Three weeks later you find yourself in Mendoza. The weather here is warmer, like a good Irish summer day. You meet a Kiwi couple, Catherine and Mike. Both seven years younger, barely out of their teens. There is talk about going to a winnery the next day. Should you join in?\n[[Go to the winery]]\n[[Don't go to the winery]]\n
You both walk underground into the museum. You don't remember any of it, just that she was there. \n\n[[Tapas]]\n\n
Feeling that you've been too guarded in situations like this in the past you say, "That's absolute nonesense. You are the most beautiful girl I've seen in 5 months of backpacking". \n\nA little rhyme in your head sings silently: \n"Or definitely in the top three... good looking girls on the street... depending on the street". \n\nYou feel awesomely clumsy, silly and vulnerable. \n\nWhy did you couch it in a time frame??\n\nNichola doesn't care and smiling and gazing at the same time. Kiss her you fool. You don't kiss her. You don't want anyone to see. Why? Are you a tease? Are you frightened of your sexuality?\n\n[[Museum]]\n
You hear movement above. You raise your sleepy head. It's a cold alpine morning. Glancing across the room you see an empty bottom bunk bed.\n\nMore swaying above. You turn to face up. Suddenly the tip of a slender foot appears reaching downwards from the bed above. Then two legs. Her t-shirt is gathering high above her waist, caught on the edge of the bunk.\n\n[[Keep looking]]\n[[Glance away]]\n
Nichola's feet land on the ground. You turn your head back to look. You catch Nichola's eye and say "Hello". "Good morning" she replies with a smile. Was that a knowing smile? Your filthy mind probably wants to think so. You don't assume anything.\n \nNichola stretches. Glorious. You glance away again. She leaves the room. You see another head pop out from the top bunk across the room. Jane smiles at you. You blush.\n\n[[Breakfast]]\n
You get the bus.\n\nFear \n\nis \n\na \n\nterrible \n\nthing.
You've been travelling for 5 months and are starting to feel tired of all the emotional uncertainty. Again. Looking at your guide book you see that there are observatories open to the public in Chile. It has been ages since you turtled into geekdom for protection. You decide to book a bus back to Chile.\n\n[[At the bus station]]\n
You arrive at the hostel. Only the German couple remain. Mary is gone. And a friend, Peter, from two weeks of backpacking before has just arrived. You all head out together, glad to be free of "lone wolf" status for a night.\n\n[[Mendoza]]
Nichola gradually engages the table, even getting a laugh out of the terrible two. You watch her again. How does she do it? She smiles alot. She is making the effort too. A brave skillful confidence. She gains the attention of new arrivals to the table. \n\nBy the time you leave the table you see that there is a clear chemistry between her and Mark from Australia.\n\nYou feel sidelined but ok. You aren't the first or last right? Don't compete.\n\n[[Leaving]]
Early afternoon you both walk to the park, park San Martin. It's getting very hot. You slowly make your way around the lake and then take a seat at a sheltered regatta where you order a few light drinks. \n\nYou both talk about family. You talk about the hostel before in Bariloche. You talk about goals for the future. You mention the observatory. Nichola admits to being a little geeky and shy herself and likes the idea. You are finding it hard to reconcille her current calm, content, personality with the bold, even aggressive personality that wrested control of the Bariloche hostel. \n\nShe admits she didn't like the terrible two and felt she hard to take control.\n\nYou find your defenses are melting away.\n\n[[Offer to pay for lunch]]\n[[Share lunch]]\n
You stay.\n\nRegardless of what happens at least you gave yourself a chance.
You don't want to come across as a besotten fool. You say you will share the bill. But you can't help it, at the last minute you pull out a large note and pay the bill, accidentally tipping the waiter a huge amount. You feel like a grandstanding ass.\n\nNichola laughs at your clumsiness. You admit you didn't mean to do that. You feel embarassed. The waiter holds the door for you on the way out - you forget to let Nichola go first.\n\n[[Back to the centre]]\n
The walk into town is about two miles. Everyone is in good spirits. You go to the a side plaza and wander the stalls for trinkets to buy. \n\nEveryone gets split up. You retrace your steps. At the corner of the stalls you see Nichola. "Oh, I'm glad I found you" she saids. That makes you feel good. You have lost Catherine and Mike. You don't care.\n\n[[Park]]\n
Trash romance.
"I'd rather not" you say, deciding not to play, regardless of the audience. These are your only glasses nor do you give a damn about creating a mood.\n\nYou have created a mood.\n\nThe conversation fragments. Jane asks where you came from before today and the conversation moves onto local activities again. The terrible two look disinterested. \n\nNichola enters the room. "Hi what's your name" says Jane. "Nichola" she says beaming. The centre of the focus has moved. You feel relieved.\n[[Nichola]]\n
It's 9. Your bus is in two hours. You want to spend more time with Nichola. You say you want to eat. She is worried for your timing. You say you will get a cab back to the hostel after.\n\nThere is a tapas bar. You haven't eaten tapas before. Nichola has. She likes the idea. You both order 5 plates and a bottle of wine. Nichola is cautious during the order. She explains she is allergic to a lot of food. Seriously allergic to protein. You feel alarmed and ask what you should do if anything happened. "Get me to hospital. Also I carry an adrenaline shot in my backpack".\n\nShe wants to know how you feel about that. You say it means nothing different, but you want to know how to use the adrenaline shot if you had to. \n\nThe tapas arrives. \n\nYou didn't realise tapas was shared. You share the food. The feeling of presence is intoxicating. You can barely talk. You don't need to. You steal glances at her. Her head is dipped, but she is looking back. Your face is flushed. You both drink in the atmosphere.\n\nIt is 10.25. It's time to go. You pay for dinner.\n\n[[Hostel]]
You are moved out of your room early, they need the room for a couple who have arrived in the middle of the night and want to sleep during the day. You put your bags in reception for the day and sit down to breakfast with the Catherine and Mike. \n\nNichola walks into the room.\n\n"Hello Nichola?". Nichola turns. "Oh hello!". She knows your name and accepts your offer to join the group for breakfast. She arrived the night before. She seems a little different. More demure. You mention you are going to spend the day wandering the city centre and offer everyone to join in. They agree.\n\n[[Walk into town]]\n
You pack your backpack with food, cooking gear and a tent, leaving behind half your clothes in another bag. Jane is in the room and talks to you about her previous job in the police. She quit last year and is now backpacking. She won't go back. Too many Saturday nights in Southhampton.\n\nYou head downstairs and book in to return 4 days later after your hike. "Naked" Mary is at the breakfast table. No-one is talking to her. She talks to you, glad for a new face. Then she blushes when you say you heard about last night. You feel bad but more at yourself for seeking out vulnerability. She isn't sure if she will stay until next week or not. You agree to head out if she still is.\n[[Hiking]]\n
You decide you are more vulnerable refusing in front of a crowd and so conceed. You're a fun person after all. Right? \n\n"Ugh, how do you see with these". Ouch.\n\nPeople smile, as do you, slightly stumped for a jovial return. There's a mild tension. You must be causing it. The terrible two are grinning.\n\nNichola enters the room and sees your glasses on one of the terrible pair. \n\n"Ohh nice, let me try! These are awesome. Hah, how cool do I look?". \n\n"Very nice", "They really suit you" say one or two. \n\nThe tension is gone. Nichola gives you back your glasses.\nHow did she know they were yours?\n\n"Hi what's your name" says Jane. "Nichola" she says beaming. The centre of the focus has moved.\n[[Nichola]]\n
You decide not to go to the winery. You immediately regret not going. You could probably have played the old man and regaled the younger couple with funny stories about previous travel and got to see a winery.\n\nYou lie in all morning, missing the free breakfast. You feel listless and so walk into the centre of town.\n[[Later that night]]\n\n
You look around for a bus leaving the next day. The bus station is a little bit shady. Eventually you see a sign in Spanish indicating a direct bus trip to the town where the Observatory tour starts.\n\nThe old man doesn't want to take you. You convince him to take you. He thinks you can't hack a rough overnight bus. You convince him you can. You buy a ticket. It leaves at 11pm.\n\n[[Next day]]\n
You slowly walk back into the centre of town. You feel good in her presence. She smiles at you too. You arrive at the central plaza. There is an underground museum. It's not open until 5pm. You say there is still time to visit it and make your bus. \n\nYou hang around the plaza talking.\n\nSome local guys shout something in Spanish at Nichola. You can't tell what, but you think you know the type of statement. You bristle a little assuming the worst yet feeling a great pride that this stunning girl will let you walk with her.\n\nNichola finds your defensiveness ... cute.\n\nShe admits to not feeling beautiful. As a child she used to be taunted her about a droopy "sad" face. You are shocked. You turn to look at her, she puts on the sad face. You sort of see what she means, but find it forced and not really apparent. You assure her that the local comments must be lurid not taunting. \n\nShe asks again, do you think she has a droopy sad face?\n\n[[Tell her she has a sad face]]\n[[Tell her she's talking nonesense]]
You go to the winery as a group of three. You've been joking with both but your interactions with Catherine have perceived as flirtation by Mike. You try to keep a distance and say less, but it's hard since you must finish the tour.\n[[Later that night]]\n\n
You take a toasted bagel and apple to the table. You sit next to a german couple and strike up conversation on good local activities. Jane is here also and joins in the conversation. \n\nThe gaze of Sauron turns your way. "Hey blondie, where were you last night?" one of the terrible two asks. "I just arrived in last night" you reply. \n\n"Blondie,", you shrink away upon hearing it again. \n\n"..can I wear your glasses". \n\nUgh this is going terribly. You wince a little and then immediately hide it. You think Jane sees your discomfort. Asking for glasses is a test of vulnerability.\n[[Give your glasses]]\n[[Refuse]]\n
You keep looking. For a moment her slender frame is exposed. Her underwear and the bottom of her chest is exposed before her t-shirt uncatches and drops. You duck your head to the right\nunder the sheets before you are caught.\n[[You hear her feet land]]\n
You spend the next four days hiking the hills of Bariloche. You think about Mary. \n[[Return]]\n
You know it's fairly unusual to offer to pay for lunch. As backpackers sharing is the default. You know this is a message. \n\nYou have to do it even if it's corny. Saying you like her is harder.\n\nNichola accepts gracefully.\n\n[[Back to the centre]]
You duck your head to the right under the sheets. In your head you imagine the rest of her slender frame becoming exposed. You\nfeel guilty at your perversions.\n[[You hear her feet land]]\n
You presume her to be trying to raise a compliment. You tell her Yes, she has the saddest face you have ever seen. Sadder than even the "Grave of the Fireflies". She knows you are joking and plays along, but hasn't heard of "Grave of the Fireflies". \n\nThis creates an awkwardness where you have to explain that it was the saddest movie you know and she should watch it. \n\nThe moment is sort of ruined. You should have choosen the Lion King. Or not this option.\n\nYou recover the situation, in a more than clumsy way by telling her she's extremely attractive and frankly you are feeling jealous when anyone else speaks to her.\n\n[[Museum]]
John O'Kane
At breakfast two girls, the terrible two, friends who've been at this hostel for a week, are dominating the conversation. Last night they convinced everyone to play drinking games. They are now discussing how Mary, from Ireland (someone from Ireland, here in Argentina? You have to say hello), got very drunk. And did you know.. \n\n"she was running around naked before she threw up in the corridor. Yeah, she was soo drunk. And she was so quiet the day before! Couldn't get a word out of her." said one, "Then she slipped!" interjected the other, "It was soo funny".\n\n"Bring them to your level and beat them with experience" a snarky part of your brain thinks. Another part is fixed on the image of Mary. Aroused. A final, tiny part concerned. Hatred, arousal and concern in that order. You dismiss your thoughts quickly, knowing they're not useful or nice. Be here now. Be friendly.\n\n[[The breakfast table]]\n\n
[[Hostel]]\nYou get to the hostel 10 minutes later and pick up your luggage. She came with\nyou. Your emotions are churning. You feel happiness, fear. You feel mesmerized,\nyou feel sick.\n\nOne part of your head blares "you don't have a room for the night! You won't be\nallowed to stay. You have to presume you can share a bed. You will\nhave to commit!".\n\n"Are you going" Nichola asks. "Yes" you say. You walk to a quiet corner. Nichola\nfollows. She draws closer. You want her. She kisses you. You kiss her.\n\n...\n\n...\n\n"Are you going to go?" she asks again.\n\n This is a simple decision. \n \n [[Get the bus]]\n [[Stay]]\n