Over the next 22 hours, while Andy didn’t exactly flirt, he made sure to give me as much of his attention as possible while still remaining professional. This was a very wise move. If he had abandoned his duties to flirt with me I wouldn’t have taken him very seriously. If he had cornered me and pressed the issue, pressed the obvious and mutual attraction, I likely would have assumed that he behaved this way with all sorts of different women he encountered on tours and that I was just one convenience among many. He didn’t do this.
Instead of finding reasons to show off, he found reasons to talk to me (though he did climb a coconut palm with his own bare feet and hands to get me a young coconut). I was aware that he was aware of my location at every minute. I was aware of him watching me out of the corner of his eye— because I was watching him out of the corner of mine. Having this unexpected sexual attraction in a forbidden context (we were both working) was excruciatingly delicious. Because we were complete strangers who knew nothing about one another— had no reasons or explanations for the chemistry between us— the desire to find one another alone was even stronger, amplified by the impossibility of finding each other alone. We had questions and we had urges. We wanted both of them answered and while the situation was sexually charged there was no rush. There was no hurry. We both knew that it— whatever IT was— was going to happen.
The next morning I woke up in a hammock on the mezzanine level above the kitchen and watched the sunrise over the Caribbean. I let my mind wander to last night. The group had gone to bed early and those of us living on the farm had gathered ourselves back at the volunteer quarters to unwind and socialize after a busy evening of entertaining our guests . . . Had he look for me? Had he wanted to look for me? Did he lie awake thinking of me? Which room was he in . . .
I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about him all night and I was certain he’d spent the evening thinking about me too. I’d secretly been hoping that he’d seek me out, find me in his off-duty hours. To do what? I don’t know. But there was something magnetic about being in his presence. The air was full of cravings and potential and I wanted to be in his presence if only to have the chance to articulate it all.
Below me, someone walked up to the kitchen. I smiled as I peered over the railing. Speak of the devil.
He stood with his hands on his hips, looking for something. Butterflies swelled in my stomach at the thought that he might be looking for me. I watched him for a few moments, quietly smoothing my hair into place, wishing I had a mirror or a toothbrush or a razor within reach. Damn hippie commune.
God, he looked good in the morning.
His eyes were still a little sleepy and his hair was a gorgeous sunrise red— red, orange and blonde all at the same time— set off against his smooth, tanned neck and it was almost too much. I wanted to rest my hand there, at the back of his neck, while my fingers played in his hair. He was wearing a black tank top, dark green board shorts, and muscles. Lots and lots of muscles.
I stretched, pretending that I had just woken up instead of daydreaming about him for the last 20 minutes.
“Good morning,” I called down, as if I always wake up chipper and blissful.
“Morning!” He called up, smiling. “Did you sleep in that hammock all night?”
I twisted around to step out of the hammock. Ouch. My back. I paused for a second, letting the blood return to my legs. I sure as hell did sleep in that hammock all night— and I’d never make that mistake again.
“Yep.” I answered, like sleeping in a hammock was no big deal.
“That must have been a very uncomfortable night’s sleep!”
“Oh . . . No. Not at all. I love sleeping in hammocks.” I stumbled a bit as I put weight on my numb foot.
“ . . . Well. I was going to make some coffee.”
“Hold on, I’ll help you.”
I walked down the stairs to the kitchen and went into the pantry. I tried to control my breathing. Yes! This is perfect. Nobody else is going to be up for at least an hour. He can watch me make breakfast. He’ll fall in love with my witty observations and the way I cut fruit. He’ll want me to cut fruit for him for the rest of his life! He’ll take me home to his mother and say “Mama! You won’t believe how this woman cuts fruit!” By the time breakfast is served he’ll be begging me to run away with him. My body flushed in several places as he wordlessly followed me into the dark pantry.
I dug around for the coffee, pretending not to know exactly where it was, buying us more time. Alone. In the dark. He was standing behind me. Hands on his hips. I waited for the sensation of his hand on my back, his breath next to my ear, a breathless confession. I waited.
And I waited.
Apparently this wasn’t how it was going to happen.
Disappointed and unable to deny where the coffee was any longer, I “found” it and led the way back into the kitchen. While I had been busy searching for the coffee the actual professor/chaperone for the trip and two sleepy college boys had wandered up to the kitchen.
My heart sank. There went our shot to be alone. Damn college boys and their tendency to get up so early.
I decided to focus on the coffee while I drummed up something casual to say to start a conversation with Andy. I set the water to boil and began scooping out the coffee.
“Here, I don’t mind doing it,” Andy said as he gently took the coffee from me. Little did I know that this was my first lesson about Andrew Seelye and a prelude to what would two years later become our first argument: The man is particular about his coffee and under no circumstances should you ever, ever, suggest that there might be a better way to make it.
“Sometimes the Costa Rican method of brewing coffee is a little tricky for Americans,” he said, trying to cover up the fact that he didn’t trust me with his coffee.
The Costa Rican method of brewing coffee is a little tricky for Americans—also a little weird. It involves a sock. Granted, it’s a coffee sock, one that is specially made out of, like, thick cheesecloth or something, but it’s still a sock. Anyway. The process involves hanging the sock precariously from a wire, or a hook, or even a Y-shaped stick, and either a) filling the sock with coffee grounds and pouring boiling water over it— catching it in a pitcher placed below the sock (that is, if the precariously hung sock doesn’t fall, slip, or otherwise spill boiling hot coffee grounds all over you) or b) boiling water in a pot, adding coffee, letting it sit for a minute (I prefer letting it sit for four minutes—but I would never ever suggest to that there might be a better way to make coffee) and THEN pouring the whole kit and kaboodle through the sock and into the pitcher’s maw. Because the grounds sit in the hot water for a minute the coffee is more rich and complex than it is when the water just pours through the coffee on it’s way out of the sock. I bet it would taste even more rich and complex if the grounds sat in the hot water for four minutes though.
After breakfast (ingeniously cut fruits served on banana leaves) the college kids made their way to the beach to enjoy the view and the warm Caribbean water before their shuttle boat came to pick them up. Andy watched them leave and then watched me walk over to the pile of dishes left in their wake. He pushed his chair back, grabbed his empty plate, and walked over to me, holding my gaze every step of the way . . .