Wednesday, January 12, 2011


On the Blvd St. Germain, 2006

I ran into Carolina at a New Year’s Eve party. This has gotten to be the only time of the year we see each other any more. Once upon a time, though, we worked together and saw each other every day.

When I was in college I waited tables at a beachside hotel restaurant. Carolina came to work as a bartender and cocktail waitress. All the guys fell in love with her.

Carolina had the kind of lithe and exotic beauty one associates with, say, Tahiti. Her long dark hair didn’t so much as bounce as dance like a wave in the air. It was her seeming innocence that would captivate you next, though you’d have been way wrong to call her naïve. Carolina came from a boisterous family, the only daughter and youngest of five children. Her brothers followed their father into the officers’ ranks of the Navy. Carolina, though, wasn't cut out for that kind of structure. She liked drinking and riding in convertibles too much. She hung out on the beach and surfed as if she’d been born on a wave. She dated fast guys. She knew her natural beauty was enough to disarm most men. But she was also the kind of woman who never acted as if she was any prettier than any other woman.

Carolina lived with her architect husband and their young daughter in an apartment within walking distance of where we worked. The child was as beautiful as her mother. Carolina’s husband seemed to understand what kind of woman he had on his hands. He stayed in the background, but you knew he meant business if you got too close to Carolina. Looking back, I suppose his pride might have been wounded that it was necessary for Carolina to have to take the bartending job.

There were a few women like this in my youth. They were the kind of girls you dreamed about, but figured you probably never had a chance with. If they paid any attention to you at all, you were probably too flummoxed to know what to say.

I turned twenty-one during the time I worked with Carolina. I like to think she bought me my first mixed drink. But since I wasn’t exactly new to drinking, let’s just say it might have been the first time a beautiful woman ever bought me a drink in a public bar, though strictly speaking, Carolina didn’t even buy the drink since she was the bartender.

Years went by. I went back to college and stayed away for another decade after that. I made new friends, got married and started a family and a career. Another decade passed. The memories of that year at the beach hotel became ancient history.

And then about ten years ago my wife and I were at a New Year’s Eve party given by some friends. There, across the room, was Carolina. To suggest that we’d had a relationship and that this was some kind of “Some Enchanted Evening” moment would have been giving our connection too much credit. But we’d been friends and spent a while catching up. I learned that her marriage to the architect hadn’t lasted much longer. He moved to another state. Their daughter grew up. Carolina married again, this time to a surfer who makes his living doing odd jobs. She and Bo are very happy.

By my reckoning, Carolina must be sixty, perhaps even a year or two older. The years haven’t been entirely kind to her appearance. But her eyes are as deep blue and entrancing as they were those nights long ago when she carried drinks out to the terrace by the ocean.


  1. Wonderful portrait of her: I can picture her vividly. That photo at the top of this post is beautiful, too!

  2. Excellent. I can only echo Sue's comments

  3. I wonder how many of us have our own Carolinas. Great story, Chris. It sure took me back a piece!