Couch Surfing

by Doreen F.

Can you believe how excited I was? I was supposed to spend my whole summer doing a road trip in the States. Could it get any better? I didn’t think so. Furthermore I had discovered this great new website, which was called couch-surfing and was a social network where people offered their couch or sometimes even a room of their apartment to strangers for a certain amount of money.

I had decided to start my trip in Richmond, as I had once been on an exchange at a university there and wanted to visit some old friends before hitting the road. It was extremely nice to see my friends again and I was happy we had stayed in touch. I accompanied them to beach week in North Carolina and was present at their graduation. But then it was time for the big trip. It had always been my dream to do a road trip visiting most of the states.

At first I wanted to drive up to Boston. I had been there once and liked the city a lot. Furthermore I was pretty excited about meeting other couch-surfers in person. The first place in D.C. was a disaster, though. Who calls a mattress on the floor a couch. Anyway, it was cheap and I only stayed for one night. I didn’t have my whole trip planned. I just wanted to go to Boston next and I always got in touch with other couch-surfers some days before reaching their city.

I started to really appreciate the concept of couch-surfing. After the bad start in Washington, all the other people were really nice and I felt more than welcome at their places. I met some really interesting people and saw so many places. But the best part was yet to come. I had been planning to spend about 2 months on the road and another in San Francisco. I knew this incredibly nice girl from when I had been studying, who was incidentally a couch-surfer. She was now doing an MBA at Stanford. So we had decided that I would stay at her place in San Francisco. She wouldn’t be there all the time, as it was summer and she had made plans to go to Hawaii, but she was sharing the apartment with her brother and she said as long as one of them was there, it shouldn’t be a problem. I dropped my car at the airport and took the subway to the city. Then I went to Union Square where Cathy picked me up and led the way to her apartment. After 2 months on the road I was glad to be staying at one place for more than some nights. It was great to be with Cathy again. We had hit it off immediately back at university as we had been sharing a room. I had never met her brother, but heard a lot of him. Adam was supposed to be a fun guy and Cathy had told me many funny adventures they had had. I couldn’t wait to meet him.

Cathy said that Adam was still on vacation but due to be back on Monday. It was Saturday so Cathy and I went out to a nice little pub and had a great time reminiscing about our student days. Being an MBA student wasn’t that much fun according to Cathy. When we came to the apartment we stayed up talking and drinking delicious Californian wine until 5 or 6 am, I don’t remember. It was fantastic. The slight hangover on the next day, however, wasn’t. But after a delicious American breakfast I was ready to explore some parts of the city that tourists don’t get to see and Cathy knew her way round. Time passed so quickly that suddenly it was dinner time. Adam called Cathy while we were having dinner in Chinatown to say that he had arrived at the airport and would be in the apartment in no time. He had been on vacation in Australia and New Zealand. I still had those countries on my list of must-sees.

We got home minutes before Adam and had just sat down on the balcony as the front door opened with a loud bang and Adam bounced it. He came over, kissed his sister on the cheek and gave me a strong hand shake. And he was kind of cute. At least I thought he was cute. Cathy had never mentioned a cute little brother. But how would she know if he was my type. Adam was easy-going, but exhausted from the journey.

“I’ll unpack tomorrow. I’ll be with you in a minute. I just gotta take out my contacts, my eyes are killing me.”

“Take your time, bro. We’ll start with the wine.” Cathy said and Adam ruffled her hair in return. “Ah, stop it”, she screamed.

“You started.”

“No, you started.”

They ended up teasing each other for minutes. It was so much fun to watch.

“So, how do you like my evil twin?” Cathy asked when Adam had left.

“He’s sweet.”

“Oh, you’re blushing.”

“I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.”

“Let’s open the wine, shall we.”

“Don’t start distracting me.”

“I wasn’t.”

That’s what it had always been like with Cathy. It was impossible not to like her. And Adam was just like her. Only male.

We were drinking our first glasses of wine when Adam came out on the balcony to join us. As he had said he had taken out his contact lenses and was wearing glasses now and looked even cuter than before. Very sexy.

“Tell us all about your trip, Adam.” Cathy demanded.

“Let me have a glass of wine first, sis.”

“Sure, but only one and hurry up.”

“Oh, boy, I really missed that wine.”

“You can’t have missed that wine. It’s from Austria and Tina here brought it all the way to Frisco.”

“You did? Well, I have to admit this is really good stuff.”

Throughout the evening Adam told us about some of his adventures, but obviously he was tired after the long flight and went to bed rather early.

Cathy and I stayed up chatting about the good old times and much more. We were both mildly drunk again when Cathy said, “Adam likes you. I can tell. I always know when he fancies someone.”

“Come on. He was tired, how can you possibly tell?”

“I just know it. We’re twins, remember. We think alike. If I were a guy, I’d fancy you.”

“Stop it.”

“Gotcha.”

“Can we please talk about this tomorrow, when I’m sober?”

“That’s not nearly as much fun.”

“Maybe, but I’m knackered, let’s go to bed.”

“Alright, but I will talk about it again tomorrow.”

I would have agreed upon anything that would get me closer to my bed.

In the morning I woke up quite early because I heard someone in the bathroom taking a shower. I was sleeping on the couch after all. So I got up and went to the kitchen to make some coffee. Cathy had recently acquired a Nespresso coffee machine. My favorite. And after two months of Starbucks Coffee I was dying to drink some real good coffee.

“Am I smelling Nespresso?” I heard Adam asking from behind.

“As a matter of fact you are. Shall I make one for you as well?”

“That would be fantastic. That’s one of the things I missed most.”

“That’s understandable. It’s the best.”

We sat down with our steaming coffee cups. Adam looked gorgeous. His brown hair was still slightly wet and in disarray. He was wearing a blue polo shirt and shorts. The shirt’s color emphasized his tan, plus he was wearing glasses again. They really suited him. He’s one of those guys who can dress as a homeless and still look adorable. That made me realize that I was still in my pajamas. There was no subtle way to leave and get changed. It would be very impolite. So I decided that I would remain in my pajamas until I had a chance to get changed. We chatted and I really enjoyed our conversation. Adam told me he’d take me to some other parts of the city where I hadn’t been yet. After a while Cathy joined us and we had a delicious breakfast.

After that we discussed our plan for the day. Cathy and I had decided we wanted to cross the Golden Gate Bridge by bike and take the ferry from Sausalito to return to the city. We asked Adam if he wanted to join us and to my utter delight he agreed. Finally I had time to get changed and we left on our bikes. Cathy had a spare bike so I didn’t have to rent one. I hadn’t expected that cycling in San Francisco would be that exhausting. I was just happy that I was till in good shape. I used to cycle a lot when I was younger. Fortunately the others weren’t used to cycling that much either, which made it far less exhausting. And we took several breaks on the. We finally came to the bridge. The view was amazing. I took tons of pictures. I was so lucky it wasn’t foggy. It had been foggy a lot lately, Cathy told me. We took fun pictures of us jumping and doing crazy things. It was fun. I felt as if I had known Adam and Cathy all my life. After an hour we were eventually on the other side of the bridge and headed down to the village from where we’d take the ferry. In the village we grabbed some delicious food at a cafe before we went to the pier to take the ferry back. However, there we so many people standing in line for the ferry that we decided go back to the city by bike. We weren’t that exhausted and it seemed much more appealing than waiting forever for a ferry.

Halfway on the Bridge it didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore because it was suddenly getting cold and windy and it was getting foggy. By then going back to the village didn’t make much sense anymore either. So we just cycled as fast as we could against the cold wind. When we reached the other side of the bridge we were exhausted, but we just kept going until we reached Cathy’s and Adam’s apartment. Cathy had been the first in line, then me and then Adam. When we got to their place Adam asked if we could store his bike as well because he needed to go to the bathroom. He had a pleading look on his face and seemed in some kind of discomfort. So we stored the bikes in the garage and went up to the apartment. I was freezing. We headed for the kitchen to make some tea.

“Gosh, I’m freezing. How come it got cold so quickly?”

“I don’t know. That’s what happens here sometimes.”

“I can’t wait to get my tea. Shall we make some for Adam as well?”

“Sure. I don’t know where he’s disappeared to. That’s not like him at all. Adam?”

“I’m coming.”

“You want some tea?”

“Absolutely. I’ll be with you in second.”

Cathy was pouring tea, when Adam entered the kitchen.

Adam was wearing glasses again. He hadn’t been wearing them all day. His eyes looked red and his left eye lid was slightly swollen.

“What’s up?” Cathy asked.

“On the way back to the city, when we were on the bridge, the wind blew something into my eye, a grain of dust or sand, I don’t know. It wasn’t that bad at that moment, I thought it was gone. I kept rubbing my eye and now it hurts. I had to take my contact lenses out. But the vision with my left eye is still blurry. I put some eye drops in. Let’s hope that helps.”

“Ouch, that sounds terrible. Why didn’t you say anything before?” I asked.

“ I just thought it would be best to get home as quickly as possible. I felt better after a while, but now it hurts.” Adam explained, but he looked like he was about to cry.

“Let me take a look.” Cathy said.

“I didn’t see anything, but go ahead.” Adam said taking off his glasses. It was such a casual thing, but I still felt a strange sensation, as I knew that right now his vision wasn’t anything like what it should be.

Cathy took a look at his eye. She gently pulled up the eye lid and told Adam to look left and right to see whether there was anything still in the eye.

“I can’t see anything either. But your eye’s really red. Maybe you should go to a doctor.”

“I’ll wait until tomorrow. If it doesn’t get better, I’ll go to the ophthalmologist first thing in the morning. This never happened to me before. It really sucks. Now I’m stuck with these.” Adam said putting his glasses back on.

“Well, well little brother, don’t be so pessimistic. You know you look cute with glasses. I’ve told you a hundred times.”

“You’re my sister that doesn’t count.” Adam said pulling a face.

“I’m sure Tina agrees with me. Don’t you?” Cathy asked making a show of pulling her “don’t you dare to disagree”-face.

I felt that I was blushing. What should I say? “Actually, she’s right for once. They really suit you, but the swollen eye looks like Quasi-modo.” And we all burst out laughing. “You’re not supposed to make fun of physically impaired. You’re here as a guest. You should behave.” Adam said teasingly and tried to tickle me.

“Ah, stop it, I’m ticklish as hell.”

Cathy joined us trying to pull Adam away. I don’t know how, but somehow we all ended up on the floor as on of the chairs collapsed. This made us laugh even harder and we couldn’t move because we were laughing our heads off. It felt so good. I hadn’t had that much fun in a long time. That night we played cards and cheated so much that we didn’t manage to finish a single game. It was hilarious. Later we played a drinking game and ended up tipsy and giggling all the time. We told each other our most embarrassing moments and whatnot. I don’t know when we went to bed or how I made my bed on the couch.

On the next day I slept until noon and only woke up when the smell of coffee penetrated the whole apartment. Adam was in the kitchen making brunch. I got up to join him.

“Hi, how’s your eye?”

“Feels good again. As if nothing happened. I’m really happy about that.”

“So am I. It must be pretty annoying to have bad vision.”

“Well, actually most of the time I don’t care and I don’t even notice. It’s true, sometimes it sucks, but it’s a part of me and it also makes me who I am. And if anyone doesn’t like that, then I don’t want anything to do with them anyway.”

“That’s a good way to think of it.”

“So what’s your flaw?”

“My flaw?”

“Everyone has weaknesses.”

“It’s hard to say. I don’t know. Well, for example I have a very sensitive nose. If something smells bad, I’m more likely to throw up. Also, I’m allergic to several things.”

“Whoa, that’s more than enough. Ha-ha.”

“I could go on forever.” I said with a wink.

“Anyway, I’ll wear glasses today, just to be on the safe side and give my eyes a break. You’ll have me four-eyed today.”

“How will I be able to stand that?”

“That’s your problem. At least shortsightedness doesn’t smell bad.”

“True, so I have no excuse if I throw up.”

“No, that would be an insult.”

“To your cooking skills, I suppose.”

Cathy came into the kitchen. “Please, don’t tell me I made a fool of me yesterday. My head feels terrible. How much did we drink? No, actually, I don’t want to know. Get me a coffee and some aspirin.”

“Always to see you with a hung-over, sis. But I’ve got the perfect remedy for you. Ham&eggs with a lot of coffee. How does that sound.”

“If I don’t get that aspirin soon, I won’t be able to eat anything.”

Adam gave her an aspirin. “That’s her flaw”, he said with a wink.

We had a great time at breakfast after Cathy’s headache had vanished.

“So what are we going to do today?” I asked.

“How about going shopping and later to the movies?”

“Sounds great.”

“I’d love to join you, girl, but I really have to unpack. I still haven’t opened my suitcase. I’ll catch up for the movies. Okay?”

“I didn’t expect anything else from you, bro. Give me a call when you’re done and I’ll let you know where we are.”

So we spent the day going to all the great places where you could spend tons of money until you’re broke. I bought some clothes and other gimmicks. Adam called when we were having a break at a coffee shop. He joined us there. Again I was amazed how handsome he was. How could he not have a girlfriend? I had to ask Cathy.

We went to one of the big movie theaters and watched “State of Play.” It was surprisingly good. Afterwards we went to a cocktail bar and had some drinks. I was having a great time with the two of them. It was always so much fun and we talked about so many things. I even shared some details of why my last relationship was such a disaster. The guy was a jerk, but I had been mad about him. Don’t ask me why. I couldn’t say. Cathy told us some funny stories about ex-boyfriend. And finally Adam told us how his former girlfriend had dumped him because he wasn’t macho enough for her. We all ended up laughing as we imagined Adam with a cowboy hat and one of those huge SUVs, a cigarette in one hand and an arm around the shoulder of a blonde with the brains of a pea. It was hilarious. Time passed quickly and we were all tired after the last night. So we decided to head home.

“I can’t believe I’m going to Hawaii the day after tomorrow.”

“I can’t believe you’re leaving me alone with Adam. Do you think that’s safe?”

“I pretty much doubt it, but you can handle him. I’m sure.”

“Girls, I’m here too. How am I supposed to feel? Cathy, you’re leaving me alone with Tina. How dare you?”

“Stop it guys, You’ll do fine without me.”

“Of course.” We said laughing.

When we got home, Cathy told Adam to go to the bathroom first. Then she quickly led me onto the balcony.

“Tina, we have to talk about Adam.”

“Okay.”

“He’s absolutely mad about you. I just want to know if you feel the same. You too seem to be hitting it off well.”

“I like him a lot”, I said blushing, “I really fancy him. He’s cute and smart and funny.”

“Perfect. When I’m in Hawaii, you’ll have to make a move. He’s sometimes a bit reluctant, shy, you know. He’s been rejected many times and despite of what he says, his last break-up was devastating for him. That’s why he went traveling for so long. He couldn’t stand the thought of meeting his ex by chance.”

“Sounds tough. I’ll do my best.”

“I knew you would. The two of you are made for each other. If I were a guy, we’d be a couple, you know.”

“Yeah, we were always joking about that at college.”

“I know. Well, here’s your male Cathy.”

“We’d better go back inside. Otherwise Adam will think we’re making a conspiracy without him.”

“You’re right. Gosh, I’m tired. I have to pack tomorrow. I hate that so much.” Cathy said pulling a face. “That way you can do something with Adam. I’d suggest the Japanese tea garden. That’s a very nice place. Romantic too.”

“Stop it, Cathy. Give me some time.”

“Just don’t take too long, honey.”

“I won’t.”

“I’m so glad you’re here. I haven’t seen Adam that happy in a while.”

“I’m having a great time as well.”

Adam came out of the bathroom as we went back inside.

“Where have you two been?”

“We were just enjoying the night air on the balcony for a few minutes.”

“And I’m supposed to believe that?”

“Sure, why not.”

“You’re unbelievable.” Adam said smiling.

“We love you too.” Cathy said.

“I didn’t doubt that for a second.”

“While you’re exchanging niceties, I’ll use the bathroom.” I said excusing myself.

When I came back out, they were sitting on the couch eating Oreos.

“Are we having a pajama party on my bed?”

“Sure, why not? I’ll go to the bathroom, while you prepare everything, okay?” Cathy suggested.

“All right.” I said and Adam smiled shyly and nodded.

“Let’s make some hot chocolate. It’ll be perfect with the cookies.”

“Great idea. Sorry for spontaneously occupying your bed.”

“Never mind. It’s a great idea. I love pajama parties. Don’t you?”

“Actually, I haven’t had any since I was a kid.”

“About time you have another, then.”

“True, sounds fun.”

We went into the kitchen to make hot chocolate and get the cookies. Every once in a while I deliberately brushed my hand against Adams and apologized with a mocking smile. After a while Adam did the same. We ended up laughing.

“Am I missing anything? Have you started without me?” Cathy inquired.

“Nope, we were just making hot chocolate and preparing the cookies.”

“Perfect. But you know that the most important thing is still missing.”

“Really, what?”

“We’re not in pajamas.”

“Let’s get changed then.”

Finally we were all dressed in our pj’s on my bed, eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate.

“The pajama party was a great idea.” Cathy said.

We all agreed. It was another great night and we told each other scary stories over candle light. Somehow we all fell asleep on my bed. When I woke up Adam and Cathy were still lying in my bed. At least it was big enough for three. I had slept surprisingly well and was feeling completely refreshed. I got up trying not to wake the others and took a shower. Then I prepared some coffee and gently tried to wake the others.

I knew that Cathy was a tough one to wake. So I decided to try my luck with Adam first. I was surprisingly easy. He had a light sleep. I gently touched his shoulder and ruffled his hair. Almost immediately he opened his eyes and squinted at me.

“Good morning.”

“Hi Tina.”

Adam stretched and sat up rubbing his eyes.

“I can’t believe we all slept in one bed.”

“Me either, but I slept surprisingly well.”

“Me too. Can you by any chance remember where I put my glasses. I remember taking them off, but I don’t know where I put them.”

“I think they’re on the table over there. We put them somewhere safe.”

“True, I remember.” Adam got up and took his glasses from the table and put them on. “Much better, now I can see your face, not just a blur.”

“You could’ve said something, I would have come closer.”

“Very funny.”

“Seriously, how close would I have to come? Take off your glasses and tell me when you can see my face.”

“Okay, but only if I get a coffee in return.”

“Deal. Now tell me”, I said as I was inching towards him.

“Closer, closer, still closer...stop.” I was about 5 inches away from his face.

“Wow, that’s close.”

“I told you I’m blind.” Adam put his glasses back on. “I really prefer it this way. Now I can see you crystal clear. Where’s my coffee?”

“Over there, on the counter. It’s been here all along.”

“Bitch.”

“My pleasure.”

As we were both sipping our coffees I told him that Cathy would be busy packing today and if he’d fancy being my tour guide for a day.

“Of course, where do you want to go?”

“How about the Japanese tea garden?”

“Excellent choice, you won’t regret it.”

“How could I, having you as a guide.” I teased.

“Let’s wake Cathy, now. I’ll show you how.”

Adam lay down next to Cathy and gently tapped her shoulder and whispered something in her ear. Then all of a sudden he started tickling her. He knew exactly where to tickle her. Cathy started screaming, then laughing. “Stop, stop it, I’m awake.”

“Gotcha, sis.”

“You’re always so gentle, Adam. You should never sleep longer than him, Tina. He just might tickle you to wake you.”

“I’ll bear that in mind.”

“I have to pack my suitcase today. What are you guys up to?”

“We decided to go to the Japanese tea garden. Adam will be my guide.”

“That’s as good as it gets.”

We had a long breakfast before leaving for the Japanese tea garden. It was just great to be around Adam and Cathy. Finally we got dressed and Adam and I left. Adam looked gorgeous. He was wearing washed-out jeans and bright red T-shirt. He had put in his contact lenses again. Apparently his eye had recovered. I really didn’t care if he wore glasses, but I thought that he was one of those guys who looked really cute with glasses.

We took the bus to the Japanese tea garden. Cathy had been right. It was a beautiful place. I felt so calm, so much at ease here. I was glad I had charged the batteries of my camera. I was taking tons of pictures of all the flowers and trees and Adam posing on the bridge or lying on a stone. He also took pictures of me and we asked people to take pictures of the two of us. It was a lot of fun.

“So, do you like it here?”

“Are you kidding me? It’s awesome. I love it. I really didn’t expect anything like that. And certainly not in Frisco.”

“The city is full of surprises.”

“That’s the feeling I get. The people are really nice.”

“Shall we grab a coffee or do you think there’s a part of this garden you don’t have any pictures of yet?”

“I doubt it. I really behaved like a tourist, didn’t I.”

”I’d be lying if I said no. But I really do want to have all those pictures.”

“No problem. We can transfer them to your computer tonight.”

“Perfect. Now let me take you to chocolate heaven.”

“Sounds amazing. Let’s go.”

We went to this chocolate place and while it was not the best chocolate I ever had, it was still extremely delicious. And we got lots of free samples. What more can you ask for? Furthermore, I had Adam by my side and that made it all even better. We then walked to the Pier to see all the sea lions. I’d never seen so many at one place. It was fun to watch them play. We joked around and had a great time. Afterwards we took a cable car. I had always wanted to do that. It was as much fun as I thought and, of course, I took tons of pictures of Adam and me on the car.

Then Cathy called and asked if we wanted to have dinner in Little Italy. So we met her at a really nice place and had a delicious pasta. Time flew by and we came home at around ten. Cathy had packed her suitcase. She was supposed to sleep at her friend’s place as she lived closer to the airport and this way they would only need one taxi. So we went to the apartment, took Cathy’s suitcase and backpack and accompanied her to her friend’s home.

As we said goodbye, Cathy joked, “Don’t mess up the apartment and behave.”

“Sure, Mom. Enjoy your trip, Cathy and text me from time to time.”

We hugged and then Cathy and Adam said goodbye. “Be nice to her, she’s our guest, remember?”

“How could I not be nice? Have a great trip, sis.”

We waved goodbye and walked back home. As the apartment was uphill, it was much more exhausting going back home than leaving. However, we were talking so much that it seemed to be very little effort.

In the apartment I suggested having a bottle of wine on the balcony.

“We can also transfer the pictures to your computer and take a look.”

“Great. I’ll go get it. Could you open the wine in the meantime?”

“Sure.”

I chose a bottle of wine and filled a bowl with crisps. I took the open bottle of wine, two glasses and the crisps to the balcony. After a short while Adam came back carrying his computer and wearing glasses.

“We’re lucky, the battery is quite full.”

“Perfect. Let’s take a look at the pictures.”

“But at first, let us have a toast.”

“Alright.”

“To a great time in Frisco.”

“To a great time in Frisco.”

“Now let’s take a look.”

I plugged the cable into my camera and into the computer. In no time at all the pictures were transferred. We clicked through them. Some were terrible, but most were quite good.

“Do you remember the guy who took that picture of us? I never thought he would get right. But it’s actually a great picture.”

“You’re right. I really like it.”

“Me too. I’ll use it as desktop picture.”

It appeared much bigger now as it filled the whole screen. It was a very nice picture of the two of us next to one of the ponds with the bridge in the background.

“It’s kind of weird to see you without glasses on the picture while you’re next to me wearing glasses.”

“Really, why?”

“It’s just that, I don’t know...when I see you in glasses all the time then it becomes normal. The same thing happens when I see you without glasses all the time. But this is a big contrast. Seeing you on the picture without and here next to me with glasses.”

“I see. Weird. Is that a bad thing?”

“Not at all, just, I guess I’m not used to being around someone who I occasionally see in glasses. I don’t know. You probably think that’s weird. Or I’m weird.”

“Not at all. It’s just that people don’t normally talk about that. They hardly ever acknowledge the fact that I’m wearing glasses or not.”

I knew that I was blushing. This conversation was making me very nervous. I knew I wasn’t making much sense.

“So you don’t mind me wearing glasses?”

“Not at all. Whatever you prefer is fine by me.”

“You’re something, you know.”

We had been moving closer ever since we started this conversation and suddenly we were kissing. Adam was a great kisser and the glasses didn’t disturb me one single bit. It felt great when they touched my cheeks. I felt much closer to him. When the kiss was over we looked at each other smiling.

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