Besides my sisters little friend Isabelle who was from New Zealand, Winston was the first person I really knew who was from another country. He had skin the color of melted chocolate and a spirit that drew you to him.
Winston was a summer employee at the resort that my family vacationed at every summer. Every year during the 3rd week in July my family and lots of others met at our resort for "fun, food and frolic". The teenagers, me, Sean, Kelli, Ryan and sometimes Jen would seemingly rule the roost having the time of our lives.
Most of the staff remembered us from year to year, and always looked forward to the 3rd week in July. But Winston was new, and we quickly adopted him as our favorite. Everyday before dinner we would pile onto a pontoon boat and allow Winston to drive us around the river, all the while telling us stories in his fantastic West Indies accent. Sometimes, we had no idea what he was talking about, but we were mesmerized by the sound of his voice.
He fixed it so that he was in charge of all the teen activities that week-the hot tub parties, midnight movies in the pool and volleyball games that seemed to last forever. He danced with us and taught us new moves, told us jokes that we weren't supposed to hear, and made us feel like we were older than we really were.
When it came time to leave, we were more sad than usual. Knowing that Winston was on the exchange program, we knew that he most likely would never be able to come back and that we would never get to see him again. We hugged, said our goodbyes, and vowed to always remember him.
About a month later, my parents went back to the resort for the night. Being that the staff knew us, my parents had several conversations regarding our annual trip. Winston's name inevitably came up. My mother, I think, told their waiter how we all adored him, and how we felt cool because we were friends with someone from the West Indies. (She even brought up the fact that we all somehow overlooked his obtrusive BO simply because we craved the friendship of someone from a far away land.)
The waiter scoffed. I am told he visibly bent over and laughed. And then he told my parents that Winston was a fake.
I do not remember what his real name is, but I can tell you it was something as American as Michael or John. His accent was fake, his homeland was the United States, and he was a thief.
Our Winston was from Georgia and stole from the guests that summer. He took wallets and money and probably other valuable things that guests left unattended in their lazy vacation mindsets. Those things he took could be replaced, but that summer, he took something from us too. Winston (or Michael or John) took from us our unwavering trust in strangers-our willingness to believe things at face value and our confidence in our own judgement.
It may have only been a summer job for him, but for us, the resort was our place to reconnect with each other (we all lived in different states), to explore what it meant to be a teenager in love and to say we had friends from other places. And from that year on, we stuck closer to the American staff-the ones we knew from before.