Manuel, and all the other times we say goodbye.

It was my last day in Portugal, which I had decided to spend in the small village of Sintra. I had no particular reason to go there, but it seemed charming and I was out of ideas of what to explore in Lisbon.

I had quite a pleasant day, exploring the idyllic castles and palaces and decided to end my trip with a nice dinner at a fancy-ish restaurant hidden on a small passage along a staircase, which I deeply expected not to be a tourist trap.

I walked in and there weren’t many people there. Actually, there were no people at all. I sat down, made my order, and waited for what seemed to be another of my love-myself-gastronomic-adventures. A few minutes after I ordered, the waiter brought the WiFi code, I guess out of pity for me being alone. I won’t deny I used it. But a few minutes later, a new waiter showed up to fill my water glass because it was that fancy kind of restaurant where they don't let you fill your own glass. Then he showed up again to ask if my meal was good and if everything was fine. I nodded in agreement to everything. At that point, I sort of just wanted to enjoy my food, really, without all the special treatment and attention. I was alone, sure. But, one way or the other, it was by choice.

By the time I got to the dessert, where I had to choose between five or six well presented pies, I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, the young waiter was being more than polite…

It all started when I asked for the Quindim, which is a typical sweet, and added, “I really love this, but they don't have it where I live now”, to which he promptly replied, “Where do you live now, if you don't mind me asking?” and from there he basically made my company until the end of my dinner, and more. We exchanged impressions on our cultures and our understanding of the world. We asked each other questions and it felt pretty much like a date, even if he was working, and I was having my “self-loving” dinner night. It was a bit awkward and yet lovely. And I somewhat expected that somehow he would drop a hint that he was being more than polite.

“Port wine?” — he asked after I had long finished my coffee but not our conversation. But I had to say no, soon enough I had to catch a train back to Lisbon. So I asked for the check. I paid, and while I was putting my money back in my wallet, he asked me if I would stay around for a bit longer before going back to Lisbon because the trains would run until midnight. I said no.

I wondered for a moment if that was some kind of invitation, but I brushed that idea off. So I stood up and he said, “Well, then at least let me show you how to walk back to the station. And so he did. I thanked him and said goodbye. He told me his name, gave me a smile, and stood at the restaurant door while I made my way to the train station. And I couldn't stop thinking about him long after I hopped on the train. Because we do not depart someone's company the minute we say goodbye. Sometimes, goodbye is just a thing we say when we cannot say, “I will wait for you and then we can have a bottle of port.”

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I never knew who I was and yet, I never noticed until now.

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