It’s already 11:30am and I’m still in bed. Half of the day went by and the only thing I did was sleep. I feel I’m wasting time. But anyways, it’s Sunday and what is there to do in this town? I roll over to my side, pull the blankets over my head and close my eyes. It`s impossible to fall asleep again, because I`ve slept enough. Damn! The sun is coming in my room through the blinds and the sound of kids playing on the street is bothering me. It must be a beautiful day and here I am, going against the joy and excitement that comes with vacations.
I manage to drag myself out of bed, splash some cold water on my face and go to the kitchen to eat something. Breakfast is my favorite meal, especially at grandma`s house. She had made cake, cheese bread, cookies. And there`s always fresh coffee. After that, who knows what time I`ll have lunch. And who cares?
I have the tv remote in my hands when my cell phone rings. It`s one of my old school classmates. I hesitate about answering for a moment, because I don`t know what to expect from her and what excuse to give in case she has some boring or weird invitation. Finally, I force a smile, take a deep breath and pick up the phone. Leticia was always in a good mood, loved going out but also got in trouble sometimes.
“Hello?!” I say, still hesitating.
“Mari! Hi, how are you?”
“Long time, girl!”
“Yeah…” I don`t remember the last time I saw her, and honestly I don`t care.
“Listen, some of my friends are going to Dani`s grandpa`s ranch, to the waterfall, so I thought of calling you, you`re staying home alone all the time…”
“I don`t know…” It could be fun, but I smelled trouble in the air.
“Don`t worry, we`ll go in two cars. Just meet us in front of the elementary school in half an hour, ok? See ya’!” And with that she hangs up on me.
I think it`s nothing much, maybe I should put my worries on the side for a while, have some fun, see old friends again. Without thinking much I put some stuff in my backpack: bathing suit, towel, fruit, cookies, water; tell grandma and walk to the school. The town looks the same as it did on my childhood- the houses, the stores, the squares. But I don`t recognize most of the people, although they know exactly who I am.
I get to the school and everybody is already in the first car. Everybody but Gabriel, who is leaning against the second car. I never liked that guy. Actually, I had never talked to him. We were classmates for eight years. He always sat way on the back of the class and I sat on the first row. Eight years and I never noticed how cute he is.
“Mari, I`m glad you came!” Says Leticia, forcing me to take my eyes off his. “We were waiting for Julie, but she just called saying she is not coming. Our car is full, so you go with Gabriel, ok?” And off they go to the ranch.
I never know what to say in this kind of situation - when I don`t know a person well, when I`m left alone with this person, when I was taken with a sudden attraction for this person and to make it worse I haven`t had many conversations lately. I could have lost my voice and not noticed.
He gestures towards the car and I get in quickly, without a word. We don`t say anything for the next fifteen minutes. It was more than awkward when we heard a noise and the car started having problems.
“What was that?”
“Don`t know. We`ll have to stop and check.”
“It`ll help more if you don`t complain. I`ll check the engine, you pay attention, if someone comes, ask for help.”
“I`m not complaining. And honestly I don`t think someone is going to come in the middle of nowhere.”
Sometimes I hate myself. And now is a good example. Why do I have to be so stupid? Why scare all guys only because an idiot left me? An idiot that I loved so much… But I know I have to forget. I try to think about something to start a conversation, but nothing comes to my mind. It can`t be the car, because I know nothing about cars. And that`s when he saves me.
“What a progress for a school newspaper editor, uh? Working on Ella magazine. Congratulations!”
“It`s just an internship. I`ll graduate in the end of the year. How about you?”
“Engineering. I still have one year to go.”
And so we talk for hours, with him poking the engine and me sitting on the edge of the road, chattering like a fool. We talk and talk and we know almost everything about our lives when he says we can go. I didn`t notice he was done because I was so distracted taking mental notes about what he likes to do, about his family and the classes he hates.
Talking for the rest of the drive, I don`t even see time passing. I don`t notice the pastures, so green this time of the year, the cows, the water streams. We get to the waterfall and everybody is swimming, laughing out loud, and drinking beer. We are all surprised when I sit on a rock under the mango tree and he sits by my side and puts his hand on mine.
(From the book Qualquer dia desses, originally written in Portuguese.)