The ferry to Vieques was an hour late but the wait was not stressful. The sun felt so good on the ferry and I sat very still, breathing with the swell of the waves. Arrived in early golden hour. Our stay is in a private room in an apartment run by Ms. B* and it is quaint and full of life + history + trinkets. We picked starfruit from a heavy tree beside the balcony and ate it. Starfruit flesh is airy and dripping sweet and golden orange. We wandered along the sea and the beach front for an hour or so before ordering dinner. I had seared mahi on a bed of seawaeed salad with steamed buttered asparagus and pickled onions and ginger and Josh had a whole red snapper with rice and red beans. Tiki torches burned nearby and a crab pinched Josh’s heel.
Back on our balcony now and Josh is in the hammock reading. The air is noisy with birds and crickets, voices and motors. Next door, a raucous group is singing loudly and playing hand drums. Fireworks scattered over the house across the street. The night air is soft.
Travel here is embarrassing because literally everyone thinks I’m Puerto Rican, speaking to me in Spanish, and I know only the basics. Josh enjoys it. I would too, if I spoke Spanish. I have also decided that I would rather be happy than beautiful. Our vibe on this trip so far is that of good friends traveling together. I am reminded how much of marriage is friendship, companionship.
Ms. B fixed an impromptu breakfast of toasted bread and coffee, which we supplemented with grapefruit and sliced starfruit from the tree. Packing up, we walked to town and rented snorkel gear and a paddleboard (there were no kayaks available). We paddled to an island, mostly crashing our oars together and feeling mildly frustrated, and beached on a narrow strip of crushed bleached shelles. The island was mostly black lava rock and shrub. Snorkeling was lovely but not phenomenal, and sea urchins in shallow water terrify me. Took a roundabout way back to shore, Josh swam and I paddled. I found a rhythm and felt lean and happy in the sun.
Picked up our bags and called a taxi to Casa Colena. C and J are very welcoming and very American. Our room was painted in teal with mahogany furniture and a huge king bed made up in white. A huge window overlooks a vast vista of the valley and Caribbean Sea. The atlantic Sea is visible from the front and semi-wild ponies clattered and snorted below the balcony. C took us back to town and we ate fried fish sandwiches and then clambered over rocks and long narrow strips of sand along the coastline. The water was very blue and the sun hot.
C served us a breakfast of muffins, croissants and jam, and coffee, and we took the ferry back to the big island. I was glad to leave. Vieques is small, with strange vibes. We retrieved our car and stopped at a tiny local restaurant for chicken, ribs, ensalada verde, and papas fritas. Drove for three and a half hours to Rincón without stopping. The terrain changed from lush and agricultural in the southeast, to huge rolling hills like grassy heads shorn close to the skull in the south, to semi-deciduous forests in the northeast.
Rincón is a cheerless town, a fabricated mold of bars strung with lights, noisy seafood restaurants, surf shops and yoga on every corner. The air was heavy with arrogance and opulence, an inauthentic culture imposed on a beautiful area. Our bungalow is cute and nestled in the jungle but the second floor houses a noisy group of surfers who sound exactly like a small frat party. A dinner of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a grocery run for milk and fruit, and now reading. The birds and coquís are loud and ceaseless and lulling. We both have some sort of rash on our arms and legs, like poison ivy.
T’s third floor walk up apartment in the heart of Old San Juan is old-European romantic with tiled floors, white-washed walls, raised wooden beam celings, tall narrow wooden doors, unscreened windows with carved bannisters and hoya vines winding upwards. Windows are all open, all the time, and last night it rained and in the morning our bare feet tracked wet footprints along the corridor beneath the windows. The terrace inlaid with bricks, half enclosed by peach-pink painted walls, and crowded with tropical plants in giant terracotta pots. We slept in a double four-post bed, night air and rain sounds rushing over us.
*We were on the island for ten days and stayed in seven locations —all but the first were rented apartments or private rooms through AirBnB. I refer to each of our hosts by their first initials.