I’m dreaming of my bare feet on the clean cold stone floor in my hallway. I’ve been travelling from an inauspicious early morning start. It was nice travelling by local bus in the morning, up north, but it became tedious long before I got here, downtown San José.
It’s hot. The sun is blindingly bright. I take a breath and start marching from this bus stop, at Avenida 3 and Calle 16, towards the bus stop for Cartago and Montalba, at Avenida 6 and Calle 14.
It feels good to stretch my legs. Just an hour and a half to go, to that clean, cool stone floor, ice cold beer and a big glowing orange bucket in the destroyer; I breath out, imaging the exhale. The walk, across the centre of San José, is good, though even with the sunglasses, the brightness hurts my eyes.
I come around the corner, and see there is no bus in the bay. …
She’s smoking a cigarette, hiding from the nervous, sweaty and tired questioning gazes. She doesn’t look too happy. She looks up at me and takes a nervous drag.
Did I really hear it? It sounded like a whisper on the public announcement system. Or did I just think it.
It couldn’t be another one!?! I just want to get home, to the smooth, cool floor in the hallway, polished stone. Ohh, don’t let it be.
“Bloqueo.” Somebody definitely said it. Ah fuck! …
I buy a bottle of water and start walking, following the route I’d seen, on many trip, from the bus.
I walk east, then south, zigzagging down the blocks until… this one! This is it; this is the road. I march on. It is hot. I feel the sun like a weight upon me.
Whoa! A bus rips by me. I run. “Hey-hey! Oi!”
The bus brake lights come back on. I take a look at the front sign. It’s going to Zapote, a near, south-eastern suburb of San José. That’ll work. “¿Cuánto?”
I point at the sign on the bus, “¿Zapote? ¿El término?”
He nods, and pulls out into traffic, “ochenta.”
I pull a handful of coins from my jeans pocket, and pick from it, but there is not enough.
One farmer holds his ground, and the truck goes over him.
The crowd goes berserk! The truck driver is lynched. Later he’s found, dead. No one saw it happen.
The sun beats down; no chance of rain for the next ten minutes. I can feel the heat from the passing cars, one after another, endlessly. The world is so different here, outside of the cage, free to move, flex, and stretch in exertion. At the same time I feel the threatening violence of the cars, perilously close, again, and again, like shocks to the system.
I look upon everything with a new double vision.
The sun just bears down. I’m glad for the hat on my head; my memory of getting it in Dominical, seems a year or more old. How could it have been so recently?
I realize, with a little alarm, that I am not certain which month it is, now.
I walk along the shoulder of the east-bound lanes. A bus passes me. Now another goes by. I wonder where they are going?
I see people, a hundred metres in front of me, waiting. A bus rumbles past me. It stops where the people are lined up.
I run. I’m a long way from Montalba, any ride will help me.
The sign on the bus says ‘Tres Ríos’. <<¿Is the way clear, to Tres Ríos?>>
I swing my pack onto my back, as I go. I hold out my thumb while walking forward. A convoy of three trucks passes by. They’re slowing down and pulling over. One guy yells at me. I run. The first of the three trucks starts up, the last one is just starting to move as I grab the sturdy wooden gate. I drag a foot as I climb up. A guy gives me his hand and yanks me up. He’s laughing. <<You run fast.>>
The truck is loaded up, but there’s enough room to sit around the cargo. A group of teen-age boys who were on the bus to Tres Rios are running to get on the truck. The driver slows down enough for them to renew their hopes of a ride, then he speeds up, so they can’t make it. He repeats it, again until the boys realize that they’re not going to be getting on. They hurl school-boy curses. One throws a small rock; it lands short. I’m glad I made it.
The guy on the truck is laughing aloud. He turns to me and shakes my hand, <<good running.
The breeze feels great.
A young woman pulls up to the pump on a small motorcycle. I can see that she can’t figure out how to work the gas pump. I walk over and do it for her. She asks, so I tell her the relevant excerpt of my story, how I got here. It takes half a minute to fill the tank. She offers to drive me. She tells me that she doesn’t have another helmet. It doesn’t make a difference to me. I offer to pay for the gas. I pay at the booth, while she puts her helmet on. She is on the motorcycle, in the driving position. I get on behind her. I’m a little self-conscious about grabbing her properly, which is completely groping the driver; so it’s a bit precarious as we pull out of the service station.
The whole scene has a positive, festive camaraderie about it. I like it.
Many of the cars, here at the front, are empty. It’s really just a big party. I can smell booze in the air. I really want to drink beer. A sweet fragrance of skunk wafts along to me. I follow, though lag behind, Ivelisse, and Ricardo.
The fires burning in the oil drums give an acrid smell. I can feel the weight of the sun again, oppressive in constancy. The sky is a fine blue with the faintest screen of haze.
I have all of my stuff! I look around to try to figure out the way to Cartago, all I have to do is walk out.
I have my camera. I take a few shots!
I might as well shot everything that I have. I keep shooting.
<<Hey man, take my picture.>> He’s a young man with long hair, and a beige jacket.
I take a few frames. He does a little dance. He waves to a group of people seated under a small tree. Several bottles of wine are on the go. A guy is passing a long, fat joint, to a woman beside him. Two of the girls get up and come over, <<you can take my picture>>, the shorter blond says.
They dance, striking poses, and laughing the whole time.
<<Hey, that’s enough of them>>, he grabs the taller dark-haired woman, and kisses her, <<Alvaresa, you may be beautiful, but look at me.>> He pirouettes. I take the shot.
“Jorge.” She moves in a smooth rhythmic dance, as if speaking to him. “¡Elsé”, Alvaresa holds out her hand to the blond woman! Elsé dances a step over to her, and joins her, caressing Alvaresa’s body from the top of her head, slowly down the nice lines of her body. I have a difficult time taking the focus of my eyes from her well-shaped breasts, packages firmly by a plain white cotton t-shirt.
The two turn. Each gives me a kiss on opposite cheeks.
Jorge dances on, moving towards us, laughing. He takes my hand and shakes it, <<Jorge. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.>>
<<I’m called Dean. It’s my pleasure to meet you. I feel the positive. I send the positive to you.>>
<<You’re a great guy, Dean. Come over and meet my friends. You know Elsé and Alvaresa, this is Roberto, Alyssia, Juan, Paulo, and Mercedes.>>
I nod to them all, “mucho gusto.”
“Pero…”. I just want to get through this thing! But… why? “Yo no sé, ‘¿Por qué, no?'”
He laughs, <<for sure. Here you go.>> He hands me the bottle. I up end it slowly, and try to pour it in, instead of mouthing the bottle. It splashes down my throat. I fill my mouth, then gulp it down. It has a slight burn to it, but its fine. I take a couple more.
“¡Ahh, bueno”, I say sincerely! <<Much thanks, Jorge.>> I hand the bottle back.
<<What’s mine, is yours.>>
<<Dean>>, a woman’s voice calls. <<Dean.>> If she’d just shown that much excitement about me when I was up close to her. Ivelisse waves over at me. She seems so happy to see me!
“Jorge, mucho gusto. ¿Mas tarde, okay? Yo regreso.”
“For sure, man”, he says. “See you, later.”
He laughs as I go.
I crack my glass against his, feeling lucky to happen into this scene.
“Fucking crazy; I like you, man.”
“Dean,” Jorge turns me towards where Elsé and Alvaresa are lying, under the shade of a six-foot high tree, with thick branches starting at four feet.
<<Jorge, I just met Dean. Don’t take him away.>> She grabs my arm.
He looks back at her, amused.
She continues, <<¿Dean, why are you here?>>
It seems unusually sincere. I turn to fully face her, and take half a step, in.
“I am,” Jorge points to the tree, “over there.”
I’m focused on her. <<I was on the coast, past Puntarenas, this morning. I left there, this morning, today, to return to my house, in Montalba. But in San José, they said it was cancelled. I just want to get home, so I started walking the way the bus goes. I walked past Curriabad, and onto the highway. I got a bus to Tres Ríos, then a truck ride to the service station, the last one, back there.>> I point back, up the hill. <<Then a woman, gave me a ride on her motorcycle. That’s how I got here.>>
She holds up her glass, <<I’m happy you are with us.>> I klink my glass to hers; I can’t help but wonder if there is a possibility… .
“Gracias. ¿Y por qué usted, por qué estás aquí?”
I hope she’s here to pick up a sweaty exotic foreign man.
<<Mercedes called me and said, ‘let’s go to the action, it should be fun’, so I put together the picnic and here I am.>>
More people get on, many running to the door of the bus, and breathing hard moving down the full isle, backing up, now, to the front of the bus.
I don’t see how anymore people can squeeze on. I can see the bus driver, the whole while, out of the bus. He’s talking to a girl, in a uniform. More people cram on.
Finally, the door closes. The bus jumps out, into traffic, cutting off an elderly gentleman, proceeding with caution. The standing crowd lurches with the motion. An elderly woman almost falls, but remains standing because there is not enough room to fall, packed body-to-body.
“Señora. Señora.” I catch her gaze with my stare, and then waive for her to come over. I see her attempt to move, but she can’t I get up and help her over. The bus lurches again, and she is ejected over to me. I catch her, preventing her from crashing, head first, into the person sitting next to the window. <<Sit here Señora.>>
“Gracias. Gracias señor. Dios gracias.”
She settles down, and I stand with my pack between my feet, holding bars on the ceiling. I can’t see outside, except immediately next to the bus. The speed of the ground rolling by makes me feel ill, to look at.
We stop frequently.
We stop again. We’re about half way to Montalba. The older woman is getting up. She nods at me to take back the seat.
It’s nice to sit.
* * *
We’re pulling into the station in Montalba! It’s dusk.
I wait as people clamour to get off. When it’s mostly cleared out, I get up, and teeter towards the front. I’m off, and out of the station, a breeze blows on me. Ahh, it feels so good. I walk through a thin beam of sunlight. I stop, and look into the sun. It’s at the edge of the mountain. I watch it pass, fully behind the mountain, to the west.
I keep going, almost there now.
I unlock the front gate, and lurch onto the porch. I kick off my shoes, and continue in through the front room, pulling my socks and pants off, as I go. The floor is cool. My hot, damp feet leave traces of my feet, disappearing as I walk through to the kitchen. I open the back door to get the most of the breeze running through the place. The floor is cool. I grab a beer, and roll a joint. I spark it up on the back porch, sitting down on the second last step with my feet on the small square, damp concrete back… yard, area?
Ahh, the beer is so cold! I smoke, enjoying the feel of the smoke, luxuriously pouring out of my and the continually evolving geometries of the smoke burning up from the end of the joint. I’m glad to be here. I hear the subdued sounds of the neighbourhood, someone’s voice, not audible, but healable; now a hush, and a cat yowling not too far distant, and always the river, not too far away.
I finish the beer, and blow out the last of the smoke, lazily. I take a second beer on my way past the fridge, down the hall, and into the shower, cold only. It feels such a luxury, the cool and fresh stream of water, running down the length of my body, no threats around me.
It’s nice to be home.