Jerry is my only roommate in the dorm looking out over Laguna de Apoyo. He’s a quirky fellow, mid sixties, sun-browned from dozens of trips in Latin America, and mentioned within a few minutes of meeting that he has no interest in reading blogs or interacting with the internet beyond a single monthly email to his sister, who in turn updates the family that he’s still alive.

He’s sitting on his lower bunk when he tells me this, his leg stretched out in front of him and a massive ice pack slumping all over what is clearly a very swollen left knee.

“I tell them I’m okay. I don’t tell them my knee is hurt, what can they do about it? Why should I tell them that? I tell them I’m okay, that’s it.”

His statements are usually very emphatic, in English or in Spanish. Far be it from me to criticize anyone’s accent in any language, but his Spanish is the sort of enthusiastic pronunciation of letters that I can’t help but smile.

“I don’t like traveling with people my age, or I end up doing only things that people my age do. They pull up to a beautiful place in a bus, take a picture out the window, and stay on the bus. Do they jump off the cliff in Somoto Canyon? (Which is how he hurt his knee.) No! I want to repel off cliffs!”

He mentions his male Nicaragua “friend” several times, and I can’t help but wonder, although lately my gaydar has been going off like crazy so I’m doubting its accuracy here, but then he tells me about how he asked his friend out and the difficulties with the friend’s girlfriend when he told them he was gay. His arms cross for a moment as he prepares himself in case I react poorly. Seeing that I have no problem with it he relaxes and our conversation continues.

Where I was sitting when I noticed my burn.

This morning we both woke up before 6:00 when our East-facing room was blasted with sunlight, and shockingly quickly I noticed a pink flush on my shoulders. I was only swimming for…a few minutes? So this evening I sit here with shoulders flaming like a damn flamingo. In Spanish they call us sunburned whitey tourists “cangrejos.” Crabs. I am a frickin lobster.

I’m sitting next to Jerry and start to apply a second layer of aloe vera gel. “I’d offer to do that for you, but I just told you I was gay so I guess I shouldn’t.”

I reassure him that I don’t get bent out of shape about that stuff and how proud I was of my brother when he came out at a young age. Before I know it he’s jumped up, splurted a generous handful of gel into his hand and is rubbing me down. The staff at the table next to us suddenly finds whatever they’re reading very involving.

“Don’t worry, you’re not Latin so I won’t get aroused.”

Not sure what to say to that but don’t want awkward silence so I respond: “Uh. I’ll try not to tan too much tonight then.” How’d I do? What would you have said?

He rubs it in a little longer than strictly necessary and I thank him. “That’s okay, I enjoyed it too.” I can’t think of anything to say to that. We go back to talking about traveling and I mention K offhand. Several times.

He looks slightly disappointed but our conversation never slows as we talk about Uruguay, Zambia, Corsica, Newfoundland, the Camino de Santiago, and only getting old when you decide you’re old.

It was a pleasure to meet you, Jerry.