Nate and I went to Cuba, to Varadero, three weeks after his mom died. Passed away, they said at her funeral, but it wasn’t nearly so graceful as that. It wasn’t intentional, our leaving so soon after it happened. We’d booked the trip a month before, when we decided we couldn’t handle another Toronto January without getting out of town for a little while.
I told my mom about our plans a few days after booking the trip. She was excited for me, but I could see she was holding something back. She looked worried.
What? I’d asked her. You think we’re gonna get into some kind of trouble on vacation? Don’t worry, I hear the Cuban police force is pretty insane, I’ve got no big drug smuggling plans.
Oh no, nothing like that. Just, you know, travelling together, that’s kind of a big step.
We’ve been together for a while now. I figure if you can just sit and do nothing with someone and be totally comfortable you’ve got a keeper. Nate and I can do that, we’ll be fine.
And that’s great, that’s so important. But you’ll find out when you travel, you’ll figure out whether you’re going to stay together or not.
What, like being tourists together is some kind of relationship litmus test?
You’ll know. You’ll figure it out pretty quickly.
Packing was a pain in the ass. Trying to get ourselves organized magnified our differences until they were so huge around us that they blocked our view of one other. I made check-lists and researched our resort, while Nate put off buying a suitcase until four hours before we were supposed to arrive at the airport. I tried not to nag, I did my best. Like how I’d cut him slack when he refused to help his uncle clean out his mom’s apartment, trying not to pry or dissect his motivations. I’d checked a bunch of books on grief out of the library, but hid them under my bed when he came over. He wound up staying at my place for the weeks leading up to our trip, and I returned the books, overdue, the day before we left.
I told him we should postpone, that it was too soon. It would be too strange sorting out travel arrangements that so closely followed funeral arrangements. But Nate wouldn’t delay our going, he wanted to leave more than ever. It would be his first time on a plane, he reminded me. He couldn’t wait to go.
We watched Say Anything the night before we left. The movie was my pick. I wanted us to watch the last scene together, where John Cusack (as Lloyd Dobler, the dreamboat everyman), and Ione Skye (as Diane Court, the beautiful overachiever who’s afraid to fly), wait for their plane to take off. Clutching each others’ hands, Lloyd tells Diane that once the smoking sign goes ding everything will be okay. But Nate fell asleep before the end of the movie, snoring, and drooling, on my shoulder.
We were supposed to meet at Ossington station to ride the subway together to the end of the line, Kipling station, to catch the airport shuttle bus. As my bus pulled into the station, Nate texted to say he was running late so I told him to just meet me at Kipling. He showed up at the shuttle stop forty-five minutes after me and didn’t say he was sorry. It didn’t end up mattering though, when we finally got to the airport our flight had been delayed by three hours. I tried to play games to pass the time, but Nate refused to name two careers he’d like to have after I drew up a MASH board, so we sat in silence, reading instead. We traded magazines when we’d each read the ones we brought. I gave him my MaximumRockNRoll, and he gave me his old issue of Gourmet. We approached the gate in silence when our plane and our section were called. I followed the flight attendants’ safety demonstration of our seat belts and the flotation devices under our seats with hazy eyes while Nate stared far out the window.