It was the typical Friday night routine – meet Jorge at 9 pm for drinks at our local bar “El Guayabo” in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. As Jorge rambled on about the monotony of his week, the headlights of a car came streaming through the storefront and reflected off Jorge’s bottle of Heineken. Suddenly I became focused on a poster hanging on the bar room wall that I had never noticed before. It was the image of The Coliseum in the great city of Rome.
It was that moment that I realized how small our Island life was, and how desperately I wanted to see the grandeur of the world. I needed adventure! Excitement! Spontaneity! I stopped Jorge midsentence and told him to hold up his beer again so I could snap a picture with my phone. “Que tu haces?” Jorge asked. I flip my phone around to reveal the photo of Jorge, his Heineken, and the majestic Coliseum. “You see this amigo? This is what we’re missing! We need to make this a reality.” After several more beers we came up with a plan to make this fantasy a reality? We would meet at the airport early the next morning to fly standby. El Plan: to be on the next flight off the island headed to Rome, Italy. Our objective: celebrate life in front of history, and capture this moment in a single image – just me, Jorge, two Heinekens and the Coliseum.
There was only one seat on the first standby flight, so Jorge and I drew straws. Unfortunately, I drew the short straw and had to hang behind. As we bid our goodbyes we agreed to do whatever it took to meet each other in front of the Coliseum in exactly two days.
The next standby flight off the Island was headed to Milan, so I figured I could find a train to take me the rest of the way to Rome. And here in Milan is where I made the biggest mistake of my adventure. I fell asleep! Not only was my duffle bag stolen, but some gypsies had managed to pick my wallet right from my pocket! Thank God I had stuck some money in my back pocket! When the train arrived in Rome, I knew I couldn’t spend any extra money on a taxi, so I decided to pick up a map and walk the remaning leg of the trip.
Four hours later I finally arrived at the Coliseum and sat anxiously waiting for Jorge to arrive. I waited for three more hours to no avail. With no cell phone, limited money in my pocket and several more hours to burn before my family would be able to Western Union me money, I did what any reasonable Puerto Rican would do. I headed to the bar! Or in this case, the Italian version – a picturesque outdoor café. I was exhausted and a little disappointed that Jorge and I had not completed our mission. I signaled to the waiter, “Uno Heineken per favore”. Just as the words came out of my mouth a beautiful Italian woman driving a Vespa pulled up and honked her horn as Jorge jumped off the back.
As Jorge approach the table grinning ear to ear he held up two fingers, “Due per favore”. I didn’t know what else to do but laugh out loud! “Cabron!” I couldn’t believe we were actually going to be able to complete the mission! But first we agreed to share our adventures from the last two days over a few cold ones.