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Published: September 30th 2017
Geo: 51.0197, -115.547
First thing's first ... people have asked me this many times so I need to definitively say I DID NOT BUY or MAKE the Isabel doll I posted on Imagestation! Three evil friends (I won't use real names; instead I will call them Juan, Maria, and Yvonna) bought it for me in Lagos, Portugal and presented it to me atop our rooftop terrace in Salema as a birthday joke. And NO, I don't sleep with it or worship it (though she's very good at listening and never nags). It's just a funny reminder of what a fool I was last year in Spain.
Anyway, here's the story - I met Isabel last year in Toledo, where she worked at a hotel that John and I stayed at. We arrived there only after many problems - getting lost in Madrid looking for the car rental office, driving around aimlessly and lost on Madrid's streets, and then stumbling around flustered in Toledo's scorching 37+ degree heat, in search of the hotel.
Can you recall those clichéd scenes from movies involving a man stumbling across a dessert, roasting under the intense sun? He would give anything for a sip of water or some sort of respite from the blazing heat. Just when you think he no longer has the strength to continue, he comes across a cool, tranquil oasis. All of his pain and hardship vanish in an instant once that refreshing water dances across his parched lips.
Well, seeing Isabel for the first time was something like that for me - I was completely drained by the heat and stress we had just encountered. I'm not just talking about being physically drained - have you ever felt like your soul was bruised and battered, and in need of a little rejuvenation? Yes, I know that this is incredibly cheesy - but her smile and the look in her eyes made all of that physical and emotional exhaustion disappear. And I don't mean the exhaustion of the previous few trying hours - I'm talking about YEARS worth.
Quite simply, upon meeting her she took my breath away, and left me speechless. There were so many incredibly attractive qualities about her; it's hard to rank any one above the others, but I will try. She definitely met my three top criteria of being cute (impossibly, so!), sweet, and petite (she also got extra points for being brunette!). She had a simple and natural beauty that was really quite striking. Flawless skin, too!
What else can I tell you about her? She had this anxious, nervous, shy, and innocent quality about her that can only be described as mesmerizing. It's a funny thing - after meeting her I remember emailing a friend back home that I had met this incredible girl that left me "captivated, enamored, enchanted, enthralled, entranced, intoxicated, and mesmerized". Her reaction after finding out all of the details of the story was "Huh?!!??? Who am I talking to??!!!? I don't recognize this person!!!" I'm sure that this is the same reaction all of you are also having as you read this story.
What else was so enchanting about her? She was demure, gentle, kind, soft-spoken, well-spoken ... she also carried and expressed herself with an intelligence, maturity, and sensibility that you would expect from someone much older. How old was she? 20 - yup, I am officially an old pervert! I can honestly say that I would never go for someone that much younger than me, but in this situation, I can't say that it matters. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, without regard for any rules or preconceptions you might have. I would never do this again, but I know that I must do this now.
Many of you have also heard me drooling over her accent. Like everybody else, I've heard Spanish accents before ... but it wasn't until hearing her speak that I realized how incredibly smooth and attractive the Spanish in Spain could be. She had such a polite and proper manner of speech, and also the slight lisp that some Spaniards have. Wow! Whether she was speaking Spanish, or English with her unbelievably cute Spanish accent, it didn't matter because I was in Heaven!
I guess I'm big on the "little" things - by that I mean things that other people probably wouldn't notice, or even care about. Many times these things can be much more attractive than any physical feature. What kinds of things am I talking about? The way she kept politely saying "You may speak English, if you like ..." every time I messed up her language.
Or how we were told "Our parking is complete!" when we asked about parking for our car. We said "Great, so you just built the parkade? Where is it?", to which she responded in the exact same way again. After asking about parking several more times and her responding in the same way each time, but with increasing confusion because she probably thought "how many more times do I need to tell them this?", we finally figured out that "completo" in Spanish means "full". She had obviously chosen the wrong English word but I didn't care - I couldn't fault somebody that was so cute!
I also couldn't blame her for a bad dinner recommendation that she made. Because even as I was eating some sub-par food, all I could think of was how cute and proper she was when she told me "For tapas, La Abadia is quite popular with the locals." Of course, the only reason I asked her for a recommendation was to have an excuse to talk to her again later that evening ... and John will never let me live down the so-so breakfast we had in the hotel the next day. He wondered "Why the heck does he want to eat breakfast here???", but little did he know that my only intent was to hear her Spanish accent once more. Sadly, she wasn't working in the morning, and I didn't get to see her again until that evening 😞
But what clinched it for me was actually a sequence of many little things. It was the way she would look up at me, tilt her head to the side, and shyly smile while looking down and to her left anytime that we made eye contact. She had her hair up in a pony tail, but there was a cluster of hair that wouldn't stay tied back; it sat draped across her face, and gently rested across her right cheek.
As she would complete her "lookaway" maneuver (she should really be banned from doing this, as it obviously drives men insane), she would use her right index finger to carefully tuck her hair behind her right earlobe. Of course, the hair kept coming loose and she kept having to repeat the move, but I wasn't complaining - I could've stood there all day watching her do that! And I don't normally notice this, but she had the cutest little dimples ... sigh ...
But perhaps the single most attractive quality about her was the fact that she was completely unaware of how absolutely stunning I found her. As much as I've tried to quantify it, there really is something indescribable and unforgettable about her, something that defies mere words. Honestly, you simply need to meet her and hear the sound of her voice to understand what I am talking about.
Is she the perfect girl for me? Quite possibly, but I believe that everybody has many perfect matches out there. It just depends on whether or not they ever find one of them. That's why I need to go back - if she really is the one for me, I'll never forgive myself for not taking the chance. People have asked me - if things don't work out with Isabel, could I ever move on? The answer is "Of course!" Yes, meeting Isabel was an incredible experience - but other than the instantaneous nature of the moment, what I felt upon meeting her wasn't a completely unique feeling. I've had that feeling in the past and I know that I'll experience it again in the future. But it was something that I hadn't experienced in a long time, and I wasn't sure that I would ever experience it again.
What was unique about it was that it happened in an instant. I'm of the take-it-slowly-and-get-to-know-somebody-first, school of thought. I believe that it's impossible to see so many things about a person in such a short time, but I felt that in those first five minutes I had learned more about her than I could learn about anyone else in five months. I suppose that's why meeting her was such a memorable experience - these kinds of instant things don't happen to a cynical guy like me. It's never really been about Isabel, per se - it's been about knowing that there is someone out there that makes you feel something incredible inside, and doing whatever it takes to find that person. Isn't that what everyone wants - to experience something incredible?
I suppose I will always look fondly back upon that fateful day - but not for what it was, but for what it represented. Yes, I did meet a girl that would one day drive me to do some pretty crazy and reckless things. But for me that day also marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life, one where I realized that if I wanted happiness, I needed to make it happen for myself. A part of me reminisces about that day and understands that the details of what happened are inconsequential. It is the changes in me resulting from that day that now inspire me to do the things I've previously only dreamed about doing.
I realize that I've now set the bar unattainably high for myself - I can already hear the conversations from any future-girlfriend or wife: "Well, you never waited a year, traveled halfway across the world, learned a foreign language, and professed your undying love for ME!!!" I guess that's the price you pay for following your crazy dreams. So if that conversation ever does happen, hopefully they will realize that while Isabel was one of the most amazing people I have ever encountered in my life, anybody that could make me forget about her must be even more amazing.
So what exactly did we talk about in our brief first encounter? She asked if we wanted a double bed, and I could only manage to smile and nod at her, while trying not to drool. Later, I realized that she may have thought we were gay, so I went back to ask if we could move the twin beds apart (real smooth, eh?). This was the first indication to her that I was an idiot. This was a problem any time I opened my mouth.
I tried speaking in Spanish, but butchered the language; I tried English, but was at a loss for words. I later wrote her a note in Spanish asking her out; the translation was roughly "My name is Pat. I'm 27 years old. If I'm not excessively old for you, and I don't have a husband or boyfriend, will you have a drink or dinner with me?" My horrid attempt confirmed that I was an idiot. And yes, I conjugated incorrectly and said "if I don't have a boyfriend" instead of "if YOU don't have a boyfriend".
Well, she told me that she had a boyfriend - actually, she said giggled and blushed in her cute little way, and said "I will have to ask my boyfriend first!" John and I left the next day, but I found that I couldn't stop thinking about her for the entire trip. Was it love at first sight for me? I don't know, but I would've loved to have found out. So I asked my friend Patricia to translate an e-mail for Isabel. It was one step short of a love letter and I sent it to her (actually, the Hotel's e-mail address), not long after leaving Toledo.
I never received a reply; I don't know if she didn't get it, or if she didn't care. I think that's why it feels unfinished to me. It was really hot there so it could've been heat stroke, but I really thought that she felt something, too. We talked three times for a total of 15 minutes. That's not a typo. Is it crazy to return to Spain to see a girl that I haven't seen in a year, and only talked to for a few minutes? Definitely. Is it stupid? Probably. But no more stupid than quitting my job to travel for 99 days.
The purpose of this trip is to live my dream and travel; I would do that regardless. I return to Spain with no real expectations - the chances are almost zero that anything will happen. But I figure why not go back and take a chance? I have nothing to lose. Maybe she will be married by now, but maybe she will be single. Maybe she doesn't feel anything for me, and maybe I won't feel the same when I see her.
So what am I hoping to get out of this? The worst-case scenario is that nothing happens and I continue on my travels through Europe - not a bad consolation prize. The better scenario is that something does happen, and I hang out with Isabel in Spain for awhile. The ideal scenario is that something does happen and we end up traveling around Europe together. But say something does happen - what then? I'll be in Europe for 99 days - plenty of time to see where things might go. And with no job to return to I really have nothing tying me to Canada. If things did work out, I have to admit the idea of sticking around beyond the 99 days is pretty appealing. What would I do for all that time? Who knows ... maybe I could find a job at a hotel in Toledo ...
This is one of those moments you have in life where you don't know why you are doing something, only that you MUST do it. I really don't know what will happen; I only know that I need to find out. As time passes, this trip becomes less about finding Isabel and more about finding something that I've lost. Maybe it's her, but maybe it's something else. Whatever it is, I feel like I will find it this time in Europe.
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