We had been in Cabarete for about a week when we decided we needed a break. We'd been having fun — swimming and surfing and hanging out with friends — but we hadn't had much time alone. So we decided to drive 45 minutes west to Puerto Plata, the nearest "big" town, to do some exploring.
I'm not sure what we were expecting to see in Puerto Plata, but we didn't see it. The streets, the plaza, the sidewalks — all were nearly empty save for a few quiet souls. The sky above was thick with clouds and salt and threatened to open at any moment. We wondered by rows and rows of run-down, candy-colored buildings snapping photos, barely speaking. We were transfixed by everything we saw: a flock of pigeons circling in formation over the church's steeple, a cemetery overrun with chickens; a lone mule dressed up in his best party clothes. At an open-air market filled with produce stalls, we were the only shoppers. A man with eyes that crinkled up at the corners carved the meat out of a coconut and held it out for us to eat.
That was our very first time traveling together. It was Christmastime, and we'd only just started dating a few months earlier. We didn't really know each other. We were two ghosts floating into the unknown.