I walked into a bar in Cartagena and there she was. Her warm, brown eyes; sultry and deep set, with the stare of a woman three times her age I remember thinking – for what seemed like an entire minute – no matter where I looked, she was still staring at me. She was like a perceptual processing illusion, only real. I tried to look away but couldn’t resist her gaze. My fascination with her beauty rendered me powerless, and my curiosity was already impolite. When she finally came over and asked me how I was doing I said excitedly, “The best I’ve ever been.” When she asked why, I said, “Because of you.” She eyed me intently, trembled a little, and then let out the biggest smile I’d ever seen. It was then I said, “What is your name?” Before she could even answer I said, “Please, please tell me your name?” She smirked again, this time, brighter and with a twinkle in her eye and said, “Paola.” I said, “Of course it is, what else would it have been?” It was at that moment I went adrift. I’m pretty sure we were still locking eyes, and I know I was breathing but I lost track of time. When I came back to I said, “How long was I gone?” She paused, looked me up then down and then laughed aloud. It was at this very moment I realized she thought I was cute. I felt the urge to say ‘the feelings mutual’ but quickly gathered I was having an internal dialogue. Thankfully, I hadn’t gone completely crazy; she hadn’t made me completely crazy… yet. While I had an overwhelming urge to keep my mouth shut I decided to fight through it. I looked her dead in the eyes and said, “I must see you again.” She responded most perfectly, “You haven’t left yet?” Keeping the playful yet impassioned joust afloat I responded, “After finding you, here, now, I have to leave just to see you again; to see if you’re actually real. Please tell me you’ll allow me to see you once more, this time at my wish?” “I don’t know, I don’t even know you,” she replied hesitantly. To which I retorted, “You can bring your mom, your brother, I don’t care if you bring the entire Colombian army I just want an opportunity to spend an afternoon with you. How’s lunch…tomorrow?” I didn’t say another word and just stared at her with the softest, most peaceful face I could muster. I wasn’t even acting; I was Jell-O in her gaze. She looked away for a moment of uncertainty, and shot right back into play, directly focused into my soul. Then she did it again. I couldn’t even tell if the second one was for dramatic effect or not. When she returned the second time she took a deep breath, exhaled and said, “…OK.” I said, “How about we meet at 1 PM in the plaza?” She said somewhat questioning herself, “OK.” I stood up, bowed to her divinity and said, “Goodbye.” Just as I was about to leave, she said, “That’s it, you’re leaving?” To which I replied, “Truthfully, do you really think I should stay after all that?” Staring me directly in the eyes and without even uttering a word her mouth crept out a smile in slow motion. By the time it reached full smile – I can only assume – I was already halfway out the door.
If there’s anything I know for sure, it’s to never overextend your welcome. That, and the Cartagenaian beauty named Paola will forever be the first thing I see whenever I open up a door…for the rest of my life.