I met her — I forget how — during a two week stay in San Juan. It was in the Candato neighborhood of hotels and casinos. I was staying in a little hotel called El Canario. I had a pleasant room with levered shutters. There were always these trade winds and the constant sound of the coqui frogs. I loved that little place. When one of the maids won a trip to Saint Thomas at a church social, she brought it to the hotel and the amiable anglo front desk clerk informed me that the maid had been to Saint Thomas many times and therefore had no need for such a trip, did I want the ticket? Yes, thank you. And that was a day trip to Charlotte Amalie, to be written of another time.
But the girl from Rio Pedros…well, this will be a simple sad story only because I recall only that I met her probably in one of the grander hotels, probably in the ground floor casino level — and she was very nice and had lived in Atlanta and maybe there had been a marriage that was no more. I think she might have been with friends. She invited me to come to her place for dinner, probably the next night.
And so one night in my little rented compact I set out for Rio Piedros, a San Juan suburb. I have no memory of her apartment building, though I was stone cold sober. There is some vague memory of a two-story complex with a stairway to a second level. This was in June, 1977. That night keeps coming back to me, because — well, it wasn’t like I had any romantic intentions. Did she? Did I, at least have the courtesy to arrive with perhaps flowers and a bottle of wine — or did I just show up? How did I, so often directions-challenged, even on familiar U.S. turf, find her place so easily, unfamiliar as I was with Puerto Rico? Somehow I just recall going up a ramp to join cars on an elevated highway — speeding Puerto Rican drivers all around me, but I was fine with it. I was feeling adventurous. I was 30.
I have memory of a dining room. Not of what we ate or anything we said or how long I stayed. and, of course, I don’t recall her name.
How is it that there was such a night, such a special invitation from a stranger? Does she remember me? My name? My face? For I see — so little, but remember only that gracious invitation, that pleasant woman who must have made me dinner. And then it was goodnight and goodbye — forever.
Forgive me for forgetting so much. I re-live what little I recall and wonder about you — the girl from Rio Piedros. I hope you are well.