We ended our dance, and he joined me at the bar. Neither of us had sufficient vocabulary to explain our respective situations. I did determine that his name was Carlos, that he worked in the nearby fields, that he had a wife and two boys in Mexico whom he missed very much. If he thought it odd that I was wandering alone on Christmas Eve, he didn't let on.
Sensing that everyone else in the room clearly wanted to go home, I rose to leave. Carlos escorted me to the door. Learning that I was on foot, he protectively signaled that he would walk me home. We strolled along the beach mostly in silence.
"Aqui?" he asked, when I stopped in front of the hotel.
I gazed at our room. In my absence, my sweetheart had strung multicolored lights around the balcony rail. He had even assembled and lighted the farolitos and lined them along the balcony's edge.
Carlos gave me a chaste kiss on the forehead, bowed slightly and tipped his hat as he wished me Feliz Navidad. Then he turned and walked into the night.
A few days later, on the ride home, I ruminated on our holiday.
It was cathartic to toss the detritus of Christmas into the hotel dumpster, including the tree and all of its trimmings.
But we had acquired a few things as well: thoughtful gifts, the beginnings of new traditions.
I even had a moonlight walk on the beach to treasure.
Just not the one I had expected.
The author is a freelance writer based in San Pedro. She and Jim the merchant marine are looking forward to the fifth year of their traditional Christmas in Pismo Beach.
L.A. Affairs chronicles romance and relationships. Past columns are archived at latimes.com/laaffairs. If you have comments to share or a story to tell, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.