July 2018.

We go to my mama’s house by the beach. It’s always been a holiday home; full in the summer and empty the rest of the year. People always passing through but never staying. It takes us two buses to get there and it’s dusk by the time we’re waiting for the last one. Raul plays guitar and sings by the side of the road, and I feel like I’m in a film.

I’d always dreamt about staying in this house with someone I loved, but I’d never really been able to picture it with any of my previous lovers. Now here I am, with my dream boy, about to move in and make this house a home.

We’re tired and ravenous and didn’t have the foresight to bring some food with us, so we drop off our things and have a burger at a small place around the corner, laughing as we realise this is technically our first ever date. We fall asleep that night on the old, thin double mattress on the floor. It’s cold, but huddled together under the blankets, it doesn’t really matter.

My uncle and cousin come to visit from the neighbouring state. They’re the first of my family to meet Raul in person and it’s so wonderful to see them all get along. We drive to one of the nearby beaches, and Barbara photographs us being silly and running wild on the cold, windy beach.

The day they leave, Adriana and her boyfriend arrive. I’m so completely overjoyed to be in the company of the people I love, and to have a home I can recieve them in.

It’s so quiet here we have the beaches pretty much to ourselves. One day while hiking from one beach to another, we come across a rather frenetic man with a huge knife slung casually on his hip. It turns out he’d seen Adriana’s instagram stories earlier that day, and then decided to wait for her on the trail he knew she’d be on.

He offers us weed, and tells us he’s been awake for the past few days, wired on magic mushroom tea. His dog is breathing in an odd, laboured way and he tells us he gave him some horse tranquilizers. We try to politely go on our way, but he won’t take the hint and keeps insisting that we should all go to his place nearby. Unease surges through me. We’re all deeply uncomfortable but trying not to show it. He doesn’t seem to be mean or harbouring ill-intent, but there’s no way we’re going anywhere with him.

After a while the boys make up an excuse, telling him we have to be getting back home because we have some friends coming over. It works, and I’m so grateful for their calm, safe presence.

The remaining days pass quickly, and soon it’s time to head back to Raul’s grandparents house by the city. I have a flight to catch.