And off I went into the most bizarre mindfuck of a year.
Instead of immediately meeting up, David and I spent a couple of months developing a flirty friendship on WhatsApp, complete with coy innuendos and sexy selfies. When I returned to cover a hotel opening for a travel magazine, I invited my digital paramour for a drink so we could finally "meet." Ordinary first dates seldom happen in the luxury suite at a five-star hotel, on the balcony with its own private plunge pool overlooking the jungle. And if a date DOES start that way, it's probably because it's with a hooker.
Regardless, there we were.
We cracked open a few Coronas and sat on the balcony's lounge beds swatting at mosquitoes and listening to chirping geckos. We talked. A lot. From 11pm to 4am we sat up talking. He was… different. At 32 he was a decorated veteran of the Canadian Army (yes, that is a thing). He enlisted at 16, was part of the relief effort in the Balkans, lost his mother to alcohol at 25 years old, toured Afghanistan three times, and retired from Western Canada to Puerto Vallarta to escape all of that brutally real reality. He showed me some of his poetry about war, which was heartbreakingly hypnotic. His sense of humor was dark and razor sharp.