Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Den of Vipers
(Click here to read the first episode and here for the previous one.)
Only the sound studio and the large bath and dressing room here have four solid walls. Otherwise my octagonal house is open: Second-story sleeping lofts with decks and satellite reception; and a spacious first level with polished stone over a cement foundation.
The roof is pitched and palm-thatched. Rolled under the top railings are wax-treated canvas sheets that zip into place when a storm hits. To unlatch the covers, I have several long poles. Always before when a boa constrictor found its way into the bedroom, I used the poles to get it out.
This morning though, I lift the boa with my hands and drape it over my shoulders—something I’ve seen Pedro do but haven’t done before now, showing off for Emma.
“Do you want to hold it?” No. “Just touch it then?” No.
She follows me downstairs, watches me slide on some sandals and march naked a hundred feet past the coconut trees where the truck is parked. I hang the boa from a mango tree.
Later, after showering, dressing, and breakfast, I show her pictures of coral snakes. They’re quick and loaded with venom. “There’s all sizes and colors and the only way to spot them is by their black rings. Sometimes they’ve got a lot, sometimes just one or two that could be anywhere, near the head, in the middle, or at the tail.”
No pictures of pit vipers today—I don’t want to scare Emma too much. But if we’re gonna hike around, she needs to know what to avoid.
“So it’s like, always watch out?”
“Not really. I’ve never even seen these snakes. But Pedro has. They’ll leave you alone as long as you don’t grab or step on ’em by mistake.”
She’s wearing Chako sandals that belonged to Jean, my three week lover last year, and they’re way too big for her.
Since we flew down here on a whim, all Emma has are a few white shifts and a bikini. I’m taking her to meet Kitty, my one ex who’s remained my friend. Kitty runs the yoga place, six retreats a year. She’ll give Emma sarongs, yoga clothes, and cook books. Emma has no idea how to cook, but claims she’s always wanted to learn—good thing, because I know how to fix rice and beans but would rather not.
Earlier, I ordered climbing sandals and surf gear for Emma online and we argued about who should pay. She’s got a credit card from college when she worked as a waitress. Other than that she’s sung in our costume band. But to her, that’s not the point.
“Why should you pay for my stuff?” she asked. “Because you’re rich? Lots of people of people are rich.”
“Emma, I’m the one that wants you to have this stuff. And, there’s rich and richer. I have so much money I have to pay an institution to keep track of it.”
“Oh, you mean, a bank?”
It’s not just a bank but I’ll give her that one. All this tropical sports equipment is expensive and she wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t need it if I hadn’t talked her into running away with me. But her attitude doesn’t surprise me. Emma’s all about independence, and—need not greed.
“Sorry, darling. This account charges me automatically.”
Anyway, now we’re going to get her yoga clothes, which should make her happy. Instead of dollars, Kitty will ask her to take the teacher’s training for a few weeks and then teach the early morning class nobody else wants. She should consider any and all clothing part of the package. (I’ve done this before, remember.)
Approaching the yoga center, the first person we meet is Kitty’s boyfriend Sean, who looks like he’s Emma’s age but has lived here five years. He arrived with a freckled girlfriend who made jewelry. After two weeks at most, Sean sent her packing and moved in with Kitty who’s noticeably older than me. Although I don’t know by how much; she won’t say.
I recognize the camp Lothario, Logan Wolf, by his muscled arms hanging from a hammock. He gives all the pretty yoginis Thai massage for $100 bucks an hour. After which, he can choose one and then another, because he’s opened their blocked channels—and that has changed their world.
Kitty’s talking to the cook, Sebastian, in the food pantry. He’s got two assistants, bronzed surfers smoking mota by the refrigerator. I rest my hand on Emma’s shoulder and scan the place, blinking for some reason. I’m gazing out at everything from a new perspective: There are only five guys around at the moment but I know their type. To me they look like vipers coiled in a nest. Now and then a snake raises his head, unwinds, swinging back and forth and baring his fangs.
(Click here to read the next episode)