” her friend said. “That girl can really fucking handle herself.”
So I said okay and just got another beer for me and the friend. Paola’s friend was being genuine and didn’t think it would be appropriate to say anything or break it up, so she and I kept chatting, mostly making the kind of beautiful political jokes about American hypocrisy and elitism you can only get from people who’ve never lived there. I was anxious though and I kept looking over at Paola, but each time I was told to just stop worrying about her. And maybe I should have. And maybe–and this is the part that made me feel kind of sticky–maybe I was worried about intervening so much because there might have been something physical in it for me. Clearly, my interrupting the situation would have appeared to be out of some degrading sense of jealousy, especially after Paola’s friend who knew her far better than I, assured me she was okay. I might have just been another dickhead getting violent over a woman I barely even knew because of how I might want to use her body, her potential to be my property rather than someone else’s. Admitting that to myself, I suppose, accepting that my motivation for doing something uncomfortable–though very often necessary, might be shit–wasn’t as hard as I thought. Since my motivation was probably trash I decided I would just trust her friend, and so we laughed and joked over a few more drinks.
Still, the guys huddled around Paola seemed to me, to be getting a little more excited. Her friend caught me watching them again and side-eyed me for it, but I couldn’t help considering that for the past few nights the women who worked at The Snug had asked me to stay around after closing for safety reasons, citing instances of men waiting to harass them after things shut down. But, again, homegirl kept saying, “she’s fine, and grown and will get out if she wants to.”
But she looked uncomfortable. And the situation only seemed to be growing more tense. I was frustrated. There were a few reaches from the men and a hand or two slapped away, a hug averted, a kiss dodged. It started to make me angry. I tried to suppress it. One of the men clenched Paola’s bicep and she shrugged him off and leaned back against the wall calmly. At some point though, my anger began to overshadow any attraction I previously had to her. It was more akin to the kind of anger I felt whenever my mother was grabbed by her arm and thrown to the ground, in that kind of casual manner orchestrated by men who clearly do it all the time. I looked at Paola’s friend and she just shrugged. So I turned to the table behind us and put down my drink. When I turned around though, Paola was already walking towards us, being trailed by three of the men.
“Hey, you guys want to go somewhere else?” She suggested. She was telling us more than asking.
The men were still standing behind her, and up close I could see how small they were, which, unfortunately, emboldened me a little more. Paola never turned to look at them and when I asked if they needed something they pointed to her. Her friend shoved one of the men’s pointer fingers away and told them we were leaving before ushering me and Paola out the door. I felt guilt though before going and tried to ask one of the bartenders if she still wanted me to stay, but she said she was fine. I don’t know how many times I tried to verify this, since I was officially no longer sober. The men followed us all the way to the door and one of them blew a kiss as we walked down the street away from them. I was still angry, but also mollified by the liquor and I considered that a physical confrontation, no matter how much I wanted one and whether I’d won the fight or not, would probably not have been in anyone’s best interest. And my doing so might have had little to do with Paola anyway.
Me, Paola and her friend spent the rest of the night at this rooftop bar that was kind of cute but empty, just talking shit about the dudes and the United States until every drop of my meager Spanish, and the pool of both their academic English ran dry. I walked them back to where they were staying and I must have looked dumb sauced because they offered to let me sleep there, but I wanted to be alone. I never got to ask the kinds of questions I wanted to ask back then, and I never saw either one of them again. Back in my hostel that night, I considered calling my mother, but I thought better of it, and read some of “Bluets” instead, before passing out completely.