Monday, January 20, 2014

A day at the beach

So I have this idea to go on this double-date with my sparring partner Michel and his girlfriend Mara. I ask Flora if she likes double dates.

“Not really,” she says. “I’m mean it’s kinda for little girls.” I spend the next hour poking her in the belly with her looking at me like, “What did I say?

After I convince Flora to come and a few conversations with Michel about what we should do, he finally tells us to meet them at the beach. Flora and I show up an hour late, in typical Brazilian fashion, and Michel greets me with a wide grin while pointing to the watch on his wrist. I smile and hang my head low in a bit of shame, but he touches my shoulder to tell me it’s alright and we make our way to the beach. 

There are two towels they’ve laid out for sitting and once we arrive, both Michel and Mara go through this meticulous process of brushing what seems to be every grain of sand off of them and go about organizing their belongings in neat, geometric shapes. I pull out my flimsy quick-dry towel that I bough from REI, but before I can set it down, Michel pats one side of the fabric he just cleaned and tells us to sit down. We do and go through formal introductions, and I’m suddenly struck by how good of a choice this was as one of the last things I do in Rio. 

Michel and I go into the water first. It’s freezing. It’s like going into a metal bathtub filled with ice cubes. Michel asks me if the water is cold and splashes some onto my face when I say “yes”. We talk about life, about what we plan to do in the future. He tells me once again about his plans to stay in Brazil for at least another year running the amateur circuit, gets a bit worried when he starts thinking about his professional career. Brazil doesn’t exactly have the most vibrant boxing scene. 

I try to give him my best advice about the career pitfalls most boxers find themselves in. I’m basically reciting all the Thomas Hauser articles that I’ve read over the last few years. I tell him that I’ve always flirted with the idea of getting into the business side of the sport, becoming an agent, a manager, financial planner for athletes, just some role that protects professional fighters since I know I’m never going to be one. 

“What about Brazil?” he asks.

“Well, I’m here for the next year, going to keep doing what I’m doing," I say. "After that, who knows.” He looks back at the beach towards Flora and Mara. 

“Flora, you like her, don’t you?” he says. I look back halfway nervously with these kind of juvenile day-dream sort of eyes. 

“Yeah, she’s pretty cool.” I say. “What about you and Mara? You plan to stay together?” 

“Yeah. I want to be with her for a long time.” 

It’s nice to hear him say that, reassuring even. I guess it helps to have someone as tough as Michel feel the same way when it came to matters of the heart. We’re kind of similar in this way, both just trying to live decently, and I suddenly really appreciate his company. I guess some part of me just enjoys spending time with someone I can call a friend, and when I think about it, Michel was one of the first friends I made when I came to Brazil. 

We go back to the girls and I immediately want to take a group picture. Call it corny or whatever, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a chance to have a time like this with a sparring partner. I ask this chubby guy sitting alone on the beach to snap a photo of us. I set the aperture and shutter speed right, and to his credit, he snapped a damn good photo.

He starts asking me some questions, about who I am, where I’m from, what languages I speak, but something about it felt very insincere, like he was going through formalities to get somewhere else. He keeps asking if Flora is my girlfriend, as in asks me three more times after I say "yes" the first time. He starts talking to Flora in such a way that leaves me immediately disinterested so I leave them to have a conversation. She comes back after five minutes and sits down next to me in the sand.

“I don’t really like that guy,” she says. “His intentions.” I already know what she means. 

“Yeah, he was weird,” I say, the curtest thing I can say amidst the brewing jealously. 

We watch him scowl in anger at some little kids kicking up sand as they run past his towel. He grabs one kid by the arm and starts saying something to him that I can’t decipher, but the way his face scrunches, I can tell it isn’t pleasant. The small black kid kinda stares at him not understanding what the problem is. I’m kinda giving him the same look. How the hell can you be angry at a little kid running on a beach? I guess you can really tell how a person decided to be during their youth by how they are in their age. How they treat children really shows those choices. 

Flora gets up to leave a few minutes later. She has an appointment with her sister and a friend to busk on the subway playing music, something she does about three times a week. The old man chases after her. He tries desperately for one last conversation.

“Oh you’re leaving?” he asks.

“Yeah I have to go play,” she says.

“Where do you live?” he follows. Flora kinda gives this look saying, "Well that wasn't a smooth transition". I'm giving him the same, just much more menacingly. 

“Dude, I live in Volta Redonda,” Flora fibs. She says it kindly, but also with a tone indicating the end of her patience. 

“Where do you play?” he continues, not picking up on the social cue.

“Man, I play all over the city. Bars, parties, different places, in fact, I have to go play now.” 

She gives a friendly wave and dashes off. He stands there looking defeated, almost embarrassed. I’m ready to rip his throat out but I give a polite smile instead. I recognize those words. It’s how I used to be five years ago when I would meet a pretty girl and had nothing to say. You try desperately to elongate a conversation that you don’t want to end, hoping that maybe they’ll offer some space for an invitation, a phone number, a clue to where they’ll be later, just some way to see that other person again, and when it doesn’t come, you just keep asking questions, senseless, asinine questions, because you figure, it’s better than nothing. For a moment, I actually feel bad for him. 

Flora tells me later about their conversation:

“He said he comes to Rio every year and I was telling him how nice it must be to be able to travel, to bring your family, or that feeling you have when you go back to them. ‘What family?’ he said to me. ‘My parents are gone and I never married, or had children. I've been alone for most of my life.’” She pauses for a moment and there’s this look of strain on her face. “People like that are desperate,” she tells me. “They’ll take anything, do anything. It’s kinda sad, to see someone like that.” 

I remember seeing him waddle away from a couple of slightly unattractive older women. It seemed like he managed to get a number or something from one of them and trots back with a look of delight. Putting together that memory with what Flora told, and it’s starting to make more sense.

Michel and Mara go for a run on the beach and I’m sitting on the beach really enjoying “Daytripper”, a great graphic novel about life, and I start thinking about the day, about the people I’ve met since I first arrived. Most people probably wouldn’t guess that Michel and I came to know each other by punching each other in the face, or that it’s what we do the majority of the time we spend together, but it would be ignorant to think that it hindered our friendship. If anything, it was the basis of it. To know someone in battle, by witnessing their vulnerability and their capacity to be kind to yours, you are able to see both their violence and compassion, an honest picture of who they are. He was my sparring partner, and when you think about the purpose of that role, it is that they are there to help prepare you for battle. They are a partner, in every sense of the word, to help you find victory. I guess to sum it up, I just really cared for the guy. 

Out of nowhere the fat guy starts talking to me again, interrupting my thoughts and my reading, and I’m beginning to become annoyed. We get into the basics again, what do I do, where do I live, a typical ice-breaker conversation, just once over since I have a suspicion he wasn't listening to anything I said the first time. I tell him I live in Centro, by Uruguaiana. I tell him this because I know that place is semi-dangerous for foreigners that look like him, in case he tries to drop by looking for Flora. I know it probably wasn’t the nicest thing to do, but when it comes to love, fuck that guy.

He asks me what I do. I tell him I’m a writer. He asks me what I write about, almost in a forceful manner. I think about it for a moment. 

“Well, I pretty much write about boxing,” I tell him.  

“Boxing,” he scrunches his face like he just ate his own shit. “I don’t like it. So violent. Sport of brutes.” I bite my tongue at the irony of some fat piece of shit who is trying to hit on someone’s girlfriend in front of the person calling a fighter, a “brute”. Or just his entire character, really, is just kinda offensive to me, and by no means holds the right to call anyone a “brute", let alone a fighter.

The most polite thing I can say is, “Yeah, it’s violent for people who don’t know anything about it.” His face has a slight look of insult. 

“Why do you like boxing?” he demands. "Huh? How can you like such a sport?" I think about how I should put it to him.

“Well, I guess it’s because of the relationships, the communities you build. I’m friends with my opponents. I have more respect for them after I fight them.” 

“Like punches of love?” he condescendingly jests.

“Actually,” I say, “that’s exactly what it is.” 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Training Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil

So I’ve been training Jiu-Jitsu here in Rio nearly everyday for the past 4 weeks and it’s been quite the experience. I should probably first outline my situation with Jiu-Jitsu before I arrived. I received my blue belt after about 6 months of training back in Seattle, a time where I trained anywhere from 6-7 days a week. This happened about three weeks before I left for Rio, and in that time, I also managed to injure both my wrists before my departure. Both wrists. Now that takes talent.

The injuries put me out of commission for nearly the entire time I’ve been here in Rio. Add in the fact that I have a growing suspicion that it is much harder to earn belts here in Brazil, and that the belts where I train do not have graduations - so a blue belt of two years and a blue belt of two weeks will look the same - and the situation spells disaster. 

I choose Gracie Humaitá and frequent the lunch class led by the renowned Rolker Gracie, a 7th degree black and red belt, one belt below the apocalyptic red belt. From what I've heard, there are only two red belts in the world. I first speak with this big hulking black belt and he asks me if I have any experience in Jiu-Jitsu. I tell him I'm a blue belt from Gracie Barra. He passes the information to Rolker who gives an immediate look of disgust.

"No man, he can't train here," I hear him say. "Gracie Barra is incorporated. These guys come in from other academies and want to train for a day and then they're gone. Forget that."

He passes the information back to me. I try explaining to him that Gracie Barra is my academy back in the US, but here it's located in Barra de Tijuca, a neighborhood about an hour from where I live. It's also a place that I've heard is like a glorified Miami, so I kinda never want to go there. He discusses this with Rolker and Rolker comes over to me to ask me two questions.

"What color is your kimono?” he asks.

"Blue," I say.

"It's not black?" 

"No, it's brand new blue kimono. No patches.” 

He gives this look as if he just swallowed some bad medicine, but whispers something into the black belt’s ear, and later they tell me to go change in the locker room. I walk past the mats and everyone throws me a curious stare. I wouldn’t say it’s aggressive, but suspicious, to say the least. 

So here I am, a foreigner, waltzing in with a blue belt from a rival academy, having not trained for 8 months, and everyone is staring at me like fresh meat as I walk by. This is awesome.

The black belt tells me to roll with him the second I get back from changing. I manage to only get subbed 4 times. He gives a look of approval to Rolker, and asks if I want to go again. I figure I have to prove my durability being the new guy so I say "yes". I roll with five other opponents and lose every single match. It's also 104ºF that day in Rio. I survive the day, but don’t come back for another two weeks due to a shoulder muscle I pulled during one of the matches, which makes me think that the gym is too rough. But something about the place eventually calls me back, and I show up two weeks later, greeted by the same black belt.

“Oh hey! I was wondering about you.” he says, "Where'd you go?" There's this friendly look of concern on his face. I tell him about the shoulder injury.

“Yeah, I was surprised you went that many rounds. You know you didn’t have to do that, right?” 

I’m kicking myself on the inside, but then think about all the things I did in lieu of training and quickly get over it. I suit up and get back to work. For the next week I’m getting my ass handed to me by literally everyone in the gym, down to the white belts. But after a few days of this repetition, people start treating me differently. They stop and start showing me what I’m doing wrong, how to defend, how to attack, how to survive a little longer. In Jiu-Jitsu, the seconds matter. If you can last a few seconds longer than the last time, that’s an accomplishment. In the end, it’s not really about winning or losing. Not losing as badly is good enough.

Jiu-Jitsu puts you in this strange state-of-mind where you are completely aware of your surroundings and the present moment, probably because if you aren't, you're ass is in some position that you didn't think was physically possible beforehand. You really learn about human anatomy, pressure points, the way joints are supposed to bend and the way they’re not. Half the time I still don't know what I'm doing, but my instincts have been getting better. My general approach is to prevent anything that the other guy wants. If he wants an arm, my neck, a leg, I just try and stop that from happening, unless of course he wants me to want it to be stopped, and before I know it my knee is being shoved into my face and the guy is using my own kimono to choke me out. That has to be the most embarrassing, having your own clothing choke you unconscious.

But now when I make a noise, either from getting the air pushed out of my stomach, or gasping through on my own saliva, my sparring partner will stop and ask if I’m hurt with a slight look of apology. It’s here that I realize that maybe my first class wasn’t about them being too rough, but more about me not tapping out soon enough. That’s all Jiu-Jitsu is about. Knowing when to give up and when to keep fighting. 

You got all types of people training at the dojo, of all sizes, all backgrounds, all faces. Some of them look like the fat slob at the local cantina or the sweet-looking grandfather with a house full of cats, but either one of them will straight break your arm off if you cross them wrong. One of the older black belts, who kinda reminds me of some hard-ass police veteran that looks like a British Bulldog, insists that I roll with him nearly everytime I see him, and always calls me “filho”. It’s funny, almost, to watch us spar. He doesn’t start in the traditional starting position where the fighter is with their back erect in a sitting position, rather he lays on his back with his head pedestaled on his hand, as if he's getting a lazy tan on the beach. I usually last about 30 seconds sparring with him, and it’s even gotten to the point where he doesn’t wait for me to tap, just catches the position, looks at me, and we start over. 

Over time though, I’ve gotten a little better and he’s applied a bit more force. One time, he has my head trapped between his calf and his thigh, and I could feel the pressure on my neck as he slowly closes the distance. It is a tight lock, but I could still breath, though barely. I use my hands to try and push out of the lock, struggling, squirming, gasping for air. I might be on the verge of losing consciousness, but I keep trying, hoping to escape, or at the very least, last a few more seconds. Finally, he just stops, lets me regain my composure and gives me this look. It’s a look of disappointment, as if I’ve once again answered incorrectly to a question I’ve seen so many times before.

Filho,” he says me, “Don’t go too far past your limits. If you know you’ve lost, there’s no shame in starting over.” 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Mormon girl at Amarelinho

I used to eat at this restaurant down the street from my place everyday called Amarelinho. It’s one of those classic places where you have the same workers that work the same shifts, the regulars sit in the same seats, and people generally kinda don’t give a fuck. I remember it once received 73 health code violations that was published in a national journal, but business didn’t falter a bit, well, at least it didn't stop me from going there.

Back when I frequented the Amarelinho, I used to always get my food to-go since I always liked to watch something with my meal and their ketchup was just really, really, horrible. But one day, for whatever reason, I decided to eat lunch inside the restaurant, and while nothing important really happened, it is a day I remember.

I get my typical, I mean literally, I get the same thing every time I go there: a salad of lettuce, beets, carrots, corn, raisins, avocado, quail eggs and mango doused with olive oil with a side of sweet potatoes and fried eggplant if they got it. I sit down and the waiter comes and asks for my drink order. Orange and carrot juice without sugar. The thing is, the word for carrot in Portuguese, “cenoura”, is frustratingly close to malpighia emarginata, otherwise known as “acerola”. I spend a good minute trying my best to accentuate the words so I get the right juice. As soon as the waiter leaves, I see a thin girl sitting across from me. She looks just like Krysten Ritter and I’m strangely attracted to abnormally skinny girls. Me and Flora aren’t dating at this time, but we’re talking, kinda. Technically, it wouldn’t have been outside of my bounds to make a move, but hesitate for a bit. After a few seconds of thinking I decide to try at a conversation, just to see, hypothetically, what would happen, and if I still had it.

She’s sitting there reading some piece of paper and the best line I can think of is “What are you reading?” 

“A dance schedule,” she says.

“Oh, you're a dancer?”

“Yup, classical ballet.”

I try to ask her if she’s seen the movie “Black Swan”, but falter on finding the word for “swan” in Portuguese. She finishes the title for me in perfect, fluent English.

“Woah, you speak English really well,” I say to her.

“Yeah, I noticed you were having trouble pronouncing the word “carrot”, so I figured you weren’t from here. I love carrot juice by the way. I was so happy to hear you order it.”

“Yeah, thank god for carrot juice,” I say. I immediately want to kick myself as the words leave my mouth.

“Where are you from?” she asks.

“The United States,” I say.

“I love the United States!” 


We get into a conversation about why she loves the US and why I love Brazil. It’s funny, we agree on everything that we like and don’t like about our respective home countries, but all the things we don’t like about the other are things we’re willing to put up with to be there. It’s like we should switch citizenships, right then and there. That or get married. 

“I LOVE the US,” she continues, “the people there are so friendly!”

“Really?” I say in sort of a surprise. “This is based on Americans you met here?” 

“No silly! I’ve been there. I’m going to Utah next year.”

“There are a lot of mormons in Utah,” I say. That’s about the only thing I know about the state, that and the Utah Jazz, but fuck John Stockton, and definitely fuck Karl Malone.

“I’m mormon!” she yelps.

“Oh my god, really?! High-five!” I say. Our palms touch above the center of the table.

“Oh my god! Are you mormon too?!”

“No, I just think it’s really funny that you are.”

The last sentence sits kinda awkwardly, but for some reason I don’t really care. I move on to something that I can’t remember and we eventually reach a point where it seems natural for the conversation to end. I look down at my watch and 45 minutes have passed. I see her pulling out her phone from her bag.

“We should stay in contact,” she says to me.

I think about it for a minute. I think about what I know and feel about Flora at that point, and the potential I feel in our friendship. I think about the course of exchanging contacts with a Krysten Ritter look-alike and having her number constantly staring me in the face from my phone, then me eventually giving in to sending a text, and what the following texts, or lack of texts, might bring. I pull out my business card instead. 

“Yeah totally. You can find my Facebook on the email here,” I say to her.

She looks at the card for a moment, then gives me a smile, pockets the business card, and rises to leave. I rise with her.

“It was really nice to meet you, Nick,” she says, while giving me the tiniest perfection of hugs. 

“You too, Julia.”

I never heard from Julia again, and given the way things turned out a few months later, I’m really glad I haven’t. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A story.

So I'm part of this church, right, or well more like a religion, called Santo Daime. I'm not going to get into the particulars of everything, but basically we take ayahuasca together and sing and dance and learn about life. A religion that takes a hallucinogenic tea as their service? Yeah...that's probably the only way I'd join a religion.

In any case, the realizations are profound, faintly captured by the "Notes from my # trip" posts that I write every so often. I think the biggest realization for me was understanding how you can eventually see someone you once disliked in a different way if you give it enough time and effort. I guess you could say that it makes you respect life more, that everyone here is just trying to make it to the other side, and what we might see in them as distasteful, is just a part of their own battle, a morsel of their entirety.

There's this guy there that I never really liked. I don't know why. Something about his face, about his dress, just rubbed me the wrong way. His outfit was always a bit shabby, and he'd have these strange outbursts of anger at other members. It seemed like nobody really liked him and I used to scowl behind his back during the ceremonies. My friend George once told me about a time when he hitched a ride in a taxi and didn't pay his share of the fare, even though he said he would. I spent the next two days thinking about what I would have said to him had I been there, but never had to courage to tell him so when I saw him later face to face.

This last trip something changed, I think it was because he smiled at me and I guess you could say I saw a humanity in that smile. At the break, he came up and hugged me, and I told him later that I had wanted to hug him the entire time, so I was grateful that he met me half way. We sat down together outside and he began telling me a story. He spoke English pretty well, more fluent than most Brazilians, but not exactly perfect. Either way, it was easy to understand.  

"There was this guy I know, he was Japanese."

He pulled his eyes back so I could understand, the international indicator of "Asian". I sat there and nodded, letting the cultural faux-pax pass by.

"I don't have many friends," he said, "but he, he was my friend."

He gave a long pause after that last sentence. At first I thought that was the whole story, and I remember thinking, "That's a damn good story", but he kept talking.

"One time, we eat somewhere. I forgot...forget? I never tell the difference between the two, forgot, forget."

He looked at me for confirmation. I run the two words through my head and tell him either one works, but the more important thing is that I get what he's saying, grammar aside. He nodded and continued.

"I forgot what we eat and what we talk about, but I never forgot that moment." He paused for a moment to reflect, then continued. "To have a friend, spend time with you, speak to you, and listen, that is, a blessing."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Notes from my 22nd trip

What a blessing it is, to be conscious, while still in your prime.

It is a gift, a privilege, really, to see someone you once disliked, in a moment of weakness, and in determination.

Love is a very graceful teacher, as long as you are willing to listen.

This is going to be a rough trip.

When you think about it, politics are just a giant social experiment. At the same time, it's kinda okay, human beings are some tough sons-of-bitches.

It's the moment you realise that all the past relationships you've had were sparring partners, training you, for the big fight.

                Zoë, you're an earth lizard.

Shopping is a lot like fishing.

We are all just looking for partners, to help us make it thru.

I think the problem people have w/ relationships is that they treat them like clothing accessories. Something to have, something to hang, something to discard. But a relationship is living, breathing, beating, growing, til the very end. It is alive, always, and must be looked after w/ care + caution.

Sometimes I wonder if abbreviations are pacts that words make w/ death
Half way in, half way out.

I'm returning to Seattle b/c my talons need sharpening.

That's one thing that I trust about Flora. She does what she feels.

Desireé you have a young spirit trying to break thru. She's never played before. 
Let her play.

Yo Peace is such a character. We built friendships off hating that guy.

                     George, you've seen a lot w/ me.

We are all just trying to understand each other.

Broken messages are like broken arrows.

I finally understand the word "oss"

Marcella, we're basically in a relationship. You bit before I was wise enough to know better.

All writers should do Daime.

Being a warrior is such a strange path.

You have to be reminded of your shame every so often.

When I decide to take a story, it is a relationship. Accept or don't accept, from the beginning.

Of course I'd be w/ someone like Flora. She loves people, the exact opposite of me.

Allowing someone into you Facebook is like letting someone into your basement.

To give a present back is a present in itself.

When I've really learned in Brazil, is how to be together.

I wonder what it feels like, accepting a match, knowing full well that you will lose.

To be someone's son, wow. What an experience!

It's hard to communicate to each other sober. I guess that's what makes my relationship w/ Flora special.

It makes perfect sense that I am a writer, and I take pictures.

I can already see my last night in Seattle. I need to get really drunk and say important things to people.

Brazil has the best people. Period.

When you're in a real relationship w/ someone. You see them trying, you really do.

I straight put on my kimono + explained every part of it to Flora, today.

Muhammad Ali's legacy will always be tarnished by the way he treated Joe Frazier. He knows. He felt it when Frazier passed.

Paia, you will always be the example as to why we must continue to believe in people.

I'm just a fragment in Flora's experience, like I have absolutely no idea what she's doing right now.

If someone could write about me, when I'm dead, that would be great.

When you see two people in love, you really want them to make it.

George, we just spoke about you. Your friendship was a gift.

A big part of living is learning how to accept that you are a good person.

Mauricio, Junior.

To buy things we need to live, we use paper for that. Think about it.

Yo I was a telemarketer for a period of my life. I will never live that down.

I see now that all my friendships, even the ones that were difficult, were all to teach me how to respect life.

I'm just trying to live a life worth telling.

It's funny, but when you're angry, you tend to exaggerate things.

It's amazing how much compliment we can feel from another person.

                   Brazil is really about redeeming yourself.

All the rich billionaires, the one thing they have in common is that they reached a point where life turned into something to gamble. Kinda psychopathic when you think about it.

Jessica Baeza. I was in love w/ you for like four months. I remember I chased down a bus for at least a mile because it had your name on it.

Live your life...honestly. That's the simplest path there is.

What if your greatest life accomplishment was that you were that one guy that left an awesome comment on YouTube. Like, you got it, and there you existed for eternity. I guess that would be a pretty satisfactory life.

I love you, Flora. That's it. That's the only way I can express my gratitude for this crazy, insane fucking universe you've given me.

Now this makes sense. The first character I chose when I first played 'Street Fighter II' was Blanka.

I know I'm not the only person who thought, "WTF?" when they first played 'Street Fighter I'.

I remember playing "Great Balls of Fire" for my choir class in 1st grade. It even earned an encore. I was like this little Asian kid playing the shit out of a piano. Of course it had to be that way.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A New Years kiss

Five years ago for New Years, I stood around in a circle with friends at an overpriced club in Seattle, sulking, because I had no one to kiss. I remember a friend of mine saw the look on my face and said something like, "Yay! Happy New Years!" I don't know if she was trying to mock me or make me feel better. The next year I went to a semi-classy bar and made out with five random girls in the course of two hours. I felt pretty cool that night, though in the way that it mattered, I still felt very alone. The year after I went to the same bar with the same intentions, but ended up only kissing one girl, though because it was created out of a completely spontaneous interaction, I still felt pretty cool. I went on two dates with her but in the end there was nothing there. Last year I spent talking on the phone near some outhouses at a Steve Aoki concert in Atlantic city making kissy-noises through the phone to my then girlfriend in Seattle. That time I was surrounded by potential spontaneous interactions, but the one person I wanted to kiss, wasn't there. 

This year in Brazil, I spent in Volta Redonda, a small town about two hours outside of Rio, the city where Flora grew up. We arrive the night before, but get in at such an hour that we spend most of the next day resting, or at least I do, with her going between wiping the sweat off my brow as I sleep and her talking with her father. I keep waking up, making motions that I'm ready to get up and do something before the sun passes, but she places her hand on my chest and pushes me back down onto the bed. Tells me that she knows I'm still too tired, and that's okay. We can go when I'm ready. I guess that's one thing I really love about Flora: she insists that I be who I am, as if it were enough.

By the time I do get up, she wants to take me on a tour of her city. I look outside the window and it's already dark. I look at the clock that reads half-past nine. I ask her if we'll still have time to make it to her grandparent's house before midnight. She shrugs her shoulders and says, "I'm sure it's fine." 

I stand by the door, not exactly sure how we're going to do this tour, but my feet are equipped for any method she has planned. She comes by with a bicycle in hand.

"We're going by bike?" I ask.

"In Volta Redonda, we go everywhere by bike," she says. 

We ride down streets that remind me of places I've been before. This corner reminds me of where my mother grew up in Taiwan, that one was where I used to catch the bus in Bogotá, the scent of some food vendors reminds me of where I used to eat every night in Tegucigalpa. It's all coming back to me in sensations and it is then I realized that these moments are happening faster than I can capture them with words. I guess the best I can do is live the moment, hope that maybe something will come back to me when I'm sitting in front of a computer screen one day.

Flora rides ahead of me and tells me stories of her childhood. The building where she played her first show, the apartment complex where an ex-boyfriend once lived, the street where a good friend used to frequent, until she passed away a few years back. It's a quaint town, takes maybe 30 mins to go around the entire place by car. Its origins trace back to the iron factory, and the workers' needs of alimentation and shelter spawned it into the city it is today. It isn't a big city, maybe 200,000 people, about the size of Anchorage at the time when I grew up. I tell her later that I base the number of my hometown completely off of a statistic I read when I was about 8 years old. I tell her I've never fact checked that since. She laughs and tells me I probably should.

We pull up to this fountain sitting outside of what seems to be a nice upscale hotel. She gets off her bike and stares past the water into the skyline.

"I think I'm going in," she tells me. I look around trying to figure out where she's talking about. 

"Going where? The fountain?" I ask.

"Yeah. Are you coming?" she says.

I think about it for a minute and shrug my shoulders. "Sure," I say.

I'm thinking that there's going to be this uber dramatic kiss as we meet in the middle of the fountain, and if fate plays out like the movies, fireworks will set off early and we'll be surrounded by an orchestra of bursting green and yellow lights as our lips touch. But I forget to take off my glasses and the water pressure is extra strong, so I'm blinded the moment I step in and I spend most of the time worried that the water will blast off my testicles. All I'm seeing and feeling is white streams of water spraying into my nostrils and I'm wading my hands around looking for a body to hold. From the outset I probably look like a drenched zombie that read a lot when he was still human, and I stumble in that manner towards the middle looking for flesh. But Flora left a good twenty-seconds beforehand and when I finally give up and step out soaked, she's standing there, looking at me with one crooked eyebrow as if to say, "What the hell are you doing?

I'm feeling a bit silly as we ride the bikes back home, but nobody knew what I was thinking so it's a little less embarrassing. We continue riding down the street and she stops, pulls her bike close to mine and looks at me, in that way. I kinda give this dopey look, like the one character in the horror film that still hasn't figured out the plot. I feel like I'm frozen in time, staring into nothing. She plants a wet kiss onto my lips and smiles. 

"You're crazy for going into that fountain," she says. I give her this look of surprise, half-way accusing her of hypocrisy.

"Me? It was your idea," I say. "Who's the crazier one? The one with the idea, or the one that follows?" 

"Honestly," she says, "the one that follows."