Updated: Feb 14, 2020
You’ve got to try the fish tacos here, Adriana, our Uber driver said, after helping us load our suitcases into her trunk. It’s what San Diego is famous for.
Ady and I glanced sideways at each other. If this is all this city has to offer, we chose the wrong place to end our two-week road trip. Neither of us can stand the taste of fish, nevermind the smell of it. The thought of mashed fins and gills in between two pieces of cornbread was enough to make my stomach turn. At least the nights are warm,I thought to myself, as I pulled my arms out of my worn sweater.
After saying ciao to Adriana and a late check-in, we collapsed onto the nameless starched white linen we’d seen in every hotel, and looked at each other. Hungry? I joked. Ady came close, responding to my beckoning eyes, and we drifted into a traveller’s sleep of discomfort, unfamiliarity and exhaustion.
The next morning, I tore open the curtains and was greeted with the glare of a rising sun. I felt the freckles on my cheeks browning at the prospect of ozone exposure.
I threw on a pair of jean shorts and threw a pair of jeans on Ady, jumping on him until he was ready to go. Shouldn’t we prepare lunch? He asked.
The two of us stood side by side, hip to torso. I chopped cucumbers, avocado and tomatoes while he cleaned out the plastic tub we’d been carrying around with us for weeks. I knew we’d get good use out of this! he insisted. I rolled my eyes and let a smile slip out. I hated being wrong. When we sealed the tub full of our salad for kings, I peered at the midday sun, grabbed my sunglasses and, on second thought, stuffed my sweater in my backpack. Let’s go already! I said.
I jumped onto a stopped bus, flashed a smile at the driver and asked brazenly: Does this bus go to La Jolla?
He shook his head and glared at me, and as I was about to retreat in defeat, he said, First, let me get this straight. There is no place around here called La Jolla.
Oh, I stuttered, I must have gotten it confused, looking around, and feeling small.
It is pronounced La Hoya- okay? And yes, we go all the way there. He ended his rebuke with a mischievous grin. I let one of my own out in return.
This is it! I turned to Ady, triumphant. Thank you! I shouted, as we made our way to the back of the bus.
I fell asleep on the bus ride and woke half an hour later with my head on Ady’s shoulder. I quickly felt my mouth and the side of his shirt for drool, and hoped I hadn’t snored.
I slept? I asked, confused at the very idea of it. Yep, he said, big eyes on mine.
We stepped off the bus and I tipped my face up towards the sun, feeling it paint my skin gold. Ady watched me, squinting from the light with only one eye open. I grabbed his hand and we glided through the palm-tree and gelato-store lined streets of La Jolla.
The sun began to set after a picture-perfect day of sea-lion spotting. We were too late for gelato, and I gratefully pulled out the sweater I’d brought. Maybe I was wrong about the warm nights, I thought. Ady’s hand in mine slowly turned to ice and he looked to me for the next line of discussion until we got to the bus stop.
Wow, I said, looking across the street. Did you see the line for the fish tacos?
Ady grimaced as he observed the line of people out the door of the restaurant across the way. We carried on in silence. Your turn, I thought.
Wow, he said, a little louder. Did you see the line for the fish tacos?
But when he said tacos, it didn’t come out quite as tawk-oh’s, but rather tuck-oh’s.
Must be a Danish thing, I thought.
He raised an eyebrow. I had the next move.
Wow! I shouted. Did you see the line for the fish tacos?!
Impressed at my range, I was sure I had won.
You started this with the wrong person, he said.
I was about to respond when he cut me off, yelping:
WOW! Did you see the line for the fish tacos?!
Startled, I jumped and looked around to see if anyone else had heard. Confident that we were alone, I kept walking. The silence grew until -
WOW!! I jumped in the air as I screeched. Did you see the line for the fish tacos?!
When I jumped, his hand that I held jumped with me. “Imaleh”, he said, hand on his chest.
Must be an Israeli thing, I thought, chuffed that I could scare an ex-military man.
We passed a Baskin Robbins and I was about to ask to go in when he guffawed-
WOW! Did you see the LINE! For the FISH! TACOS!
I burst into fits of uncontrollable laughter. The taco stand was miles back but the joke never drowned.
Refusing to be outdone, I congratulated him and as he took a bow I howled-
We were both rather shocked at the decibel I had reached. My throat felt like it had filled with dust. I didn’t find it necessary to complete the sentence.
Okay, Ady said. Should we end it there?
Mmmhhmm, I nodded, bashful at the yelp that came out of my very own mouth.
He hugged me tight, and I beamed, feeling like I had done something right. '
The next night, as he hugged me goodbye and tears streaked the brown splotches of evidence of sunnier days on my cheeks, I felt the wet in the corners of his eyes. After our final supper of teary cream cheese sandwiches, through blurry eyes and wet curls I looked at Ady and began to laugh.
His furrowed brow softened. What? He asked.
I couldn’t stop giggling. Wow- I mumbled, the sound garbled because of the gluey cheese on my tongue. Did you see the line for the fish tacos?
Ady began to chuckle and we held each other close. In our hotel room that neither of us cared for anymore, I felt him hold me.
It’s pretty hard for me to really feel that anymore. The goodnight kisses through an iPhone screen don’t travel the oceans between us fast enough. What does transfer over, though, is the irrepressible fits of laughter I have any time I think of this day.