11. Clouds

It’s nice, hanging out in the mountain cloud town, smoking, drinking espresso and beer, and writing.  I listen to the CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio, over the internet.

The weather is nice.  I walk out, down the street, past the bar, feeling the sharpness of the equatorial sun.

“Hey there.”

“Hi Tanya.  How’re yuh doin’?”

“I’m good.  How are you?”

“I’m feeling fine.”

She stands about 5’4″, with green eyes.  Her sandy blond hair stops at her shoulders.

The last time I’d seen her, at the restaurant across the street from the park in Zarcero, she’d come in with a skinny tico boy.  She’d come right over to me, and started talking about the dinner party at Tom and Jerry’s, where we’d first met.  She’d lingered, chatting for a while.  Her friend had become noticeably agitated.  Eventually he went to get a table, and sat down by himself.  Before rejoining him, she mentioned that she works in Palmira a couple of days a week.

I said, “Call any time, or just drop by, if you feel like it.”

“I was going to.”

“Don’t let this chance encounter change that plan!  Stick to your guns, on that one.”  I laugh lightly.

She giggles, “I’ll come after work.  I have two private sessions, then in the evening I do a group class in the school.”

“For adults?”

“Yes.  It goes until eight, but I usually talk with people afterwards, for a while.”

“I should be around at that time.  If you feel like it, come on over.  Otherwise, I’ll see you… another time, maybe?”

“I’ll see you later.”

She kisses me on each cheek.

“Pura vida.”

“Pura vida”, she says, and walks along.

* * *

The doorbell rings.  I’m excited to see if it’s Tanya.  Nobody has ever dropped by at my place before.

I open the door.  “Hey, come in.  It’s raining, eh?”

“It’s raining, eh?”  She accentuates the ‘eh’, and giggles.

“Yup, eh?”  I laugh and close the door.  “Let me take your clothes, I mean…”  I break out in a full blown belly laugh.  “I sent ‘jacket’ from my brain, towards my mouth, but somehow, somewhere before it hit the air, it got to be like that.  Oops.  That Freud guy, might’a had something.”

“I was going to make some coffee for myself, do you want some?”  We pass through the living room, moving towards the kitchen, I raise my arms slightly, “this is the casa.”

“It’s okay.”

“What’s okay?”

“Your Freudian slip.”

I turn to her to see what her eyes say.  They’re shining and honest.  “Let’s not get too Freudian, too many syllables for me right now.”

There is a charge in the air; even a dummy like me can tell it’s there.

I hang her damp jacket on a hook.  I grab the maker, knocking over an unopened bottle of red wine.  I catch it falling.  “There’s no such thing as co-incidence, is there?  You want some?”

“You don’t have to open it for me.”

“Hmm, I’ll open for myself.  If you’d like some, let me know.”  I laugh and open.  “Now that it’s fallen right into my hand,” I laugh some more.  “I got to try some.  God is telling me.”

“Do you go to church?”

“No.  I don’t really believe in that kind of stuff, ridiculous.  But I do believe in the universe speaking to me, and normally I’m too dumb to notice it.  But, when I notice it, now, I try to go for it.  That wine wants to be drunk, and I am the guy to drink it.”

I swirl it around provocatively, raising my eyebrows, in an exaggerated way.

She giggles, and gently takes my hand, directing the glass of wine to her lips.  She sips.

“Mmm.”

“Take it; it’s for you.  I prefer these little ones.”  It’s a small, plain glass, like a large shot glass.  “I call them ‘copa’s.”

“ ‘Copa’ just means, ‘wine glass’.”

“Oh.  Well, uh…  For some reason, I thought it was a…  particular wine glass for drinking, uh… fino?!  Like, uh, Sherry, or, sometimes, uh, brandy.  Did you ever go to the south of Spain?”

I pour the wine to the brim of the copa.  I clink it to the stem of her glass and take a small mouthful; I swish it around a bit.  I drink the remainder of it down.  “Yummy.”  I pour another.

I load the espresso maker.  She watches and sips the wine.  “Thank you.”

“I’m happy to have you here, sharing it with me.”  I look her in the eyes, because I really feel this way, and I want her to know it.  “What kind of an accent is that, you have?”

“I don’t have any accent.  Yer the one that talks funny.”  She giggles.

“Are you from Texas?”

“I went to school in Austin.”

I raise my eyebrows, looking at her.

“It’s a great town.”

“Yer a Texan woman?”

“I’m from all over.  But my family is from Oklahoma.  My dad’s a professor; we lived in Chile for nine years, and Argentina for six.”

“I can tell how nice your Spanish accent is.”

“Thank you.”

“Here is an espresso for you.”

“I put honey in it.  Some people think that’s taboo.”  I think of my brother’s insistence on sugar.  “But I like it, if I want it a bit sweet. “

“Well, I’ll have a little honey.”

“Honey.”  I smile at her.  Contact.  I didn’t mean to come on so strong.  She’s too sweet for me.  Not that I don’t want it, but I already like her enough that I don’t want her to get any negative from me; I fear it could happen.  I refocus to making myself a coffee.  I need it; I want to drive her home, because that’s the only way she’ll be leaving here tonight.  The later it gets, the less likely it will be that she’ll make it out of here.  I’m not stressed about it.  In fact, it seems like a bit more constructive stress would help.

I bang back my coffee, and offer her another.  I take another.  We sit in the living room.  I get a blanket for her.  It’s cool in here.  I put everything flammable I can find into the wood furnace and light it up.  Smoke billows out.  I turn the flue vane, and open the air intake slits.  It flames up good.

She tells me about the family she lives with.  She’s a part-time nanny for the children; it covers her rent.

Then her eyes light up, and she lowers her voice, just a bit, and she tells me of the gossip she’s heard.  It’s so outrageous, but I can tell she’s not lying and I laugh, for real, because I can tell it’s true.

The fire burns for an hour-and-a-half.  She accepts my offer to drive her home.

* * *

I awaken.  It looks to be clear outside.  I walk out to the small, paved south-facing patio; it’s so bright and warm.

I sit on a stool drinking espresso with brandy, while shaving.  I wear sunglasses because the sun is so bright in the thin air.

The doorbell rings!  I rub the towel over my face and walk through the cool of the house, pulling on a shirt by the time I reach the front door.  I think I know who it is.

I’m so happy to see her.  She hugs me.  Over her shoulder I see Chocoleto’s mother, Flor de Alicia.  I whisper, “that’s Chocoleto’s mother.  She leaves me avocados and limes in a basket right here, by the front door.”

I introduce them to one another.  They begin to talk rapidly; I can’t follow much of what they are saying.  Flor de Alicia looks over at me, furtively.

I go inside and make Tanya a coffee.

I bring it, and address Flor de Alicia, <<¿Señora, pardon me.  I made coffee, would you like a cup?>>

<<No, thank you very much, señor Dean.  I have my tea.  I never knew your (girl) friend spoke such beautiful Spanish.  She’s such a dear.>>

“Seguro, con mucho gusto.”  I’m trying to say, that I whole-heartedly agree, and ‘it’s such a good thing, but I’m not sure if I’m getting it right.  “La joya, ciertamente, mi amor.”  I wonder if using ‘mi amor’ is too casual for addressing Flor de Alicia?

I hand Tanya the coffee.  Maybe she sees my slight uncertainty.

<<”Mi amor” this, “mi amor” that, he likes the nica habit.>>  She blushes.  <<Thank you so much mi amor>>, she says so earnestly to Flor de Alicia, holding her hand, and looking her in the eyes, her own shining earnestly.

I drift back and let them continue, watching from the safety of inspecting the avocado tree on the lawn.  I’ve never seen Flor de Alicia looking so animated and happy.

I rarely see them, any of them.  I see Flor de Alicia the most, maybe once every second day.  I might see Chocoleto once a week.  I’ve not yet seen the father, Flor’s husband, presumably.

I go back inside and make another coffee.  I drink it on the patio.  The low murmur of the conversation, occasionally garnished with an excited exclamation, usually from Tanya, blends together with the sound of children in the background, birds chirping, and the sound of the breeze.

Later I take Tanya home.

She invites me in, and introduces me to the family.  They look at me wide-eyed, especially the mother.  Tanya takes me to her room, in the open attic loft.

“Hey, look out here.”

“Is that the Gulfo de Nicoya?”

“Yup.  And look through that one.”  She points to a south-facing window.

I walk over with her and look.  I see a long way down the valley to the smog, which must be San José.  “Is that San José down there?”

“Yeah.”

“You look so pleased with yourself.”

“Yup, I am.”

* * *

Uhh.  I’m cold.  I wonder what time it is.  It’s dark here.  I look over towards the window, from my bed in the casa.  Well, it’s definitely past daybreak.  I get up and take a piss.

It’s grey.  I have a hard time getting going.  I roll a joint.

There’s a knock at the door!

She grabs me and hugs me, grinning ear to ear.  She’s slightly damp, and I can smell her.  I hold her, it feels good.  I can feel happiness vibrating from her.  I can feel her breasts squeezing against me, rubbing a bit.  I can hear her breathing, excitedly.  “It’s great to see you.  How are you?”

“I’m a lot better now that you’re here.  Come on in.  It’s raining, eh?”

“It’s more like a heavy mist, EH?”

She giggles as she comes in.  The sound of it, like a child, unabashed, makes me chuckle.

I try a Texas accent, “eh, you been hanging out with no good, yah-all?”  Her eyes shine; I chuckle.  “I’m just over here in the gloom.”

Excitedly, almost giddily, she begins to tell me about the latest smut in town.  While I really don’t care whose husband is fucking whose wife, I enjoy her excited telling of it.  I laugh and laugh.  I encourage her.  I have to stop her because I’m in a fit of laughter after her description of the sexual dysfunction of an adulterous husband.  Now the sound of my own mirth makes me laugh.  The stories seem so unbelievably absurd, yet she’s telling them with such innocent certainty.

“Hey, why don’t we go to the hot springs?”

“Oh.  That’s a great idea … I got a better one: why don’t we go to the hot springs, in a little while?”

* * *

We drive past Quesada San Carlos.  Tanya directs me to the hot springs just out of town, Termales del Bosque <<The Forest Hot Springs>>.  There is no other car in the field that is the parking lot.  I manoeuvre the station wagon into the shade of a tree.  The sun has recently emerged from the overcast, and now it feels like a sauna in the car.  Out of the car is not much better; even the breeze is hot.

We walk along a boarded walkway through the forest.  It’s about fifteen degrees cooler; what a relief!  My eyes relax under the protection of the dense canopy.  The musty smell reassures me, though I’m not sure why.

We come to a number of small pools; steam rises from them.  Next to them is a small river with a brisk current.  I step into it; it’s very cold.  The pools are arranged on a gradient, the last filling the next.  There is a middle-aged couple in the coolest pool.  We go to the top pool, it’s hot.  We cook in it for a few minutes until we both have to get out.

I go into the cold stream and lie down in it, trying to submerse my entire body.

The couple leaves.  I take off my shorts, but keeping them in hand, in case anybody else shows up.

She tells me about breaking up with the tico boyfriend.  She says he was overbearingly possessive.  She takes my hand and holds it, looking into my eyes.

I lay my head back and look up through the canopy, yellow-white pierces down into my retinas; it hurts.  I go back into the cold stream.  I lie down in the sand and pebbles, rubbing the cold water on me.

I’m cold.  Out of the river, I shiver.  I’m surprised at how cool it is in the forest.

Tanya joins me in the middle hot pool.  A family comes into the next pool.  They are three girls and their parents.  The oldest one looks about twelve or thirteen.   She’s begun the trip from girlhood; she’s drop-dead gorgeous.  I see my trunks yet in my hand.  I look at Tanya, and she can see that I’ve noticed that I don’t have anything on.  She comes closer to me and gets a rise out of me, touching me under the water.  I get my shorts on.  She laughs.

Tanya speaks with them, and we spend half-an-hour in conversation.  The children are attracted to her.  They ask us to take a photo of them, with their camera.  I get out and try to snap a few off, but the batteries are dead.  She relays the bad news.  As she does this, I tell her that we can take some shots with my camera and send them, if they want to give us their address.  She translates.  I get my camera and take a few.

We walk back to the car with them.  Tanya introduces the girls, Martrini, Marceli, and Daniella, to me.  The youngest one, Daniella asks me where I come from.  I say, <<I drove a caro from Canada.>>  They listen attentively, <<Canada is very big, hundreds of times bigger than Costa Rica.  Right now, most of it is covered with snow and ice.>>

At the car, the mama writes down their address in the traditional Costa Rican manner, directions from landmarks:

‘Soda La Guardia

San Marco de Poas

100 m de la frente d’églesia,

Quesada’

The car is hot.  I’m suffocating inside it.  I turn on the air-conditioning as we leave.

I let Tanya out in front of a compact disc store, in Quesada.  I park the car around a corner, and turn if off, while I change into clothes from my wet shorts.  I roll a joint, and light it up.  It fills the car with a dense, incriminating smoke.  I start to sweat heavily.  I have to escape.  I bail from the car, coming out the door awkwardly, amidst a billowing cloud of smoke.  A speeding, impatient looking, pimpled-faced boy buzzes by at breakneck speed, a foot away from me.

Tanya comes out of the CD store as I finally arrive there.

We snack at a café.  I feel better after the food.

* * *

We watch the sun set in blazing orange and pink in Palmira.

* * *

Early in the morning, I take her to the school on the hill at the western extreme of Zarcero.

When I get back to the casa, I find a bowl of avocados on the porch.  I look around tentatively for Flor de Alicia, but I don’t want to intrude and knock on her door.

I turn on the computer and get a dial-up connection to the internet.  I read about the off-season development testing in Formula One.  It doesn’t look like Jacques’ team is going to be making a winning car, again.

I scramble some eggs, and put in a chopped up avocado, and olive oil.  I put on Jimmie’s Chicken Shack in the CD player, and turn the volume on the stereo up.  I make another espresso.  The lyrics convince me to roll a joint, and cruise down into town to smoke it.

I drive slowly, smoking as I make the descent.

There are two banks in Zarcero.  I go to the one that is a subsidiary of one of the large Canadian banking corporations; it has a red and white sign.  I wait while the pretty teller gets me some money.  I notice that the security guard has a real shiner over his left eye.  Normally, he carries an older-looking revolver, in holster; today he holds a shotgun across his chest.

I walk the fifty feet back up to the main street, then left along it.  I cross to the east side of it, and go into the grocery store.  “Marie-Isabelle.  Buenas.  ¿Que tal?”

“Bien.  Gracias.  ¿Y usted?”

“Todomento bien, a hora.  Gracias mi amor.”

I get my groceries and take them back to the car.  The parking spot is good; I’ll leave the car there.  Minus the groceries, I walk back out the main street.  This time I go right, approximately south, towards the booze store.  But I see the beauty with pale green eyes, and golden blond hair, who works in the store next door, El Plastico.

She is at the counter.  “Hola.  ¿Que tal?”

Slowly, “Buenos. ¿En qué puedo ayudarle?”

“Para seguro”, I thought.  “Penso, si.  Necesito todo.”  I smiled, because it’s true.  I have almost nothing to prepare food with.  “Paro hoy, quiero un cazo.  ¿Tiene ese?”

Silently now, she walks out from behind the counter, and further towards the back of the store.  She turns, almost at the back.  She points to my right.  I have a difficult time tearing my eyes from her form.  I take the stainless steel frying pan.  She brushes by me, back towards the cash.  “Señorita, me llama Dean.  Gracias.”

She stops in her tracks, turns, and stares at me.

“Greta?”  Another woman, middle-aged, calls her.  I keep watching her as she turns and marches to the cash.

But she stops short, and turns back and looks at me again; she doesn’t speak.

“Greta…”, the patrona is saying something in a low voice that I can’t hear very well.

She takes her spot behind the cash register.

I take some cutlery, two glasses and a spatula.  Greta rings me out.  She hardly looks at me, she says nothing while taking the money and giving the change.

I go next door and get beer and wine, then return to the car with the loot.

I go left on the main street and drive northward on the highway.  On the outskirts of town, I pull off the road to the left, and along a dirt lane.  The road pulls into a muddy clearing before two buildings.  I park the car.  I take rope from the back, and put on gloves, walking over to the main building.  Sawdust covers the ground.  “Hola.  ¿Que tal?”  I say to a guy I think I recognize. “¿Puedo conseguir algunos pedazo?”

He nods and returns his attention to his work.

I go around to the back and put together two large bundles, then sling them across my shoulder.  It’s at least a hundred pounds.  I get it to the car and down the hundred pounds of it before the back gate.  I open the back gate, and chuck them in, one at a time.

I drive back to the tourist office; I get the parking spot directly across the street.  But when I get out of the car, I can see that the office is closed.

I walk to the corner and across the main street.  I go thirty feet down the side road, and up the stairs to the second floor of the building on the corner.

I am at Restaurant Willy.  It’s a large, spacious room.  Natural light, from the floor-to-ceiling windows running along the entire south and east sides, fills the entire space.  It’s almost full, but I get a spot by the window.

I order, and start to write.  The food comes, I eat, absently, while continuing to write.  It pours out of me; it’s messy, but not so bad that I won’t be able to decipher it later.

I’ve capture, for the most part, of the wave of thought onto the paper.  I look up.  The place is almost empty.

Willy walks over to me.  He tells me that he’s having a get together, some kind of a Protestant Church event.  He points to the sign on wall, advertising it for ‘11 febrero’.  “Hoy” he says.

“¿Es que ya el 11 de febrero?”  I say it mostly to myself.

<<We’ve had the signs up for a while.>>

<<Yes, I know.  I’ve seen them.  I just didn’t realize that we’re already almost half-way through February.>>

As if to justify it, he says Protestantism seems more sensible that the Catholic Church.

I nod, even though all of the ‘western’ monotheistic traditions, including all of their sects, seem pretty much the same to me, dysfunctional.

As I step out, at street level, from under the eaves, a large drop smacks down hard onto the top of my head.  I up my pace and go to the pharmacy, a half-block along, opposite the central park.

When I come out, it’s pouring rain.  I think of the rain gear that I’d finally remembered to put into the car, and how handy it would be right now.

The tourist office is still closed.  Soaking wet, I walk into the post office and ask Yvetta if she knows why the tourist office is closed?  She doesn’t.

I drive back to Palmira.

I make espresso and listen to tunes as the rain beats the roof.

I think of the hypocrisies of the religions, fighting for market share, cannibalizing each others’ markets; even though their selling almost exactly the same thing.

I am angry at the obvious sheer stupidity of it all.  But why is it so irritating?

Could it have always been so stupid?  What was the purpose, I mean, beyond the obvious power and control angle?

Could there ever have been some truly socially beneficial reason for it?

It seems that The Bible could have been some kind of codified prescription for how to be successful, growing food and livestock, and of course, a behavioural code on how to get along with other people.

It’s not as if it was the first of its kind, the narrative is almost the same as the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, and it was preceded by a long line of similar texts.  Each one adjusted, targeted, like marketing material, for new geographic locations and changes across generations.

What were the real outcomes for the adherents at the time?  What’s are the real outcomes, in this world, for people who follow the instructions given?

What are the outcomes?  What are the consistencies?

People are told to behave in such a way… in exchange for something?!  Frequently, clarification may be required of either the stipulated behaviours, or the … benefits, or both.  It’s the representatives of the ‘religion’ that has the authority to make the clarifications.

It seems just like modern economic theory, a huge pyramid scam.  You sign up, by giving money, for, a whole bunch of money back!  You just have to go out and sign up a thousand other suckers like yourself, and you’ll get, say, ten percent of that.  Yeah, how ‘bout that?

What a scam.  The ones who win that game are the ones who own the scam, and perhaps a tiny minority of the chief minions who are unusually good at sucking off the masses.  It’s a negative sum gain; it takes the whole system down, even though a minute minority prosper outrageously.

It’s hard to tell if there ever was a beneficial outcome for the majority.

I can see that I forgot to lock the gate when I got home.  It’s sunny outside.

I go out to lock the gate; now it’s so sunny and beautiful, here!

I go back into make another coffee to bring outside.  While it’s on the stove, I roll a joint.

I’m low on grass!

I take the coffee and joint out to the patio and consume them.

What am I going to do?

I might as well go the to east coast and get some grass, before it becomes an emergency.

I load the car, and head out of town.

I stop to get gasoline at the shiny new red and yellow gas station, just before Paraiso.

A guy watching me.  After paying up, the guy comes over and introduces himself.  He says he owns a funeral home in Siquirres, and he likes my car.  He gives me his number and asks me to call him, if I ever decided to sell the car.

I drive by casa gringos to see what’s going on.

Linda is moving her stuff to her boyfriend, Arturo’s place.  The two of them drive off.  Dave is there.  He says that they’ve got to move out; some stuff has come up and he’s got to go back to the states to deal with it.  He asks me if I want to take over the place; he says they’ll be out next week.

I just don’t feel like taking on any commitment.  I make non-committal noises and suggest that he not wait for my decision, if he can get somebody else.

But I’ve been considering the move for a while, since the weather has been so shitty in Zarcero, and I’m so isolated in Palmira.  If I moved to casa gringo, I really wouldn’t need the car, and there is always something going on in Montalba.

* * *

I wake up, at the hotel.  After coffee, I phone the number the guy gave me.  I try to find out how serious he is about buying the car; I’m trying to tell him that I am thinking about selling the car.  But I can’t really understand what the guy is saying.  I’m not even sure that it’s the same guy that I saw at the gas station.

Jane calls him back.  She speaks so fast, I can’t understand it.  Occasionally, she asks me a question.  She hangs up, and tells me that he said he’ll come to Montalba next Saturday, one week from today, February 19th.

Then she says that we have to have a ‘chat’.

We walk over to the café.  It’s tense.  I’m uncomfortable, even though I’ve expect it.

I listen as best I can, concentrating on keeping my mouth shut.  I just cannot track the doublespeak!  She seems to be making some kind of an ultimatum, but, I’m not at all clear about it.

She leaves me sitting there with my empty coffee cup.

I’d better plan for the worst.  Maybe it’ll become clearer in time.

I stay and write, until they’re closing.  I stop at a café and get some food.

Since I have to come down next weekend, and I still have more than a week’s worth of marijuana, I decide to forgo the trip to the east coast until then.

Sunday, in the early afternoon, I leave Montalba.  I chug into Zarcero before last light, and park across the street from Zarcero Restaurant.

I transcribe my written notes onto the computer while I eat.

The food is long gone.  I’m tired.

I emerge into the dusk, cross the street and get into the car.

I have a hard time getting the car to start, then it chugs unconvincingly up the hill; there’s hardly any power.

I make it inside the gates at the casa.  I’m stressing about the car not working.  If it’s not working, I probably won’t be able to sell it.

I connect to the internet by dial-up[i], on the slow landline, and write an email to FR, with the stuff I’ve transcribed from my hand-written notes, attached for publication.

“Hey FR:

Here is some copy.  Can you please chop out the parts you don’t think are… appropriate for inclusion?

Thanx, dean.”

 

Tanya shows up.  I’m happy to see her.

She tells me that she is really falling for me.  I ask her to try to avoid getting too attached to me.  I am grateful that she is honest enough to tell me about it, but it makes me sad.

* * *

On Friday, I drive back to Montalba.  I steer as clear of Jane as I can while clinging to the privilege of staying in her late grandmother’s room at her hotel.

Saturday morning, the guy from Siquirres is a no show.  I try phoning, but there is no answer.

I go to the bank and make a rent deposit for Casa Gringo.

I check out of the hotel, grabbing stuff I’ve been accumulating in ‘my room’.  I drive it over to Casa Gringo.  Dave and Jelly are still there; they’d mentioned they might stay on, another day or two.

Dave talks me into buying his kayak and the gear.  He says that they are easy to sell, people are buying and selling them all the time.  I place my stuff from the hotel on a storage shelf in the casa.  The place is filthy, I’m not sure I want to sleep here, while it’s like this.  I might as well go to the coast now; hopefully they’ll be gone, when I get back.

I get in the car and drive to Puerto Antigua.

I park in town, and walk to Carlos’s place.  His pitbulls bark, angrily.  I visualize myself having to kill them with my bare hands: I go over it, visualizing it in my mind; I’ll have to disable the first one immediately, and still evade the second.

A swarthy stone-faced man comes and lets me in.  He brings me into a room.  I sit.  Carlos comes in; it looks like he’s just woken up.  He looks at me suspiciously.  Stone-face is on alert.  Accusingly, he asks me who I am?

I describe, as best I can, having come over a few weeks ago, with the Dutch guy, who talks too much.  He still looks at me with suspicion.  Stone-face is at the ready!  It’s tense.

Slowly, I take out two foreign telephone calling cards, one from Honduras, the other from Guatemala.  The last time I was here, I’d noticed a large glass bowl full of foreign telephone calling cards.  When I’d returned from that visit, I’d looked around, and found some old calling cards from my drive down to Costa Rica.  I stashed them right away in the car, under the armrest.  I’d found them by pure co-incidence, after parking in Puerto Antigua a few minutes ago, while looking for a lighter.  I toss them down on the table.

He’s surprised.  The aggression, showing on his face, wanes slightly.  Then, I see a relaxation of the creases.  The grimace flattens, and the ends of the mouth turn upwards, just slightly.

I can see the realization enter his eyes.  He points at me and nods.  He picks up the cards, looking at each of them, front and back.  When he looks back up at me, he is smiling.  He shakes my hand thoughtfully and thanks me.  I’m surprised by the earnest of it.

He opens a cooler on the floor and takes out two chunks of compressed grass.

I hand him twice what I’d paid for the single ounce last time.  He takes the money, counts it, and then returns half of it to me.  Then he gets up, yawns, and tells me to hang around as long as I want.  He walks through the door, through which he had entered, and shuts it behind him.

I get up and go.

I stop by a few hotels.  All I want to pay for is the most basic security, enough to sleep without worry.  But all that is available is more than that, at cost.  I’m a bit stressed about money, after shelling out for the deposit on the house, and paying for the kayak that I don’t need.

If I leave right away, and take the main highway, by-passing Montalba, and connecting to the main north-south highway, just north of San José, I wouldn’t have to drive too long in the dark, and then only on roads I know well.

I’ll go for it.

As I am driving out of town, north along the crescent of black sand beach, I notice a building that I’ve not noticed before.

The wheels squeal as I turn left hard.  I pass across the deep parking lot to the building.  I take the least expensive room he has.  It’s more than I need, but I’ll pay it, to not have to drive right now.

I assemble what I want from the car, and stow the rest out of sight.

I open the door to the room, step in, and turn the ceiling fan on.  The room is cooler than outside.  I strip off my damp clothes.  I pull on the shorts and walk out to the black sand on the far side of the highway.  I walk straight across the beach and dive in, swimming one breath’s distance under water.  The water is warm, but cooler than the air.  I loll around in the small waves.  I’ve seen people surfing on this beach, before, but not now.  The motion is light.

I lie in the water side of the shore line.  My head rests back, towards shore.  The soft, one foot waves, break upon me; I taste the salt.  It all feels good.  I’m glad I didn’t try to drive out.  It’s hazy.  But I feel the heat of the waning sun on my skin, through the water.  I arch my neck looking behind me.  The haze-muted sun is startling orange over the dark green of the tree line.

I alternate swimming out, then lying on the beach.

I sit in the sand, watching the last rays through the trees, until the sun passes behind the mountains.

Ahh!  I get up and take the few steps out, to diving depth, and lunge.  Energetically, I send the ripple down my entire body, focusing on the whip of the feet together.  At the same time, I pull my arms down hard, from being extended.  Five hundred metres out, I turn.  I can see it again, the red crown burns along the top of the forested hills.  I look at it until it’s gone, again, then drift back to shore with the waves.

Back at the room, I pull on the pants and a slightly fresher shirt.

I walk out.  I pass a few cafés.  I know I need food, I can feel it acutely.  I could eat anything, if I could decide on something.

After an hour of walking and indecision, I’m back at the bar closest to the hotel.  I order casada, and beer.  I get more beer and an order of ceviche.  Then I get a beer with guaro.  I pay.

* * *

I smoke the joint I rolled with the scraps from, from … was it yesterday, or was it the day before?!  I go into the bar on the corner.

I remember walking into this town and going to that bar, before; when was that?

I order beer.

There is a soccer game on the television; it’s Canada against Costa Rica.  Canada is ahead one to nil.  I talk with a tico.  He’s got some African in him.  Sometimes, he speaks a few words in a heavy English patois.

After a few more beers, incredibly, Canada wins, one to nil.  I down this last beer.

* * *

What’s that noise!?!  Where…?  Ugh!  It’s knocking on a door.  I’m in a hotel.  “Momento.”

I go to the door, “¿que?”

<<¿Señor, are you staying another night?>>

“!?No¿¡”

<<Good, but its check out time.>>

<<¿Is it okay if I’m out in fifteen minutes?>>

<<That will be fine.>>

“Gracias.  Hasta pronto.”

I go into the cold shower.  I feel bad.  I’m out in a minute.  I roll a joint with the new grass.  I put on the dirtier clothes for the road.  I drop the key off, and start the car.

I’m on the outskirts of Limón, I pull over in front of a chicken roasteria, and turn the car off.  They bring it to me fast.  It’s hot and good.  I wash it down with a can of beer.  I’m feeling a bit better.

I roll into Montalba.  It’s late in the afternoon.  I pull up in front of casa gringos.

As I walk in, I hear the chug-chug-chug of bubbles sucked through water.

“Hey Dean.”

“Oliver.  Dave.”  I pull out the bag of grass.

“What’tcha got here?”

I hand it to Oliver.  He pulls some from the compressed chunk, and rubs it between his fingers.  He smells it.  “This is better.”

He loads the bowl, and lights it as Dave’s inhales.

“That’s good.  Where’djuh get that?”

“On the east coast.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Something smells good.”  Jelly comes down the hallway, drying his hair with a towel.

We sit on the porch with a bottle of guaro, a bucket of ice, and a bag of limes.

When the bottle is finished, they get up to go.  “Dean, it’s no good being too much alone.”

I want to be alone, and maybe have a nap.  “I’ll try to find you, later.”  They go.  Linda has already moved out.  Dave and Jelly are supposed to be going tomorrow.  The place is filthy, but there’s no point in cleaning it before they’ve gone.

I lie on the couch, on the porch, with ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’.

* * *

“Wakey, wakey.  We’re over at Julia’s.  I’m here to bring you to the party.”

“What?”  I’m disoriented.  What’s going on?  I’m on the couch.  Jelly is standing there.

He bends down and tries to lift me up, “What?  Easy.”  I push him.  He catapults back, staggering.

“Whoa!”  He bangs back against the bars on the cage of the porch.  “Yer comin’ to the party!”

“Okay, okay.”

“Where were you, dude?”

“I was right here, dude.”  He’s really drunk.

We walk out, diagonal across the corner, to Julia’s.  Before we get there, he hugs me, “Well, man, it was great to meet you.”

“Mucho gusto, hombre.”

I put my arm around his shoulders and guide him into the bar.  He’s hammered, he can hardly walk.  Sleep was good, I want to get back to it as soon as I can.

Dave is listing at a forty-five degree angle.  “I got him.  I got him”, Jelly exclaims.

Oliver’s eyes are cracks, but he’s upright, and breathing regularly.

“Buenas”, Julia greets me.  <<We’re just closing, really.>>

<<It doesn’t look like we will be too long.  ¿Could you make me an espresso?>>

She nods, and goes into the kitchen.

I’m hungry.  I forgot to have dinner, again.  She comes out and I say, <<¿Julia, is there any food that I can still get?  ¿What time is it?>>

<<I have a plate of ceviche.  Its 4:30.>>

<<¿Could I get a Bavaria with the ceviche?>>

She smiles a tired smile.  I appreciate.

Julia brings ceviche.  Oliver follows her form as she leaves the table.  He looks at me, and slightly raises his eyebrows, smiling.

“Hey, hey, ceviche?”  Someone is under the table.  Brian pushes out and staggers up, hardly upright, he continues with his momentum out the door.  But Dave is going down, until he crashes lightly into Buddha Oliver.  Oliver shifts slightly on the bench, and Dave passes below the edge of the table.  Oliver looks at him and giggles.

“You got ceviche?  Hot damn!”  He takes a piece.

I look to Jelly, to offer him to join in the eating.  He’s snoring, passed out backwards in the chair.  Oliver looks at him and his grin broadens.

Julia puts the bill down on the table, <<this is for all>>, she waves her hand across everyone but me, <<except you>>, she looks at me.  Oliver turns to where Dave lies on the bench, beside him.  Absently he reaches and takes another piece of the fish and puts it into his mouth.  He reaches out and wipes his hands, on Dave’s shirt.  He’s looking for something underneath the table.  He comes back with a few bank notes.  “That’ll definitely help the cause.”  He gets up slowly, and methodically goes through Jelly’s pockets.  He comes up with some money, and counts it out.  He reaches into the breast pocket of his shirt and takes several small denomination bank notes, and drops them onto the small pile.  He looks at me, “can’t forget the tip.”

I follow Julia back to the bar.  She cashes the money and begins to clean a section.  I look at her with the “¿cuanto?” look.

She’s looking at me, right into my eyes.  With a tired but friendly voice, she says, “gracias, usted, Dean.  Buenas noches.”

“Gracias, Julia.  Mucho gusto.”

I look up, Oliver looks at me as he tosses the two hundred pounds of Jelly, over his shoulder, “I saw you lookin’.”

“Yeah, well… I appreciate.”  I load Dave across my shoulders.

“She’s sweet.”

* * *

I wake up.  It’s light out.  I’m restless.  I get up and take a piss.  I can hear snoring, heavy snoring.

I take the book and go and get casada, then go to the café and get an espresso with a shot of hot cream.

I read.

* * *

Back at the casa, Dave and Jelly are loading the car.

Dave is agitated.

We come through the pass, then Paraiso, and Cartago.  I slice as cleanly as possible through the average gridlock of San José.

Dave is still agitated.  He leans forward and yells.  He wants to pick up his last pay cheque from one of the big adventure tour companies, on a service road, before the airport.

There are no off roads, or not many of them.  I cut north, a way I haven’t been before, to a main artery, running roughly parallel to the highway, northward from San José.

Dave has never actually been to the place before, he now informs.  Now, I’m a little agitated.

I cut across an underpass to the west service road, running parallel to the highway.  The road is new, and perfectly paved, wow!  We pass golf courses and country clubs on the left, the west side of the road; I’ve never seen these places after so many trips up and down that highway.  The road weaves further, and back closer, to the highway.  Finally, we arrive at a cluster of new and ugly, one story commercial-industrial buildings.  It could be on the outskirts of San José, in California.

Jelly goes with Dave.

* * *

It seems like an hour since they’ve gone in.  I want to get back to Palmira before rush hour.

Finally they’re back.  It’s after 3 p.m.  The traffic is already heavy, but not too bad.  I dump them, at the airport, without ceremony.

I get back to the highway and continue north.  It’s full, but still moving steadily.  I’m happy, as usual, to pull off at the exit to Naranjo.  It’s a sunny day, with just a few cumulous clouds.  Even though I’m glad to be done chauffeuring the louts around, I feel an unshakable melancholy.

* * *

I’m on the last long hill, before entering Zarcero.  The engine chugs, then stalls.  Fuck!  God damn it!  There is a foot-wide shoulder, then another foot of scrub and then the stone wall of the sheer mountain side!  I feel exposed!  The driver side of the car juts out, leaving just enough room to pass without infringing on the lane of oncoming traffic.  A steady stream flows by, inches from me!  The driver of a large tractor-trailer, blasts on his horn.  Fuck!  I pop the hood, and get out the aerosol can of alcohol.

This is crazy; a car almost hit me.  The look of resentment on the drivers face, the total detached hatred, shocks me!  I spray the aerosol alcohol into the carburetor, slam the hood down, then run into the oncoming traffic, causing much honking, to get into the car, and try to start it as fast as I can.  The engine starts, gagging in fits, yet continuing to run.

I rev it high, then Jam it roughly into gear.  I lurch forward and into traffic.  The driver behind me leans on his horn all the way up the hill.  There is no power in the car, but I’ve crested the hill, and I come around the right bend, into town, whew!

Fuck, I just don’t need that shit!

I’m glad it’s still light out.  I park along the main road, in front of the park, knowing I may not be able to start it again.  I get out and cross to go into the restaurant.  I get a beer, and pour half of it down, right away.  “Agua y casada, tambien, por favour,” I say, before she retreats from the table.

I finish it all with two more beers.  I feel better.  Worst case, I leave the car there and take a cab up.  But it starts right up, and goes up the hill, home, slowly, but certainly.

I’m so happy to be in my sanctuary, here in Palmira.

* * *

I wake; it’s morning.  I cruise down the hill to Zarcero.  I walk into the tourist office.  Tom is in his chair, reading a paperback book.  “Hey, how yuh doin’?”

“I’m good Tom.  How are you?”

“I feel okay.”

“How’s Jerry?”

“She’s good.  She wants you to come over for a coffee party, right here, in the afternoon.  She asked me to tell you.”

“I don’t have anything planned.  I’ll be there.”

“Good.  I had to get that business done.  What’s up?”

“I gotta get the car looked at.”

“It’s not the gas tank leaking, again, is it?”

When I’d arrived in Zarcero and stayed with Tom, gasoline was continually dripping from the gas tank.  From my room at Tom and Jerry’s place, I could smell the gasoline, even though the car was a hundred feet away from the house.  As soon as I got the place in Palmira, Tom suggested I go to get it fixed.  He lead me in is little late-eighties model Japanese compact.

Pedro’s garage was west of the highway, adjacent to the soccer field.  It was one of the few places in town lower than the highway.  There’s a neighbourhood west of there that I couldn’t see how cars could access.  A sharp ridge, perhaps four hundred feet high, and half a kilometre across, runs diagonal to the grid of Zarcero.  It brackets the town from a steep drop down from the mountain.

I dropped the car off at 8:30, in the morning at the dirty shop.  He’s got a couple of men working for him, and two kids, who look like little Pedros, ‘helping’ out.

When I picked it up, late in the afternoon on the following day, Pedro explained the work.  They’d drained the gas into a can, then washed it out; he stressed, for a long time.  Then they’d left it to drain and dry.

Pedro had welded a three-inch strip of sheet metal, on one side of the tank where there had been a gash.  He’d done both sides.  He advised me that sooner or later, it would go on the other side as well.  It was at a spot normally covered by two steel bands that hold the tank to the car, that’s why I never was able to see the hole, while the gas tank was attached to the car.  Since the bands hold the moisture against the tank, eventually, they all rust through.  After the welding they’d put on primer, then an industrial sealant.  When that was dried, they re-installed the tank, tested it for leaks by pouring the gasoline back in, and revved it up to let it run for a few minutes.  Everything was good.

It cost me thirty bucks.

“No, that’s perfect.”

“Is there a problem with the moofalah?”

A week after getting the gas tank fixed, I’d pulled up across the street from the tourist office, while Tom was out having a smoke.  “You need some exhaust work.”

I’d become slowly accustomed to the roar of the motor, not really noticing it as it had become worse.  But the noisiness of it was past denying.

Tom dropped everything and closed the office.  He led me to the ‘muffla’ guy, on the outskirts of Zarcero.  The ‘muffla’ guy checked it out, and told me to bring it the following morning.  I returned the following day, and dropped it off.

The problem wasn’t the muffler itself, but the connecting pipe, immediately off the engine manifold.  It was rusted out, I didn’t have any idea how it could be fixed.

When I picked up the car, he showed me what he had done.  He’d made a template of the connection from the exhaust pipe, to the engine block, by tracing an outline of the remaining piece on cardboard; he showed me the template.  He then cut the piece from quarter inch steel plate.  He drilled the holes, and machined it with a grinder, to match the original.  He arc-welded a short pipe to the exhaust side of the piece that he’d made.  Then he made a gasket and connected the whole thing back up to the engine.  He also had to bore out the screw holes in the engine block, and then re-tape them so that they could take new bolts.

The cost to me was forty bucks.  I marvelled at the ingenuity and quality the he’d put into the job.

“No, it’s quiet, I can hardly hear it since I got it done at the ‘muffla’ guy.”

“Oh yeah?  What’s the problem now?”

“Well, it’s been stalling, especially going up hills.  It might have something to do with the overheating.”

“I think you told me about that.”

“Well, it wasn’t too bad.  But, it’s become worse.  I stalled coming into town the other day.  I got some friends coming soon.  I want to see if I can get it fixed before they arrive.”

He picks up his jacket, and checks for the car keys in the pocket.  “Well, let’s go see if Carlos can look at it.”

“Carlos?”

“Yeah, he’s a real mechanic.  He’s the only one to go to, around here.  I’ve tried a few.  Let’s go.  You follow me.”

His little car rocks as he puts his weight into it.  I get into the big woody shark, and idle after him.  He goes up the street and turns right, going behind the church, then right again, and back down the hill on the far side of the church, to the only stoplight in Zarcero.  I follow him through the intersection and up the steep grade, on the far side.  A sheer wall rises up, bracketing the town on the west side.  At the crest of the climb, we pull right, into a small lot, in front of a large garage.

I follow Tom in.  He introduces me to Carlos, and Carlos introduces me to Luis, and Eduardo, working around the shop.  Tom tells Carlos what I’d told him, then excuses himself, and leaves, waving over his shoulder with the lighter in his hand.

Carlos asks the questions; I answer, <<it’s running hot, into the red.>>

<<¿How is the radiator?>>

<<I had it checked and flushed in December.>>  Mike the mechanic said is was good.

<<¿Are you sure?>>

<<It’s not the radiator,>> issues from me, perhaps a bit to sharply.

He furrows his brow for a moment, then suggests I bring it at 7:30 in the morning, tomorrow.   He’ll figure it out.

We shake hands.

“¡Hasta mañana!”

I drive to the same parking spot, next to the park, across the street from the tourist office.

I walk across the main street and up the stairs, into Restaurant Willy.

Good, almost no one is here.  I sit down at a spot next to window.  I’m craving food; I can feel it in every cell.

Oliver comes to my table.  I’m glad to see him.  “¡Tengo qué tanto hambre, Oliver!  ¿Qué tal?”

“Bien, Gracias.  ¿Qué quieres, hoy?”

“Pollo con arroz, y salsa picante, por favor.”

I open the book, ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’.

Jared Diamond’s take on human history of the transition from hunters and gathers, to agricultural-enabled urbanites makes sense to me.  I’m really engrossed in the book.  I’ve thought about this topic for a long time, and created my own theories trying to figure out how we went from nomadic groups of hunters and gathers, to what there is today.

Willy stands there still.  That was fast.  “¡Qué rapido, Willy!  Bueno.  Quiero.  Agradecimiento.”  I am grateful.

He places the food down.

“Gracias, hombre.”

All else fades in importance; I am lost to my overwhelming need to satiate this hunger.

It’s all gone.  It was good.  As I pick up the book again, Willy appears to take the plate away.

<<Sorry about the other day, when you couldn’t dine.>>

It was another one of those church meetings.  It pissed me off at the time.  “No problemo, hombre.  Está una reunión.  ¿Diga?  ¿Es una parabla, ‘reunión’, en español?”

“Sí, ‘una reunión’ de l’iglesia.”

“Yo recuerdo, el protestante.”

“¿Y usted?”

“¿Yo?  Nada.  Pero, mi abuela.  ¿Abuela?”

“Sí, sí, abuela; your grand-moa-ther.”

“Ella es… staba.  ¿’Estaba’?”  He nods, patiently.  “Ella,”  <<she, my grandmother, was Irish Protestant>>.

“¿Pero, tú, no?”

I nod, agreeably.  “Correcto, yo no… ?, uh, yo, no ‘sigo’?”  Follow.

He nods encouragement.

“Yo no sigo nada instituciones religiosos.  Poco gusto budismo y taoísmo.”  Buddhism and Taoism, I say tentatively.   “¿Comprendes?”

“Bueno,”  he laughs and waves, and walks back to the kitchen, making his get away, “bueno.”

I remember how chuffed-off I was about the religious thing; but things are so crazy in the world, I can understand how people look for even a faint hope of some kind of benevolence.  It just seems to be… so… taking advantage of the vulnerable.

How did it happen?

In “Guns, Germs and Steel”, Jared notes that the isolated tribes inside Papua New Guinea never developed a sophisticated economy.  They didn’t have the eventually abundant and storable grains that became the backbone of the agricultural revolution in Mesopotamia.

When they were able to store grain in Mesopotamia, maybe ten thousand years ago, that would have been like storing human effort; it was the first currency!  So it was the first way that power, stored human effort, could be accumulated.  That was the first currency!

My head is reeling, but somebody else must know this!

I want to write it down; this is important.

I gaze out, down across the main street, to the corner of the park.  My eyes drift south along the main street, in front of the park.  I see all the way down the highway to where it turns left out of side.  It’s a nice day.  It was hazy, when I came down, into town, now it’s bright.  I linger, looking out the window.  I stand to see how directly I can look down to the street below.  The outside ledge blocks the view of the sidewalk on this side of the main street; I can only see as far as the edges of the cars parked on this side.  The brightness hurts my eyes.  I walk over to the counter.  Oliver comes out and I pay.  “Mucho gusto, Oliver.  Gracias.”

I go out into the blinding brightness, and walk back to the car.

I get my notebooks, pens, a knife, and a bottle of water, from the car.  I pack it into the knapsack, and put in the two bottles of beer from the bag of ice that they’ve been sitting in.  I take the sunglasses, too.

A sheer silver curtain has gone across the sky, again.  It’s pleasant.  The heat on my skin is cooled by the whispering breeze.  A stronger wind blows; it could take me to the verge of cool, but I pass through a warm thermal pocket.  It is muggy, almost hot.  I walk across the paved path to the stairs.

On the large landing, mid-way up, between the park grounds and the entrance to the church, there are two stone tables, each with chairs mirrored on either side.  I sit at the table on the left.

I have two books into which I write, now.  I’m now writing into the second, but there are notes in the first, as yet not transcribed to the computer files, that I’d like to be able to refer to.

I make a note to look on the internet for grain storage.  It had to be stored dry, so it wouldn’t rot, and then, how did they keep track of who owned what?  Did they even have personal ownership, at that point?

One of the local Guardia Civil is strolling nearby.  He waves me a little salute and smiles, acknowledging my presence.  I wave back.  I’ve seen him on a number of occasions, as I’ve sat, writing in the park.

I’m back to my notes, but the local branch of a university has released students.  Many come into the park.  It must be the lunch break.

I’ve never seen it livelier here.  There’s a small child on a bicycle with training wheels, energetically trying to out-pace his father.  The father goes as slowly as one can.

There are women-girls, from the university, all about.  They congregate in small groups of mostly threes and fours.

A breeze cools me off.

I start writing on the next clean page, “22 February 2000 – Tuesday

El Parque Central D’Iglisia, Zarcero, Costa Rica…”.

But there is an undeniable, appealing scent wafting to me on the breeze, confounding my attention to the writing.  I can hear them.  I look up.  A cluster of three move into a position directly in front of me.  The sun shines more brightly through a weak spot in the haze.  The breeze cools the heat from my skin.  I can feel my heartbeat; it feels good.  I hear a young child shrieking with an excitement that can only come from innocence.

The three vanities are before me.  I exhale slowly, feeling the air pushed out of my lungs and across my throat, before exiting through my teeth and past now dry lips.

Time slows.  One faces straight towards me, legs apart as far at the mini-skirt allows.  I can see her inhale and the points atop the roundness of her breasts.

“¿Señor?”

What!?  Uh oh.  It’s the Guardia Civil.  He must have come up behind me.

“Hola hombre.  ¿Que tal?”  He’s smiling at least; neither is it a smile of malevolent intent.

<<I know you.  I’m Carlos.  I live in Palmira.>>  He extends his hand and we shake.  <<You gave me a ride in your car one day.>>  He nods.

Yeah, I did do that.  It had been raining.  He’d been walking along, just outside Palmira, towards Zarcero.  I slowed to a spot beside him and opened the door for him to get in.  There was nothing formal, no ceremony.  I dropped him off down in Zarcero, without much talk.  <<I know you.>>  He points at me.  <<Everything is good.  Thank you.  How are you doing?  I saw you writing.>>

He stands about five foot, six.  He looks as if he could be Irish, with the archetypical bleached strawberry blond hair and blue eyes.  I can see the red of his skin yet beneath the leathery tanned hue from years in the tropical sun.  The bleached eyebrows stand out as he squints against the light.

<<Everything’s going good for me.  The sun is out.  There’s a light breeze, and,>> I spread my arms out to the square, <<it’s not too bad.>>  I nod my head; directly in front of me, at the three young women preparing to move along.

Nodding and smiling, he says, <<yes señor, there is no question about it, it’s not too bad.>>

I smile, because he uses my grammatically questionable phrase, one of my favourites, ‘no mucho malo’, and it sounds quaint, coming from a native Spanish speaker.

<<You live in Chocoleto’s house, don’t you?  I see your car there.>>

<<Yes, that’s my house, for now.>>

<<I see you writing here, writing there, writing, writing.  What is it?>>

<<I’m writing about coming from Canada, to here, Costa Rica, Zarcero.>>  I flip through pages of the notebook.  I’m finished this one, and on to the next one, now.

<<Are you writing a book?  It’s a lot of work, no?>>  It is half question, half statement.

<<It takes time, and it takes concentration.  But it’s not so much work.  I don’t know how to say it better in Spanish.>>

<<I think I understand you.  It would be work for me.  Much work.>>  He makes the motion of writing with his hand, then shakes his head.  <<It tires me out, to write that much.  That’s a lot.  ¿Are you just about finished yet?>>

<<I think there is quite a bit more.  But, I don’t know, for sure, how far the story is going to go.>>

<<No, that’s too much?>>  Again, it’s the half question.

<<I don’t know but I think I’ll know when I get to the end of it.  I put what I write onto a web site, on the internet.  Maybe it’ll be a book.  I don’t know.>>

Carlos ponders for a few moments, looking down at the ground.  Then nods his head.  <<That’s really great.  Writing a book.  You must be smart.>>  He pauses, considering it?  <<I’ll talk to you later.>>

“Pura vida, hombre.”

“Pura vida.”

He strolls away.

I look for the beauties.  I see only the one, and she is partially obscured to me behind an animal-shaped shrubbery.  I look at her eyes, but she is too far away for me to tell if she’s looking at me.

I look down at the page.  Where was I?  At the hardest part, starting.

There’s a crash!  The small child has crashed his bicycle into the other chair.  A man comes right away.  <<Pardon me.  Pardon me.  I’m so sorry about that.>>  He grabs up the child.  He’s five or six years old.  I wonder if the man is a young grandfather or an old father?

<<No problem.  ¿Are you (two) all right? >>

<<Daniello Junior is going to be fine.  ¿Aren’t you Danny?  You are fine.>>  He hugs him close, before setting him down on his lap, pats his head, and holds his cheek in his hand.  <<Sorry about that.>>

<<No problem at all…>>

He holds out his hand, <<I’m Daniello.  This is my son, Daniello.>>  We shake.

“¿Que passo, hombre?  ¡Que dia!  Me llamo Dean.”  I hold out my hand to the younger Daniello.  There is a pause in the sobs, and a tentative look to the older Daniello, followed by a half-hearted sniffle.  He takes my hand.

In a very soft voice, he says “Daniello.”  I gently shake his hand.

“Que bravo pequeño hombre!”  What a brave kid you are!

“I saw you writing here before.”

“¿Hablas inglis,”  now I employ the half question?

“I, a student, of, Tanya.”  <<¿You are a friend of Tanya?>>  I can’t tell whether it’s a question or a statement.

“I am a student, too.  Yo soy un estudiante, también.”

“You are a student?”  He looks at me with exaggerated incredulousness.  “But you speak English!”

“Si, pero, no mucho español.  Aquí, hablamos español.  Aprendo español.”

He looks away, into the bushes and ponders momentarily.  “Claro”, he says looking at me with slightly raised eyebrows.  He grins now, and pats his young son on the head.  <<¿So why are you writing?>>

I’d never really thought too much about it, but now, having been asked for a second time in twenty minutes, I wonder why I am doing it?   So far, I haven’t worried about it.  I’ve just been putting it down, whatever is going on, the way I see it.  Letting it out seems to make me feel better some how.

Hmm, but I don’t know how to say it in Spanish.

<<It’s about driving down here to Costa Rica, from Toronto, in Canada, and, being here.  I am looking at how things are done here, but from the perspective of what I am used to, how things are done there, in Canada.  And, I’ve also started looking at the way things are done there, in Canada, from the perspective of here, and writing that down too.>>

<<You come from Canada?>>

I nod slightly.  If you want to ask me the question, then go ahead and ask it.

“¿Mucho frio?”

“Si, y mucho hielo ahora, allí, tambien.”

“You speak Spanish very well.”

I snort a cynical chuckle.  “No mucho, pero gracias.”

He asks about my car, <<very strong>>, he says.  I tell him it’s in the shop at Carlos’.  He nods approval and says Carlos is good.

“Quiero vendare.”

<<¿Why would you want to sell it?>>

<<I feel like it’s holding me back, preventing me from doing what I want.  It’s supposed to be a tool to allow me to do what I want to, but it’s not working like that.>>

<<You live in Palmira.  It’s quite a long walk down the hill.>>

<<I’m going to move to Montalba, I think.>>

“¿Montalba?”

“Sí, penso.  I think so.”

<<Zarcero is better than Montalba.>>

<<It’s been raining since I got here.  In Montalba, if it rains more, then the white water on the rivers is better for rafting and kayaking.>>

He points at me and makes a questioning face.

“Si.”  I nod back at him.  Daniello Junior is riding around on his bicycle, a short distance away.  He stops, turns and looks at his father.

Daniello sees him, <<Danny, my precious boy.>>

<<¿You drink beer?>>

<<When I’m thirsty, sometimes.>>

<<Come to my bar, I work at Restaurant Bar Amigos.>>  “I am the bar-tender.”

I’d been in there once.  It was one of the bars south of the park, towards Naranjo, across the street from the liquor store and El Plastico.  There was a handful of people there, maybe five or six.  When I’d gone into the place, all of the talking had stopped.  I could hear the Mexican soap opera on the television.  <<I couldn’t get a beer when I was there before.>>

<<That was just temporary.  It’s all cleared up now.  Come and have a beer.  I’m coming Danny.  Enjoy your time here.>>

“Mucho gusto, Daniello.  Pura vida.”

He looks back and smiles, as if at the quaintness of it, “pura vida Dean Cassady.”

They ride off; senior again going as slowly as he can, precariously so.  They fade into the haze.  The sun’s rays hit the damp ground, and a musky vapour rises on the upward thermals.  I feel swazy.  It’s an intoxicatingly peaceful setting.  The nymphs frolic.

I look down at the page with only the date written on it.  It looks so far away, so unimportant.

I write, “There’s one young woman, in her cluster of three young women… establishing some kind of an orbit…”.

I’ve never liked it here more than I do at this very moment.  I feel pangs of regret for my plans to move to Montalba.  But, it seemed so much less isolated.  I’d come to live in Zarcero, ended up in Palmira, but now, it doesn’t matter, I’ll be gone soon.

A pale woman in her forties, wearing clean white jeans, white blouse, and a matching hat, approaches me.  She continues looking at me without addressing me.  I look at her, then past her to a minivan still unloading her companions.   A tall adolescent boy strains out of it and joins his tall, over-weight father, whose skin hangs in pink blotches in clammy-sallowness.

The woman wanders by me now; she’s looking at a shrub carved into the shape of a hippopotamus.

As the group reaches her, Tom joins them.  He talks, making wide gestures with his arms.  He steers them towards me.  Here they come.

Tom introduces us.  She is quite a bit younger than the man.  They sound American.  Tom is deferential to their views.

The woman looks me over.  I look her back.  I’m a little startled about how blatant it is, in front of the guy, who must be her husband.  Tom wanders away with the guy.

She says she is an airline hostess, and she sometimes does the flight to Toronto.  She asks me for my telephone number in Toronto.  Even though she has nice looking legs, I tell her that I don’t have a phone, but I give her an email address.  She says she’ll email me.  Then she turns and moves to rejoin Tom and the guy.

Tom half trots over to me, and reminds me about the coffee party, before returning to the family.

I look down at the page.  It is just not going to happen here, not right now, anyways.  I close the books, and stack my stuff.

I give in to the urge to relax and watch the sweet world pass by.

After a while, I stow my stuff in the car, and walk to the tourist office.

Tom is out front having a smoke, he’s glad to see me.  He butts out and shakes my hand vigorously.  He escorts me in, then promptly abandons me.  Tanya is right in front of me.  Past her, I can see the couple that Tom had brought around in the park.  The woman is eying me.  I put my mouth close to Tanya’s ear, and whisper, “this is lame.  Let’s go.”

She looks at me, smiling, “come and say ‘hello’ to Jerry.”

She takes me by the hand, and we go and greet Jerry.  She’s cutting cake and serving it.  She insists that I try a piece.  I take it from her and thank her.

Tanya leads me back towards the front of the office.  She whispers in my ear, “okay, we’re ready to go.”

I feel my mouth curling up at the corners.  As it happens, the woman from the park comes into focus, and I see the soured look on her face.  Tanya notices it, and smiles all the more, a gracious, benevolent smile, until she laughs.

As nonchalantly as possible, I ease us out, gently, easily.

[i]. “Dial-up” internet access was the predominant internet connection technology and method at the dawn of the internet era, in the early 1990s; it used the existing telephone ‘voice’ infrastructure, the user’s computer or router uses an attached modem to encode and decode information into and from audio frequency signals, respectively; in the mid-2000s this method of internet connectivity was predominantly displaced by broadband technology, but still is used in remote locations where only telephone infrastructure exists.

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