“Let’s walk together, we are sisters.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” I said. The words came out before my manners did. It was a good thing that my skin was too dark for the blushing to be visible.
I had scanned the puddle of hikers at the subway station who were waiting for the hike to start. As usual there was one Black person present. Me. The woman was perched on a ledge, her face hidden by over-sized sunglasses. A baseball cap covered her brown hair which was streaked with blonde highlights. Streaks of white sunscreen ran down her tanned neck and hands. I assumed she was Greek or Italian. She took off the sunglasses and stared at me.
“I am from Curacao. You have heard about the Dutch Caribbean I presume?”
“Of course. So your first language is Dutch or Papiamento? I could not place your accent.”
“You probably heard the German. Most people do. My husband is German. I lived there for 30 years you know. I had to learn the language as none of his family spoke Dutch. I learned English in Germany. I am Angelina.”
We shook hands. She wore a white cotton glove on her left hand and its partner dangled in her palm.
“Do you hike with this group often?”
“Yes I do. It’s free. You must give me your number. It’s nice to hike with a sister.”
“What got you into hiking?”
“I was always athletic because my father was too. He ran marathons all his life until he died. He did it in style you know, he went to bed one night and never woke up. I did triathlons when I was younger. These days I just like the hiking. I used to sail you know. My husband and I spent hours sailing the boat in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean.”
“What kind of boat was it? I used to sail too.”
“It was a yacht. I had to give it up because of the divorce. I didn’t used to be like this you know. I can’t tell you how much money I lost because of bad financial decisions. It was over a million. I don’t want to talk about it, it’s still too painful even though it was years ago. If only I hadn’t been so…”
“We all make mistakes. It’s part of life…”
“Really? Have you ever had a million dollars your bank account? Do you know what it’s like to work hard all your life and then lose everything? Everything. My son helps me out. I don’t know how I could manage without him.”
“Does he hike too?”
“One loves it. The other one has no time for it. I miss my boys.”
“Do you see them often?”
“Of course not. They live in Germany. I am going to get it all back you know. I am working on plans to live the life I used to have. It will take a while but I am going to get it back.”
We hiked deep in the ravine. The hot air swaddled us like a blanket. Rivulets of sweat dripped down my head, my back and my legs. That was the first hour of the hike. We had three more to go.
The leader stopped us for a water break. I took a different type of break and then made sure I kept a good distance from Angelina. I could not tell if her story was fantasy or reality.