I’ll wake up in an empty hotel room, a thin white sheet clinging to my damp skin. A flake of white paint will break off from the ceiling and land on my wrinkled t-shirt draped over the wooden desk chair. I’ll roll over and shut my eyes tight for a few drawn-out seconds before swinging my legs over the king-sized bed. The birds will chirp and rays of equatorial sun will sneak into the room through the curtain’s cracks. It will be the kind of the day that throws you out of bed, the humid and dark bedroom claustrophobic before the acutely tropical outdoors. I’ll stand up and rinse the cold sweat off my body before throwing on the old t-shirt, board shorts, and Havaianas that I purchased here ten years ago.
I will join Salvador’s commuters at the bus stop on the corner of the Orla and the plaza where Dinha sells Acarajé every Tuesday night. They will be dressed neatly and modestly, the women in polos and skirts with their dark hair in tight buns, the men in khakis and thin button downs and with the occasional briefcase in hand. Most will give me a brief and disinterested look, vaguely surprised by my pale skin. The bus will arrive after ten or fifteen minutes and I’ll take a window seat after handing the driver my three reais– twice the price I remembered.
The bus will roll to a stop and I’ll push through a wall of damp skin before joining the line of people filing off the bus. The men and women in work clothes will walk off with a distinctly Bahiana stride, their hips swinging like samba dancers. I’ll make my way along the broken sidewalk with less urgency and with less grace, observing the city’s familiar cracks.
I’ll walk up the cobblestone hill between Pelourinho and Barulho, and pull open Cafélier’s heavy wooden door. I’ll move slowly up the three steep steps between the street and the small café’s wooden floor, familiar squeaks marking my arrival. Generations of Brazilian rulers will stare at me with dull eyes, the oil paint having weathered dust and time. The frames will still hang crooked across the small rectangular room’s walls except for the one that faces the ocean. There will be two enormous windows, left ajar, and a humid breeze will rustle the lace table clothes.
A woman with mahogany hair will be seated at the table closest to the window. It will be tied up in a carefree bun, a few loose pieces striping the back of her ivory neck. She will be wearing a neat green blouse that is just thin enough to expose the constellations of freckles across her back. I’ll take a seat at the table beside hers and habitually flip through a menu. I already know my order and it will roll of my tongue without thought, “queria uma caiparinha da casa por favor.” I’ll look towards the window and notice the open book on the corner of her table, pressed against the table to save her spot. She’ll finish her bite of raspberry tart and take a sip of sparkling water before picking it back up.
The waitress will bring a tall glass filled with ice, lime juice, and sugar to my table and add a shot of cachaça in front of me. She will continue to refresh my glass as I sit there watching cargo ships float across the horizon, and this woman flip through pages of her book. She’ll twirl a loose strand of hair. Then put the book down and stare at the sea. She’ll tilt her head and lean backward, as though reading the view.
After a couple of hours, I will get up to leave. The floor will screech as I push the chair back under the table. The mahogany-haired woman will turn around and I will see her face for the first time. Her eyes will match the color her green dress, a cluster of freckles along her cheekbones will confirm the stars across her back. I’ll step outside and the air will feel lighter, the sky will look bluer, the street’s crumbling homes will seem more rustic and charming. It could be the cachaça.
I’ll hop in a white taxi and close my eyes for the twenty-minute ride back to the hotel. I’ll step inside to find my wife checking in at the front desk, her flight having arrived an hour before. I’ll place my hand on her shoulder and give it a tight squeeze, “Welcome, sweetie.” She’ll put her pen and American passport down and kiss me on the cheek. Her flight will have gone smoothly, and she will have loved the view from the window seat.