Koh Tao, Thailand
The last time I saw you, I was looking down from a balcony, Juliet to your Romeo.
“Good night,” you called out.
“Good night!” I called back, even though I knew it was really goodbye. You walked away through the palm trees, headed to the beach on which we’d met.
That day had been my first day underwater as a scuba diver, and so, by the time the sun was getting low and heavy on the horizon, I was already buzzing with energy and laughter. Our dive group celebrated at the local bar, migrating to the sand as bonfires were lit, drinking cold beers and watching paper lanterns fill the sky. It was around one of those fires that I first saw you, the light flickering shades of red across your face.
You were relaxed in a way the others weren’t, your limbs long and loose. As I dug my toes in the sand I tried to catch snippets of your conversation; I soon figured out you were speaking German, and I couldn’t have understood even if I wanted to. And yet, I kept looking your way, and you mine.
Bodies shifted, and soon we were beside each other.
“Valentin,” you offered, extending your hand. It took me aback. Today, after all, was the 14th of February. “My name,” you confirmed, “is Valentin.”
I liked who I was when I met you. I was a piece of string unraveled, ready to be shaped and coiled in whatever design the wind decided. If you had licked my skin it would have tasted of salt.
It was one of my first days on Koh Tao, and your last. I was at the beginning of a long adventure, and you at the end. Bookends, with a thousand stories between us. I learned whatever I could of yours, of your travels, of your ambitions, of your life as a tin roof designer in the Austrian alps. I couldn’t have invented you if I tried, you were that perfect.
The beer was going to our heads, so we decided to get some food. You took me far from the ocean, behind the tourist bars I had already gotten to know well in my few days on the island. A pipe had burst in the streets, and we took off our flip-flops and waded through the rushing river. The water pushed our feet in every direction, sometimes directing our bodies into each other. Neither of us minded.
The night led us back to the beach, where one by one the others trickled home. The two of us were left with the black sea and the black sky, a soundtrack of waves. I had to get up early the next morning, as I was diving again. You offered to walk me back to my hotel room, taking my hand in yours.
Every so often I think of these moments, stop and think about what happens on the road. That once, one Valentine’s Day, I took the hand of an Austrian roof designer under a Thai moon.
“This is me,” I pointed up to my room. We would never see each other again. You hugged me tight and fast.
“It was really nice to meet you,” you exhaled. You smelt of woodsmoke and spice, of the breezy life we had both grown to love. I could smell the whole of your adventure on your neck. When you turned to go I pulled you back to me, kissed you hard on the mouth. It was a short kiss. What more could it be?
I waved goodbye to you from that balcony, my Valentin, my accidental Valentine.
For Part One, click here.
For Part Two, click here.