Speaking of fellow homeowners…
Allow me to introduce you to Jonah, a graphic designer from New Hope, Pennsylvania who called us one day out of the blue after noticing a feature on our house’s web page he wanted to reproduce on his own.
He and his partner had bought a house in Vieques two years before us but had broken up soon afterwards.
Anxious not to lose his investment (and his potential retirement haven), Jonah had rustled up enough money to buy out his ex-partner’s share of the mortgage and was now feeling relieved that he’d survived the storm.
But he was also feeling very much adrift in its wake.
There was something about Jonah—a worldliness intermingled with an almost boyish vulnerability—that was very appealing, and toward the end of our phone conversation I invited him to join us for dinner in Esperanza the next night.
All well and good.
Except that he was late. Very late.
Michael was hungry and not amused by Jonah’s tardiness.
“Maybe he got lost,” I suggested.
“On Vieques?” Michael shot back.
I ordered another drink.
Ten minutes later the bartender called me to the phone. It was Jonah. “Oh my god,” he said. “I’m completely lost. I’ve driven around this island at least five times. Where the hell is Esperanza?”
“On the Caribbean side,” I said as neutrally as possible. “Basically just head south from Isabel and you’ll get here.”
“Or not,” he said gloomily. “Plus, I almost hit a cow. She had the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen. I could never have forgiven myself.”
Eventually I handed the phone back to the bartender, who gave Jonah such clear directions he would have had to be in a coma not to find his way to Esperanza.
When he finally drifted in, dressed to the nines in a crisp white shirt and Nantucket red shorts, his crystal blue eyes blazing, it would have been hard to stay miffed, even for Michael.
“I never had a good sense of direction,” Jonah flatly declared. I avoided Michael’s eye and agreed that Vieques was tricky to navigate.
Michael thawed out quickly. It helped that Jonah had great charm, the kind you don’t stumble across much anymore.
For one thing, he was a terrific storyteller. He’d travelled just about everywhere and had at least one hilarious story about each destination. Also, when it was your turn to talk, he was a good listener. And if you made a joke, he laughed.
To top it all off, he could hold his booze, a wonderfully endearing quality in a friend.
In short, we liked him.
The next time we got together with Jonah for dinner, I suggested (at Michael’s behest) that we meet at a new restaurant in Isabel, slightly nearer his house in Destino.
I hoped against hope he’d be more punctual this time.
No such luck.
Admittedly, Michael and I are notoriously punctual. In fact, we have trouble arriving anywhere more than five minutes late. Believe me, we’ve encountered more than our share of hostesses fresh from the shower, hair dripping, wearing little more than a towel and a sour expression.
But we made a concerted effort to arrive fifteen minutes late this particular evening. By handicapping ourselves we hoped to give Jonah the advantage.
But being even fifteen minutes late was tough for us. Michael swept the balcony. I emptied the dishwasher. We sipped our cocktails and watched the sunset.
“Let’s go,” he said. “We can drive around.”
But it was all for naught.
When we arrived at 7:50 (a full twenty minutes late) our waiter told us Jonah had called to say he was running late “due to an emergency.”
Michael rolled his eyes. “I hope someone died,” he said. I gave him a dirty look. “Okay,” he conceded. “I hope someone has a debilitating illness.”
At 8:15 Jonah called again.
Our waiter, a friendly young fellow from (of all places) Lithuania, appeared to be totally in his thrall already. “Your friend is so nice,” he enthused when he came back from the phone.
“What’s the problem now?” Michael asked abruptly.
“There’s an iguana in his bedroom.”
We barely batted an eye. It was Jonah, after all.
Instead, Michael went outside and smoked five or six cigarettes. I invited our waiter, whose name was Marcus, to join us for a drink. By the time Jonah arrived an hour later, we were feeling no pain.
Jonah pulled his camera out of the backpack he took with him everywhere to show us a photo of the iguana. It was actually pretty large.
“How did you get it outside?” Marcus asked.
“Well,” Jonah began in his vague, fluttery way. “I tried everything I could think of—I shook a pillowcase at it, I turned on the house alarm, I shone a flashlight in its beady little eyes, but nothing seemed to have the slightest effect. Then I turned on the stereo and played a Britney Spears CD one of my guests had left behind. And by god, that lizard shot right out the door.”