Sergio stands against the rail, grinning, as he leans back into the sky.
I snap his picture but I don't comment on how foolish he's being. The worn wooden railing he's leaning against is at least a hundred years old. I half-expect to hear it crack and watch him fall to his death, all the while wearing that stupid grin on his face.
I've been dating Sergio too long.
My parents divorced when I was young. After years of resentment, I've come to terms with the fact that sometimes relationships just don't work out. It's nobody's fault, they just don't.
We go to a French cafe for lunch. It's his idea to try as many restaurants as possible while we're in New Orleans.
"I want to experience America," he says with his heavy Spanish accent. Money isn't an issue for him.
Myself, I'm just a poor college student. Eating out is expensive. Sergio offers to pay my way, but I don't like the feel of that. I'm not so easily bought.
We spend the day walking through an old part of the city. We stop at some churches and historic buildings, the ones that are still standing after the floods.
"There's a soccer game tonight," Sergio says. "Let's have some dinner and see it."
It's always sports with Sergio. Sports and food. "How about a play?" We'd passed the theatre a few blocks back.
"There's a new Bruce Willis movie out...."
"No. A play. Something we can't see at every cinema in the country."
He shrugs. "Okay."
I've been in and out of relationships all my life. They never last. I just can't seem to stay with someone too long.
"Shall we have dinner first?" he asks.
Dinner. Another twenty dollars. My funds are starting to run low.
"Sure, but can we keep it simple?"
He looks at me, confused, but then nods his head. "Claro. Of course."
Sergio's a few years older than me. He's handsome enough but more than that, he's a gentleman. It was his old world charm that first attracted me.
That evening, we walk along the boulevard at dusk. He stops on a stone bridge to look out over the slow moving water. I pause and he steps closer to me.
"We need to keep going," I say. "The play starts in an hour."
Sergio looks disappointed. We've grown apart on this trip and it's probably my fault.
"Let's try to stop on the way back," I offer and immediately regret it.
Outside the restaurant, my phone rings. It's my father.
"Take it," Sergio says. "We have time."
I reject the call and drop the phone into my purse.
"I'll call him later."
At the restaurant, Sergio holds the door for me and pulls my chair out. It's the way he was raised, but I feel smothered. We have gumbo and po' boys for dinner. Sergio tries to start a conversation, but my enthusiasm is waning. The week's getting long.
We watch the play and truthfully, it's no better than one we could have seen anywhere. Sergio comments on how much he enjoyed it.
Afterward, we walk along the boulevard, back to our hotel. We stop at the old bridge overlooking the river. Sergio leans towards me, but doesn't kiss me. He holds my hand while we watch the water.
"It's been a nice week," I say. I don't want to ruin the last days of the trip. In truth, Sergio's one of the nicest men I've dated. I don't know why I don't feel closer to him. I don't know why I can't feel close to anyone.
"Yes, it has."
I've become numb, with just a twinge of desperation.
At the hotel, I see Sergio putting his things into his backpack.
He smiles kindly. "I know...I can see that this isn't working out for you...for us." His accent sounds thicker when he speaks softly like this. "I am sorry," he says. "You're a lovely girl."
I watch from the floor as Sergio picks up his backpack. "I'm heading back tonight." He hesitates. "You'll be alright?"
I feel relief. A deep satisfying relief. "Yes," I say. "I'll be fine."
He opens the door to leave and I suddenly feel uneasy. I start to say something, but I can't and then I see myself there at the door, holding him, clinging to him tightly, and I hear myself whispering, "Don't go. Please, don't go."
But door closes, and I'm still sitting on the floor, alone.
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