Wednesday, June 6, 2018

If You're Happy And You Know It

I remember exactly where I was standing when I realized I didn’t want to live anymore. It was January of 2017 and I was working an event for Facebook, at an upscale hotel in Park City, Utah during the Sundance Film Festival. Festival attendees came to the event to preview short films on Oculus headsets and it was my job to walk them through the experience. I was in the middle of giving a demonstration to Tristan Wilds (Also known as Mack Wilds). He smelled like things I can't afford to buy and had teeth as white as pieces of Orbitz gum. 

Tristan "Mack" Wilds
To be more accurate, I didn’t exactly want to die; I just didn’t want to feel pain any longer. I lost track of time while Tristan was watching his short film, thinking about what it would be like to no longer be apart of this world. I was tired of feeling heartbroken, worthless, and like a burden to people close to me because of my immense sadness.

You okay?” he asked in a surprisingly deep voice.

The film had ended and Tristan had taken off his headset without me realizing it.

“Oh yea I’m fine. Sorry, just spaced out for a second.”

You must have done a lot of these today.” He looked genuinely concerned. “Get a drink after work, go to one of the parties. Have some fun!”

Thanks,” I smiled as best I could.

It had been a while, but I was still sad over my break up with JC. I had also just found out that the guy I had been talking to for the past few months was married. Earlier that week a frenemy of mine told me some news about my ex that I had dated for 8 years. I didn’t think hearing about him would have effected me the way it did, but alas…

I excused myself from the event for a few minutes and retreated to the bathroom. I closed the stall door before sliding down the tiled wall, onto the floor in tears. I sat there crying for about 5 minutes. Then I washed my face, took a selfie and posted it to Instagram before going back out to finish my shift.I tried to act normal, but honestly I never thought I would feel okay again. I didn’t even remember what it felt like to be okay.

My post crying bathroom selfie

Something I’ve learned in the last few years, is that healing is not linear. You’ll be doing great one day, and another day you’ll see something that reminds you of your pain and it will knock the wind out of you. Almost like getting hit by a huge wave and being thrown off your surfboard. I’ve never been surfing because things that can eat me live in the ocean, but I assume that’s what happens when a big wave takes you out.

There were times when my grief literally made me crumple to the floor in pain or caused me to silently shake in tears on the couch. I actually remember not being able to get off the couch, I hadn’t taken a shower in days and I didn’t dare leave the house. My parents were really worried. My Stepdad cautiously asked me if my ex had ever hit me. My Mom offered to take me shopping and cook my favorite foods. They didn’t know what to do, and it hurt me even more to watch them, see me hurting.

But like a subsiding storm in the middle of the ocean, the waves of those painful times will become fewer and farther in between. The things that hurt me months ago, cause me to pause for mere seconds now. Eventually, the waves will become small ripples and I won’t think of them at all.

For me 2015 was like the eye of the storm. I didn’t realize how bad everything was in my life because I was in the middle of the chaos. 2016 is when all hell broke loose, and then I spent most of 2017 trying to reevaluate and rebuild my life. 2018 has been a great experience thus far.

An entire year had passed since I sat crying on the bathroom floor of a luxury hotel while celebrities drank expensive cocktails and watched films two floors above me. I went skiing for the first time and realized that I had fallen in love. Not with skiing, that was horrifically terrifying, but with life again (and maybe a guy too, but that’s a story for another day).

In February I got to work at the Eagle’s Superbowl after party. My job was not glamorous. I wasn’t a journalist, photographer, or fluffer, but instead I bussed tables. The party was self serve on fancy paper plates and all the drinks at the bar were free, so honestly I didn’t have to do much. A lot of the players and other guests didn’t feel like trekking over to the bar, so they’d ask me to do it for them, and give me huge tips.

Older gentleman with an Eagle's Jersey on: "Could you bring us 4 beers?”

Me: “Of course.” Runs to get 4 beers and brings them back. Guy hands me a $100 bill.

Me: You know these drinks are free right?”

Because I don't care about sports like that I didn't know the identity of the older gentleman. Later on my coworker told me he was a co-owner of the team.

Older man in Eagle's Jersey: “Yeah, they're free, but it’s a celebration, Enjoy the money!”

*Stuffs money in bra and walks away*

The party was set up like a football field. The endzones had tables and plush white couches. One side line had food, desserts and a candy station while the other side line was an open bar. In the middle, where the 50 yard line would be, was a dance floor and a stage. I got to watch Diplo DJ a set and Cardi B perform merely 3 feet in front of me.

I felt like I was back in college, but with men who had money, muscles and fashion sense. I watched an insanely giddy Zach Ertz passionately make out with his wife. They looked so happy together that you couldn't help but be happy for them. I danced with Malcolm Jenkins who had the dopest jewelry of anyone in the room. He wore an impeccably tailored maroon colored suit, with black patent leather loafers and I'm fairly certain that his cuff links alone probably cost more than my car. I participated in a soul train line with Bryan Braman and his friends. Everyone was in a good mood. 

Malcolm Jenkins 
It was crowded so I accidentally kept bumping into this really tall guy with big ole sexy arms. At one point he playfully grabbed me by the shoulders and said,

Hey this is the 3rd time you’ve bumped into me.”

Sorry, its crowded in here. And you have a big butt,” I added as an after thought.

He laughed and then turned around and poked his butt out. "Yea I guess it’s my fault then. I do a lot of squats."

This is the type of man I deserve to procreate with I thought to myself.  An athletic, juicy booty, Superbowl champion.

We kinda flirted throughout the night. He was super sweet and gentlemanly too but he never asked for my number. Before he left for the night with his friend Bryan, he made sure he had my attention and then smiled and waved goodbye to me.

Bryan Braman
If Cinderella had taken place in 2018, a time when more women are learning to shoot their shot, then this is what would have happened next:

I looked for that man everywhere on the internets y'all. I looked through the entire Eagles Roster of players but the photos weren't that great. I eventually found him on Instagram, BECAUSE OF THE SHOES HE HAD ON in one of his Instagram posts.They were the same ones he wore at the party. I’m not trying to put his business out in these streets, but if you’re interested in who he is, he ended up proposing to his long-term girlfriend the day after the Super Bowl. So that would explain why he didn’t ask for my number. Don’t cry for me guys. Its okay, because now I realize that guys are a dime a dozen. Even though they're not all NFL players, It’s literally raining men’s out here in these streets

At the end of the party, the servers were gifted with a ton of free Eagles Superbowl memorabilia. I got coozies, keychains, Eagles t-shirts, a 10lb bag of Eagles colored M&M’s with the Philadelphia Eagles logo on them, shot glasses and more.

It was a fun night that I’ll always remember, especially because one of the most attractive men I had ever talked to flirted with me, but I had no use for this stuff. I decided to keep a few things for myself and send the rest to my ex because the Eagles is his favorite team. I thought about not sending it at first, because it had been 2 years since I broke up with him and I didn’t want him to think I wanted to rekindle anything between us. My best friend said I should include a short note so he didn’t get the wrong idea. We settled on...

Hey I worked at the Superbowl and they gave me this free stuff. I knew you’d like it. Take Care

Meanwhile, I’m living my best life: Going on girl trips to Montreal, discovering my soul mate and being rescued by ski patrol off the side of mountain ranges. One night I’m at a bar in Brooklyn with an old friend/co-worker. We're sipping gluten free beverages and he and his wife tell me about a yoga retreat to Belize. I’m in the middle of telling them about my epic trip to New Zealand where I hitch-hiked with a perfect stranger, whose native tongue was not English. I excuse myself to the bathroom, hard cider runs right through me, and notice a text from a number I’ve never seen before.

It was the ex’s current girlfriend

I use the word text lightly, as what she sent me was more like the rough draft of her Memoir, entitled A Road map of my Insecurities and Other Short Stories.

First I’d like to say that I realize that there are ladies that would be annoyed if their boyfriend’s ex, sent them something in the mail and perhaps I should have asked if it were okay to send him the limited edition Superbowl Memorabilia of a team that probably won't win again for 50 years. I could understand if this ex was constantly being disrespectful to your relationship or wanted to get back with your boyfriend. If this is not the case, I think you should discuss this issue with your boyfriend. If it bothers you that someone (who doesn't want him/he doesn't want eithersent him something, you should also really ask yourself why.

Because I’m not going to be messy and include screen shots, her message basically said "don’t text, call, email, initiate contact through social media, send gifts or presents to my boyfriend because we love each other and are going to be together forever". I'm sure it said a lot of other things but I only got through the prologue. If she is out there reading this, I’m coming to her as a woman, and I want her to sincerely know that I didn’t read the entire message. I did however, cycle through a few reactions.

Okay she is crazy...

As I sat on the toilet I thought to myself, “Well this is the least thankful, 'Thank You' note I’ve ever received.”

Lemme tell ya’ll the difference 10 years can make. 2008 TK would have been petty and defensive as fuck let this girl have it.

Ten year's ago I was in my early 20's so I was still a bit wild. My friends at the time literally called themselves Gangsta Ass Bitches and homegirl would have caught a backhand like Serena Williams (ironically my Gangsta Ass Bitch friends and I played tennis at least twice a week and were very good, but I'm referring to physical violence).  I also would have given her reason’s why I didn’t want that man and pointed out that I had put him back on the shelf with the other emotionally immature & multiple personality having Gemini (read: evil) men for her to choose from.

On my list, I would have included:

1Like DJ Khaled, he won’t go down on you.
2. He will also expect you to do the emotional labor of fixing all his problems while showing little to no appreciation or acknowledgement for your hard work, examples include but are not limited to:
        a. Cooking him dinner after you’ve worked a 70hr week and he had the day off
        b. Canceling plans with friends, or entire work trips to do things with/for him instead
        c. Locating a carton of blueberries in the refrigerator after you’ve told him they were on the top shelf behind the almond milk and next to the block of cheddar cheese upwards of 3 times and then having to go retrieve said blueberries your cot damn self

The old TK would have followed up by chastising her for sending me the most ungrateful Thank You note I had ever received and reminding her of the reasons she should definitely be thanking me.

3. The only reason you are together is because I broke up with him and decided to let that 

4. Bish, I sent a 10lb bag of M&M’s, why you complaining? You mad because I'm killing you with kindness?

I also would have warned her to be careful...

5. In 4 or 5 years, when he takes off his dating invisibility cloak and starts to unveil the dementor that he really is, your relationship may have you feeling like a prisoner of Azkaban

Without even meeting her in person, I saw my past insecure and hurting self in her annoyingly wordy text message. There were times when I felt like I had to overcompensate or basically scream that I LOVED HIM from the rooftops to prove my worth and loyalty to him. Like that time his Mom told us she wasn't coming to our apartment and he blamed me for it. This long ass text message filled with all the reasons they are going to make it as a couple, felt very familiar to me. It's easy for me to respect their wishes never contact him again because I'm happy with how much I've grown since then and I refuse to do kind things for people who don't deserve them. I felt how Harriet Tubman must have felt when she encountered slaves she had to kill, “If only this woman realized she was a slave, I could have saved her too.”

2018 TK understands that people are complicated. Hurt people hurt people and insecurities cause you to act out. When you’ve worked on yourself (*cough* therapy and introspection) and you realize the psychology behind why people do the things they do, you can’t even be mad at them.

So instead of the actions listed above, 2018 TK told her to have a good life and not to text me again. To which she replied,

Oh I’m having a good life, stop bothering us.”

As I emerged from the bathroom to finish having a good night with my friends, I thought to myself, "Sounds like you're having a good life sis. Now if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands."

Just kidding. I'm not waiting because I don't care. He is not my man, and not my problem anymore. Emotionally intelligent people do things for others without expecting anything in return, but a small part of the 2008 TK that still resides in my psyche wanted to send her my paypal link for wasting my time on a Friday night. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Two Dates and a Churro

The last time I was in Seoul I was supposed to go on a date with a cute Korean guy named Sam. Sam was Korean born but studied Engineering at UC Berkley and spoke perfect English. He was tall and handsome and reminded me of Daniel Henney from Criminal Minds.

Daniel Henney

 I had been at a shrine meditating, making delicate paper cranes as a lesson in patience & participating in a tea ceremony all day. On the way home to change my clothes, I fell asleep on the train and missed my stop. When I woke up I was in an entirely different town, over an hour away. We tried to reschedule, but the timing was never right and I ended up leaving South Korea before we got a chance to hang out. Even though we never went on our date, we stayed friends on Facebook.

I recently found out that Sam got engaged to a woman who looks like she could be my sister. She is the Great Value version of me; Not as tall, and booty not as big. But good for them, discounts are great. Enjoy your Apple Dapples til death do you part.

I may have missed my date with Sam, but everything happens for a reason. If the universe wanted us to go on that date, it would have made it happen. 

I guess I believe in being in the right place at the right time and it seemed as though the universe was aligning things in my favor on my Mexico trip.

On my third morning there, I packed my bags and checked out of my room. Aaron and I took an Uber to pick up James at his hostel and then the three of us went to the airport to rent a car and start our day trip to Puebla.

A photo I took in Puebla

Puebla is a small town, a little over an hour outside of Mexico City and it's also the birth place of molé sauce. We had an amazing lunch and then browsed the local shops. James helped me pick out a handmade Huipil, a simple white cotton dress, embroidered with red, yellow and pink thread around the neck and sleeves and then we walked through the town square together. While Aaron was deciding on which hand painted sugar skulls to purchase, James pulled me to the side. 
Huipil dress
You know that dinner I’m going to tonight?”

I played dumb but I knew exactly what dinner he was talking about. He was referring to his date with the mystery woman that he, Aaron and Huey had met a few nights before.

I vaguely remember you and Aaron talking about it last night”.

James looked over his shoulder to make sure Aaron couldn’t hear us. “I think I can get another reservation, but I can only get one. I’d really like it if you’d come.”

It’s about a $150 per person,” he continued, "but it’s at one of the most prestigious restaurants in the world. It’s gonna be worth it.”

At first I was hesitant because of the price. But then I reasoned that I only had 2 more days left in Mexico and had not spent a lot of money thus far. Up to this point, my hostel had been around $9 a night, and I was spending less than $20 a day on meals and transportation combined.

I’d love to go.”

As we drove back to Mexico City the scenery switched from green farmland to hilly and tropical. Stacked high in the hills, you could see the colorful houses from the highway. The sky was the prettiest shade of light blue and the hot sun beamed into the car as it peaked out behind the clouds. I unwrapped my shawl from my shoulders and let the sun tan my skin through the windows.

Mexico City from the highway
The three of us took turns being Aux cord DJs. Aaron, out of respect for being a Toronto native, played Drake. I sang along to Sia, and James put on some Michael Bublé. Hearing him sing “I just haven’t met you yet” slightly off key, as we sped into the city limits, was almost the best part of my day.

On our way to drop off the rental car, we stopped at a traffic light where a young boy on the corner was selling bottled water. James motioned for the boy, who couldn’t have been over 10 years old, to come over. He reached into his pocket and gave him a handful of pesos. When the boy tried to give him change and the bottled water, James told him, “No, esto es para ti.” This is for you.

I quietly ovulated in the passenger seat

Seeing the gap toothed smile on the young boy’s dark brown face was definitely the best part of my day.

We parted ways with Aaron at the airport and ordered an Uber to head to dinner.

During the ride, James answered text messages on his phone. Without looking up he asked, “Have you seen Chef’s Table on Netflix?”

It’s on my list of things to see,” I replied as we moved through traffic. I watched vendors shutting down their elote carts for the evening, just as I had on my first night in town.

That’s how I heard of Pujol. It’s ranked the 17th best restaurant in the world.  We’re in for a treat!” James said excitedly.

By the time we arrived, the sun had gone down, but the temperature outside had not yet relented. We entered a dark building, first through a heavy glass door and then through an even heavier brass door. A man in a very nice suit then led us to our table as the room buzzed with soft chatter and smartly dressed people ate their dinner.

Quietly following the host to our table, I became acutely aware of my appearance.

I don’t know what it is about traveling in a car all day, but it makes me sweaty. Even if I’m just sitting in one spot, rapping to Drake songs, I end up sticky. Luckily I didn’t smell like I had worked in a field all day, but I definitely felt like it. My face was glistening, my hair was not as smooth as it had been when we left for Puebla that morning and my dress was wrinkled from sitting in the car.

Thank God the lights were low and candles were placed strategically throughout the restaurant. Maybe nobody would notice how disheveled I was.

But as luck would have it, waiting patiently at our table was one of the most attractive women in the restaurant. She was dressed in a dark sapphire blue dress with a plunging neckline that served as a beautiful contrast to her sun kissed complexion. Silver drop earrings daintily hung from her ears, peaking out from behind her thick shiny hair, occasionally sparkling in the candlelight. She looked like she used expensive conditioner, routinely got her ends trimmed and didn’t need to own a vibrator.

James hugged the beautiful woman and then sat down to my left, leaving me to sit directly across from her. 

Mary this is my friend TK.”

Thanks for letting me join you tonight.” I smiled.

Mary looked unimpressed.

I distinctly got the feeling she didn’t want me there but she quickly snapped out of it and put on a pleasant smile.

Thanks for coming. Should we order?”

With my hand, I tried to smooth down my edges and pull my shawl over my car-tanned shoulders. I must have looked like I grew up in a trailer park eating twinkies and drinking whole milk with strawberry syrup for breakfast.

Imagine going to dinner with Keegan Michael Key and Lucy Liu and feeling like Celie from The Color Purple. I use Lucy Liu as a reference, because unfortunately we don’t have enough Asian representation in the media, but Mary is actually Filipino and Lucy Liu is Han Chinese. 
They don’t even favor one another, but my point is that both women are stunning and I felt anything but glamorous in that moment.

Truth be told, I don’t think Mary felt so great in that moment either, but I had a feeling it wasn’t for the same reason.

Both Mary and James ordered a drink and we placed our orders from the menu. The waiter brings a beautiful yellow cocktail to the table and sits it down in front of James.

Wow, this is really great. Would you like to taste it?” James hands me the glass.

I sip the drink slowly before handing it back to him. It was lemony but not too sweet.

Mary looks from me to James. 

Umm, can I try it too?”

Of course.” James quickly hands her the drink.

Lord, this was getting awkward. I'm just sitting there like, 

Next up was our 6 course meal. You were allowed to choose one item from each Roman numeral. We decided to each pick something different so that we could all try as many things as possible.

Our Menu
For the first course I ordered chicharron because I had tried it in Peru and it was lovely. Mary ordered the chicken skin with escamole and James ordered the chicatana. When the plates arrived, we split the dishes between us.

I looked at the food presented before us and everything seemed small and foreign. Well everything except for the hollowed out gourd in the center of the table, that had white smoke rising from it.

The waiter explained what the dishes were. The gourd contained ants that were smoked right out of the ground and straight into the gourd where they were seasoned and further steamed to tenderness. 
Chicatana smoked ants in a gourd

The escamoles were edible ant larvae, harvested from the roots of the Agave plant. 


Ya'll that is not a typo. James AND Mary had both ordered ANTS. Talk about farm to table. First it was brain tacos and now this! In my mind I was like, “You can have him sis. You guys can cruise the world, and eat at Netflix restaurants in fancy dresses. I’m going to get $2 mystery meat street empanadas after this.”

 I was THISCLOSE to calling it quits after the waiter's explanation, but I had already paid my money for the evening. 

I can’t say that it got much better from there guys. At least not for me. Our waiter brought some forest green tortillas with the next course.

I tore off a little piece and started to chew. 

Then I just sat there for a moment trying to figure out what I was tasting.

This tastes like Neosporin.”

Mary tried so hard not to laugh out loud that she nearly snorted.  What did you say?”

I cleared my throat. “These tortillas have a… medicinal quality to them.”

She giggled, but after that comment, she seemed to open up to me a little more.

I felt bad because I was thousands of miles away from home, at the 17th best restaurant in the world, with two amazingly sexy dinner dates and all I wanted was a slice of pizza.

But I hung in there and tried those small portioned, weird ass fancy foods. I was proud of myself for trying something new.

The final course, our dessert, came to the table and it wasn’t awful. It was a long circular churro, some Mexican hot chocolate and mint ice cream that looked like sea foam.

A warm cinnamony churro

I watched Mary slide her spoon into the foamy concotion. When the waiter brought over a bottle of champagne with a card.

Foamy mint ice cream with chocolate flakes
Mary was surprised and quickly read the card to herself before paraphrasing  and disclosing it's contents to us. Apparently some guy she knew in town was smitten with her, but I got the idea that she wasn't into him. Must be nice, getting bottles in international area codes while you're on a date with a hot guy you just met and his dusty travel buddy.

I could tell that Mary and James dined like this a lot and even though I felt very out of place I was okay with how the evening was going. I realize this was an experience I'd never forget, and I was thankful for it.

The three of us ended up going to very nice hotel bar where James knew the bartender. We met up with Aaron, Jimmy and Huey who had just come from a luchadores (Mexican wrestling) match. 

I asked James to pick a drink for me, since he's the bartending expert, but it ended up tasting like mouthwash. I suppose that was a good way to get the last bit of Neosporin taste out of my mouth though.

Whisky & a side of crickets 
The 5 of us spent the night laughing & drinking until 3 in the morning. Mary had loosened up considerably and was actually a very sweet and funny person. I guess I can't really blame her for how she acted when we first arrived to Pujol. I'd be pissed if a guy brought someone on our date too. 

It was Mary and Jimmy's last night in town so we did a round of shots for them before everyone dispersed for the night.

From left to right, in order of importance (lol just kidding): Huy, James, Jimmy, Aaron, Mary, and I

I only had one more night left in Mexico and I was excited to see what it would bring.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Comiendo My Way Through Mexico

Once upon a time, my boyfriend and I returned home from Honolulu and watched an episode of The Best Thing I’ve Ever Ate where they showed these amazing little choux pastries from a bakery called Beard Papa. The only one in the US at the time was in Waikiki, and it was right down the street from the hotel we stayed in. I was big mad that I had missed out on those little sweet balls of perfection. Later that summer they opened a location in Manhattan and while we were on his annual family trip to New York, I was determined to get some. I begged my boyfriend to rent bikes with me in Central Park for the day and he thought we were going to take a leisurely bike ride.


You ever see Robin Thicke's first music video, before he cut his hair, started doing white lines and cheating on his wife? Before fame changed him? That was us. Riding 45 blocks, Robin Thicke style though rush hour traffic in the sweltering August heat to get puff pastries. Cocaine Sugar is a hell of a drug.

Almost missing out on the perfect pastry is what made me start planning more detailed itineraries before venturing on international trips. But true to form, I didn’t even book a place to stay until I touched down in Mexico City. Luckily I picked a hostel with people that were:

1. Not killers
2. Well traveled 
3. Had already planned itineraries and didn’t mind if I tagged along with them

Also, it was the only hostel that had rooms available.

Day 1 – Mexico City

That morning I came out the bathroom after brushing my teeth to find Huey sitting on one of the plush velvet couches in the common area.

I’m so hungry.” He looked at me with a Save-the-children-for-a-dollar-a-day-face. “Want to get breakfast?”

I checked my phone and James hadn’t texted me to go to the ATM yet, so I agreed.

I’ve studied Spanish since middle school, and even minored in Spanish Language and Literature in college, so I wasn’t too worried about communicating in Mexico. I’m not fluent by any means, but I can understand most of what is said to me if people speak slowly and I can reply in Spanglish in most cases. It was at breakfast where I found out that Huey, despite living in Texas, aka Northern Mexico, was not as gifted with the Spanish language.

We saw a bunch of people dressed in business clothes, probably on their way to work, going into a small eatery, so we decided to follow them. Locals will almost always lead you to good food. Huey looked at the menu on the wall and mulled over what he was going to order. The line was growing exponentially behind us and people were becoming impatient. As I was scrolling through Instagram Huey tapped me on the shoulder and asked,

How do you say, ‘I want the same?”

Just say, lo mismo.”

I looked up from my phone and placed my order, three carne en adobo tacos and an orange fizzy drink, when I noticed the lady behind the counter loading a bunch of tortillas onto a cafeteria tray covered with wax paper.

Did you mean to get that much food?”

I told the lady to give me what the man in front of us got. How much food did I order?"

I looked over Huey’s shoulder. “I’m pretty sure that man ordered tacos for his entire family. I think he ordered like 19 tacos,” I laughed.

Muchos Tacos
After we ate the 22 glorious tacos, with a side of bright green salsa and guacomole that was made right in front of our eyes, we headed back to the hostel.

When we got there, James was waiting out front and introduced us to Jimmy and Benji from Australia. The five of us headed to La Lagunilla, a famous flea market in the area. The market is massive and has sections that sell clothing, furniture and food.

Jimmy & I drinking Jugo
James picked up some multi-colored papel picado. He explained how the generations of men in his family come together to make tamales once a year, and he was going to take these home to Denver to decorate for the occasion. He haggled with some Mexican ladies over spices and Jimmy and I ordered some freshly squeezed orange juice from a stand before we sat down to a lunch of grilled chicken huaraches.

The vendors make everything in front of you, kind of like they do at hibachi style Japanese restaurants in the United States.  Everyone is busy buying their daily groceries and house wares, and in the middle of the chaos you sit down and get to know each other over sizzling hot food, with the aroma of adobo circling around you. Despite the fast pace of the flea market, it felt like we were eating a family dinner at our own little oasis. 

After lunch we took a subway train to the trajineras. Trajineras are like the Mexican equivalent of gondolas in Venice, Italy but with some exciting differences. First you pick your boat and tell them how long you want to be on the river. We decided on a 2 hour trip.  Next you cruise the canals and people watch while a Mariachi band serenades your family and friends. There are even concession trajineras, were you can order authentic Mexican dishes and drinks right from their boat to yours. 

It’s a great way to get to know each other too. Our crew of 5 international strangers became better acquainted. We shared tales of the greatest places we had traveled.

I heard of this town close to Mexico City that has a big Day of the Dead festival and the entire town participates,” James said excitedly. “They have a parade and everyone dresses up and goes to mass at the church. They decorate the graves of their ancestors in the church graveyard and they make special food for everyone to try.”

Seeing the light in James eyes as he described the town’s traditions made me want to take the journey with him.

I’ll go wherever you go. I mean, *cough cough* Sounds cool. I’m down.

Huey looked at me like…

Maybe I’ll get my face painted too,” I added nonchalantly.

After the trajineras, James took us to a bar that served alcoholic drinks made with marigolds, the traditional flower used to decorate alters and graves during Dia de los Muertos. We were sitting on the side of the road after getting our flower drinks, and we heard a large pop, like a car backfiring, followed by a bunch of yelling.

Apparently a car had stopped working and was stuck in the middle of the road. James jogged over to the light blue punch buggy, spoke to the driver in Spanish and then started pushing the car from behind to help the driver get out of the street. As I watched James be so altruistic my ovaries swelled. The Australians went over to help too. Huey, who had just ordered a snack from a street vendor, stood up and watched them push the car for a bit before sitting back down. I’m pretty sure I saw the exact moment he changed his mind about helping. He looked over at me, rolled his eyes and took a bite of his food.

When we got back to our hostel. James, Huey and the Australians went out to a local club. I decided to spend the night in because I was physically exhausted from catching trains and being out in the sun all day. Plus I was mentally exhausted from remembering how to conjugate verbs in Spanish.

I sat on the velvet couches while listening to the same 50 songs I’ve had on my phone for the last 3 years and ended up making friends with a wonderful black woman from Michigan. Two black people in 2 days! Lori invited me to go to the pyramids with her the next day.

Day 2 - Teotihuacan

The next morning, I invited James to accompany Lori and I to the pyramids but he had already made other plans. He promised to message me when he was finished exploring so we could do something that evening.

Have you seen Huey? Maybe he wants to come with us?”

Huey woke up early and went to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum. I think he’s meeting up with a girl we met last night too."

Ok Huey. I see you!

Lori had just finished serving in the Peace Corps and had a few days of vacation before she returned back to Michigan to finish her doctoral degree. Lucky for me, she was fluent in Spanish and I didn’t have to mentally exhaust myself over verb tenses for the day. I ordered an uber and in perfect Spanish, she gave exact directions to the driver. The uber was only about $14 for a 45 minute ride to the pyramids. We walked around the historical site in the hot sun and climbed what felt like 11 million stairs to the top of the biggest pyramid.

Okay we tried to climb it and failed. We made it half way and then climbed a smaller pyramid and took pics for Instagram. We haggled with vendors on the grounds and I bought a woven blanket and some silver bracelets for my little cousin back home. Then we bought some paletas from an ice cream cart and took a coach bus back to Mexico City.

I’m going to meet some Peace Corps friends for dinner. What are you doing later?”

First thing first, I’m going to take a nap. But after that I’ll probably meet up with James. Maybe we’ll grab dinner?”

He’s really cute. You like him don’t you?” Lori smiled at me like you smile at your friend when you know they have a crush on someone.

I thought about it for a second. “It honestly didn’t cross my mind until you said something just now. Thanks a lot Lori,” I frowned. “Now I’ll probably have a crush on him and daydream about what our children are going to look like.”

Sorry not sorry. At least they’ll be cute bilingual bebes.”



Xiochimilco…it’s the name of the train stop we got off at, to get on the trajineras. We’ll name our first daughter that. And our son will be James the 3rd."

Lori laughed and shook her head. “Be safe tonight, but have fun.”

We hugged goodbye.

I plugged in my phone next to my bed and texted James. He quickly replied with the address to a café near Zocalo Square.

I have a portable charger. Just bring your phone cord and you can charge your phone here with me.”

Ladies and Gentlemen: Welcome to millennial romance.

I’m not a coffee drinker so I didn’t know what to get. James ordered an affogato (a shot of espresso with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it) for me and we shared his scone. We talked about our families and what we did for a living. James managed of one of the busiest bars in Denver, Terminal Bar at Union Station.

The next time I come to Denver, I’ll stop by your bar.”

You’ll have a place to stay too. You’re always welcome. Speaking of places to stay, I’m checking out of the hostel tonight because they don’t have any beds left. Are you staying there your entire time in Mexico?”

I actually need to book my last 2 nights,” I remembered.

Well come and stay with me at my new hostel. It's not far from here, has free breakfast, and it got really great reviews on Trip Advisor."

Chris Brown’s Kiss Kiss started playing in my head...

He want that lovie-dovey. 
That kiss kiss, kiss kiss. 
In his mind, he fantisize 
‘bout getting with meeeeeee.” 

He asked me to change hostels for him. Maybe Lori was on to something.

"I’ll walk you back to the hostel," James offered.

In the courtyard next to the café there was a band playing hip hop with live instruments and a teenager breakdancing to the music. A huge group of people crowded around him, cheering and clapping as he danced. James, who is maybe 6’2 stood behind me, in a protective manner as we watched with the rest of the crowd. Standing there, so close together, I felt, happy and slightly light headed. Maybe I had a crush on James after all. Of course it could have been the caffeine and sugar from the affogato too. I’m not a coffee drinker.

After the crowd started to thin out, we continued to the hostel. A guy that apparently knew James noticed us and sprinted over. Because of his height and glasses, he sort of reminded me of Harry Potter.

Hey are you guys hungry? I was just about to go find something to eat.”

The way to my heart is food and one of the sweetest things a guy has ever said to me is, ‘Are you hungry?'

"Nice to meet you,” I introduced myself.  

Nice to meet you, TK. I’m Aaron."

James had seen a taco bar on Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations that was close to our hostel so we looked up the address on Google and headed in that direction. As we were walking, Aaron asked what we had planned for tomorrow.

Aren’t you going out with that girl we met last night?” He asked James.

Yea we have plans to attend a special dinner. Its at a top rated restaurant that I’ve read about.”

She was hot. Is she single?”

I don’t know. I didn’t ask her.”

I felt a little less light headed after Aaron mentioned James’ date with the mystery woman. Or maybe the caffeine and sugar were starting to wear off.

The taco bar was literally a hole in the wall with lights hanging from the ceiling and big silver pots of marinated meat bubbling in front of us. It smelled heavenly. We couldn’t translate all the menu items so we tried using the Google translate app where you hold up the camera on your phone to foreign words, and it translates them into English.

I highlighted a word. "Nah fam, this can't be right. I think my app is broken."

Aaron used his phone to scan the word. "It says brains."

Fresh BRAIN TACO?! Yea I’m good on that.”

James cracked a sideways smile. “How about we make a deal? I try it first, and then you try it too.”

It was hard to say no to this man. He was so adorable.

Aaron interjected, “Maybe if they fry the brain, it won’t be so bad.”

And so that night, I was like Nicki Minaj on the track MonsterEating brains, except without the gold teeth and fangs. I guess that would make James, Jay Z and Aaron would be Kanye West. 

Truthfully, it wasn’t bad. In addition to the brains, we tried cheek tacos and tongue tacos too. Everything was chopped up and seasoned so well that you couldn’t even tell that it was body parts you weren’t used to eating. I decided that I could survive the zombie apocalypse as long as I had a good stash of seasonings.

It was almost 1AM so we finished our inexpensive but satisfying meal and headed back to the hostel for the night. James caught a taxi to his new hostel and we made plans to meet up early the next morning and take a day trip to the town of Puebla together. It was only day 2 of my trip and I was becoming an experienced itinerary crasher.