I’m not the bravest girl in the world.
YES, I am traveling alone, and YES, that is brave. But, I am not brave.
For instance, I will NEVER jump out of an airplane. OK. Maybe not NEVER, but not any time soon.
I will NEVER bungee jump. NEVER.
And, up until the billiard hall’s grand opening party (Alfonso’s dad owns it), I never, ever imagined I would ever ride on a two-wheel motorized vehicle.
That’s how un-brave I am.
It’s a good thing I am flexible.
Alfonso and I sat at a little table beyond the purple walls of the pool hall, catching up on life and … speaking Spanish.
“You speak Spanish with me,” he had directed. I had no choice but to comply, especially since I had sworn by the time I returned in October I would be bi-lingual. A tall order for someone who speaks some seriously janky Espanol.
For an hour, we sat at that little table, sipping on drinks and speaking Spanish. Well, mostly it was me crinkling my nose and shaking my head at the sentences I was attempting to put together and Alfonso politely correcting me and guiding me through the bumps along the way.
And, then it was 9 p.m. Both of us had been up all day — no siesta when you go straight from work to a fiesta — and needed a quick break. I had no idea where we were, all I knew was the gorgeous Roman bridge spanning Rio Guadiana that I walked numerous times each day while in Merida was absolutely nowhere near us. And, Maria’s car was in Cacares being fixed. And, I really didn’t want to take a cab.
“You ride with me,” Alfonso offered. “I will take you to Maria’s.”
“Great,” I said, feeling the effects of the alcohol starting to kick in a little. I was about four or five tall skinny glasses of beer into the night and needed to sleep and eat in whichever order came first.
“Oh, but I don’t have a helmet for you,” he said.
“I need a helmet?”
“Yes, in Merida you have to wear a helmet when riding on a motor bike or the police stop you …”
The word “nevermind” was about to come out of my mouth when it hit me.
D. It’s a motor bike. Not an airplane you are jumping out of. You are in Merida. Spain. On an adventure. You know Alfonso. You trust Alfonso. And, you have just enough beer in you to wave off your initial un-brave feelings and just do it.
“OK,” I said, excitement growing, “let’s go.”
We walked outside to his bike.
Two wheels. Handlebars. Seat. Oh. My. God.
“Stay here,” he said, walking back into the bar for a moment.
This was my chance. I could say no. Get a cab. But then, what kind of story would that be? Oh yes, children, the time I almost rode a motor bike but didn’t because I was feeling a little bit like a chicken. Um, no.
Alfonso emerged with a helmet for me and climbed on his bike.
I stood there. Staring.
“Get on, D,” he said.
And, then, I did, checking my fear (most of it) on the curb.
He kicked the foot rests down for me, I grabbed onto him for dear life.
“Please, please, please go slow,” I begged.
“Si, of course,” he said, engine running.
And then, we were off. Riding around the small Merida roads.
And it was amazing.
As if in a movie, I imagined what I would look like on the bike, hair whipping around in the wind, smile wide across my face, arms out like a bird’s wings with some good music playing in the background.
But, this wasn’t the movie version of my life. My hair was tucked into the helmet which covered my entire face. My hands, every now and then, would clutch Alfonso’s shoulders when I got scared (like taking turns and speed bumps), but there was still that smile, wide across my face.
We rode by the Roman aqueduct. Over the auto bridge crossing Rio Guadiana. Down the roads I had walked all week.
I loved it. I loved how freeing it felt to be so close to everything, able to touch and smell and see the city from a completely different vantage point.
“Why aren’t you talking?” Alfonso asked.
Oh, right. Talking. I was too busy being caught up in the moment I was having on a motor bike to even think to talk.
By the time we had arrived at Maria’s, my grip had loosened (I even managed to pry my arms off of him and put them at my side in a sudden burst of bravery) and I was actually sad the ride was over.
I got off the motor bike, said goodbye to Alfonso and ran up the stairs to Maria’s, a brave new girl.