Crushed By My Holiday Crush
He was so handsome. Tall with dark chocolate skin and big brown eyes to match. He climbed in the minivan and took the last available seat next to me. Smiling, he revealed his perfect white teeth. I could already imagine kissing his plump lips.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hi,” my voice quivered. “Where are you from?”
“South Africa,” he replied in his super sexy accent. “You?”
“Australia” I stumbled
He already made me nervous.
We were on a 90-minute bus ride to Honda Bay to see Puerto Princesa’s underground river in Palawan, the Philippines. En route, we got chatting about our similar plans for the trip and where we had already been. Our personalities seemed to bounce off each other and we had a similar sense of humour. He even laughed at my jokes.
My hands were clammy and my heart beat fast when I had to talk too much about myself. He had been living in China teaching English for the past three years and wanted a cheap getaway. He was the middle child of five siblings, and we both loved riding motorbikes. We joked about how we liked taking naps and discussed life. Despite my nerves about embarrassing myself, I wasn’t far from him the entire day.
After the underground river, we sat at the same table in the busy buffet restaurant to eat our included lunch. But I noticed he moved away from me, crossed one leg over the other and played on his phone. I couldn’t stop staring at him: his perfectly smooth skin, a profile that made me melt and hands softer than mine.
We fell asleep on the bus journey back to our hotel, my leg touching his. I felt comfortable in his warmth. I hoped I’d fall deep enough asleep that my head would fall on his shoulder; instead, I twitched and whacked him.
Back at the hotel, we met by the pool and shared a spa and agreed to meet after an afternoon nap. When we ate dinner together, he asked if I had a boyfriend back home.
“No,” I answered, thinking that meant he was interested in me. “Do you?” I asked back.
“No, I don’t have a boyfriend,” was his response,
I laughed, thinking nothing more of it.
We said goodnight and swapped details, planning to meet in our next destination of El Nido, and I went to bed dreaming of touching his skin and kissing those plump lips.
I spent the six-hour bus ride to El Nido excited that he wanted to see me again. I found a gorgeous little cottage by the beach on arrival and messaged him to see if he would like to join me on a boat tour the following day. He agreed and asked if I’d like to have a drink with him at Nacpan Beach that night, but it was getting late and the beach was a 45-minute scooter ride away, so I declined and hoped he would definitely show up in the morning.
I carefully picked an outfit from the three that I had in my backpack, shaved my legs and tried to fix the sea-salt mop of curly hair on my head, checking the A4-paper sized mirror more times than necessary. At 9am, he rode towards me tooting his horn with that big cheeky grin and his white singlet glowing against his dark skin. He’d been out until 4 that same morning and admitted to being slightly hungover. I thought it sweet that he’d pulled himself together and shown up.
The grey clouds were threatening our day on the water, but I barely noticed in his company as we kayaked lagoons and snorkelled for nemos and hermit crabs. I felt safe swimming beside him. He cut his foot on some coral and tried to act tough as I affectionately tried to make it better.
When the rains started coming in, he wrapped half his towel around me and snuggled close, looking at me with what I thought was a twinkle in his eye. As the weather got worse, so did his hangover; he was cold and sat with one leg crossed over the other and a towel over his head while I snorkelled our last lagoon alone.
Eventually we had no choice but to head back to shore. The rain had turned us both cold, and with the island lacking hot water, we didn’t even have a warm shower to look forward to: only hot coffee and chocolate, which I offered him back at my cottage.
We chatted between him playing on his phone and laughed between the raindrops hitting hard on the rooftop. I expected him to leave as soon as it stopped, but instead we wandered into town and he let me share his pineapple juice. Once the sun went down, we walked through the night taking photos and exploring, my hand touching his every chance I got. Whenever I asked him a question, he would affectionately grab my chin, look in my eyes and say, “Yes, Kristen,” like I was the most important person in the world to him at that moment.
My body tingled at the thought that he actually liked me.
We parted ways again for the night, with me wishing he had just stayed at mine, and agreed to ride motorbikes to see some waterfalls the next day. I went to bed dreaming of seeing him again, scared he wouldn’t show.
He did, on his bike, in a dark blue singlet with a bright floral pattern along the chest. In the hot sun, his dark skin glistened. I melted. We grabbed some falafel wraps roadside before we left and I felt uncomfortable as he sat on his phone while we ate.
“Ready to go?” I asked in an attempt to break the silence.
“Yes,” he said, “but I’m going to meet a friend first.”
“Oh okay, who?”
“A guy I met at Nacpan Beach the other night, I think he likes me.”
“Is he gay?” I asked without thinking.
“Yes, I am too.”
I laughed in confusion
“I came out to my mum this year,” he continued.
My heart sunk to my stomach and my stomach sunk to a crevasse I didn’t know I had. I was in shock. I wanted the ground to suck me up, or to wake up from this nightmare.
“That’s disappointing” was all I could mumble. “How long have you known?” I asked, as if he’d just figured it out yesterday. It didn’t feel like it was me speaking.
I wanted him to tell me he was joking, but he told me about how he’d been with girls before, but always avoided sex with girlfriends, and that when he was at uni, he had fallen in love with his best male friend.
“STOP!” I wanted to scream. “I really like you. I thought you liked me too. Why didn’t you tell me?”
But instead, I waited on the side of the road while he went and collected his Maltese holiday fling.
We rode to the waterfalls, his crush on the back of his bike with one hand on his shoulder, the other on his hip. I was jealous.
I hoped the wind in my hair on the 40-minute journey would blow my hurt and betrayal away. It didn’t.
At the falls, I grabbed his hand as we crossed the rocky river. I desperately wanted to hate his crush, but I couldn’t – he was really nice. We swam in the fresh, cold stream underneath the falling water, and I tried to pretend I was okay.
I scootered back to my cottage, yelling out my goodbyes as they sped on. I needed time on my own to process what had happened. But he came back to ask if I’d join them down the beach
“Maybe in a little while,” I said, with no intention of watching the object of my desire crush on someone else. He insisted, and despite my heartbreak, I still really enjoyed his company. So I went, his leg on my lap, my hand resting on top, while his crush sat on the other side.
As the night progressed and we drank more cocktails, my betrayal faded. I told him how I felt, and he was surprised I’d said nothing. He told me again that he was in love with his best friend as we walked arm in arm along the beach, his crush up ahead.
I made my way back to my cottage alone, deciding it was time to let them have some space.
At least saying goodbye will be a lot easier now that I know, I thought. But it wasn’t really.
I still dream of the holiday fling that could’ve been. I think about him riding towards me with that cheeky grin. I miss the friend I made, and I’m thankful he made those few days so memorable, but the next time a hot guy sits next to me on a bus, I’m going to look for signs more telling than a friendly smile before I plan my life with him.
Cover by William Rouse