We sat mostly in silence during our 40-minute drive from Playa del Coco to Liberia. Don Luis had picked me up just two days before in the parking lot of a strip mall after I’d arrived from San Juan del Sur. I felt the heaviness of my eyes take hold before a car horn, or funny turn jolted me from a pending slumber. There was a somberness to my departure I hadn’t expected. I was saying goodbye to this little stretch of paradise but mostly I knew I’d never see this very kind old man again. “God bless you,” he said after hugging me goodbye.
How often do we consider how fleeting our exchanges with the people we meet and places we see truly are? That we may never cross paths with either again? I often think about an interview actor Brandon Lee gave while filming, The Crow. He said, “Because we do not know when we will die we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times – and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood? An afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it. Perhaps 4 or 5 times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.” Days later he was gone.
An hour later I was once again at the Costa Rican / Nicaraguan border. There were 4 of us in the shuttle this time: two Americans and two girls from Holland. No one uttered a word until there were questions about what nebulous fees we needed to pay, who needed to check our passports, and how long it would take to get to San Juan del Sur. They all soon discovered I’d made the trek before as I became the conditional expert on the matter. “Are you from Nicaragua?” one of the girls from Holland asked. “No,” I smiled. That’s a first, I thought.
Eventually we all hopped back in the car trading names, stories, and reasons for visiting Central America. The two girls were dropped off at a hostel not far from town as Matt and I continued on to the city center. “I’ll show you where I stayed two days ago,” I told him. Matt was proudly sporting a Texas Longhorns hat, and like me, not so subtly wheeling around a rolly bag on the crowded sidewalks of this popular beach town.
After a few brief pit stops he decided the hostel I’d suggested and a handful of others weren’t for him. “A good common area is really key to the social scene,” he told me. I admired his Goldilocks approach to finding just the right place to hang his hat.
Not long after we decided to grab lunch at a cafe called, Simon Says -- the type of place that would invariably be full of hipsters wearing ironic t-shirt if it were back in the states. We both ordered the same smoothie and salad as Matt told me about his work as an energy trader. He was kind, thoughtful, and very smart. I enjoyed our time together.
As we made our way out the restaurant I could see a school bus off in the distance. That's got to be my ride to Managua, I thought. "Hey Matt! Let me run and just see if that's me." I sprinted up the street with my bulky bag in tow. "Managua?!" I asked, out of breath. "Si," said the driver. I turned and could see Matt still casually making his way up the road.
"Hey Matt! This is me man! I gotta run." I mimed running my fingers across a keyboard, which I guess meant I'd email him. Looking back it must have looked like a drunken game of charades. Luckily, he got the point and waved goodbye as I boarded the bus.
A few seconds later I was gone.