Monday, February 15, 2010


The next thing I remember is Hector, a local boy about sixteen who Charlie found to keep his supplies stoked. Dark wet bangs over an anxious young face. He’s crouching beside me, his surf board in the sand behind him.

“¿Como está?”

I sit up, dizzy and sick, so sick I crawl off toward the palm trees to vomit. After I’ve wiped away any trace of undigested ocean with palm leaves, Hector appears. He taps my shoulder and holds three fingers in front of my face. “¿Cuántos?”

I answer with my three fingers.

(click here to read the first episode and here  for the previous one)

He points to the boulder, which sent my brain slamming back and forth against my skull. Pulling his hair off his forehead, Hector traces a slanted line, indicating the gash on mine. I touch it; the cut isn’t bleeding, probably because it’s deep. Hector looks for my board. I shrug, not important.

He drapes my arm around his shoulder, which grazes my upper ribs. “Gracias,” I say. The ground spins enough that I’m genuinely grateful the boy’s walking me home.

Charlie’s lying in a hammock, listening to his iPod and smoking a spliff, which he offers first Hector, who declines and then to me. Hector speaks in very fast Spanish to Charlie. I grasp only “conmoción,” but I doubt Charlie caught much more.

He holds his head and kinda rattles it, miming concussion. Fanning away Charlie’s exhalations, the boy lays a finger against the side of his nose. “No por your amigo.” No drugs.

Charlie tells him, “No worries.”

I’ll be fine. And if Hector drops by tomorrow Charlie will buy whatever the boy’s selling. Charlie’s shirtless and his body swells over board shorts that are stretched to the max. He turns around to tip Hector, at least that’s what I think he’s doing. But Hector won’t have it. He’ll check us tomorrow. As if Charlie and I were kids, he warns us, no fiesta here tonight. “¿Sé?”

“Por supuesto.”
Charlie wonders whether I should sleep on the upper deck, which involves climbing the narrow stairs, or crash on the futon in the busy main room. I want my bed on the upper deck. Hector still stands by the door, still looking concerned. So both he and Charlie follow me up to the top deck. They get my shorts and shirt off.

Without a word, Hector goes down the ladder and comes up with lukewarm water in a basin and a wash cloth to wash the dried salt water off my flesh. He dabs around the gash on my forehead, which hardly hurts compared to the headache.

Charlie and I wouldn’t have thought of rinsing me off. And when the ocean itch woke me, climbing the ladder in the dark and searching for the shower would have stymied me. Just the idea’s too much, but let me tell you—it would be absolutely nothing compared to the weirdness of Charlie sponging me off. I’d die before that happened.

 Charlie used to feel likewise, I assume, who knows? Now that he’s a Thai massage master he’s eager to work on me. Three times since were arrived—approximately 24 hours ago—he’s wanted to treat me to his special three hour “deep soul” massage.

“You keep your clothes on Scott, if that’s what’s worrying you. For Thai message, you want loose material for the right touch and to keep a grip.”

Hector agrees with me. No massage, just rest. He says he hopes I sleep well and, “Pura vida.” He’ll drop by tomorrow. Okay, if he brings his mother?

Charlie tells him; don’t bring your mother, hombre. We promise to send word if things take a turn for the worse; if it seems like an emergency.

Downstairs, it seems immediately but it could be an hour later already, Charlie’s talking to the crew that partied here last night. “Gotta find another place to hang tonight, ’cause my bro totally dogged out there today.”

Eventually, they leave and I can hear the birds and monkeys just past the deck. Through mosquito netting, I can see the last line of sunlight slip behind the water.
(click here for the next episode)


Dan Leo said...

What a vacation this is turning out to be. Who says it's easy to be rich and idle?

Incredibly vivid writing here.

kathleenmaher said...

I don't know about being rich and idle, although it seems that's who I'm always writing about. A bad vacation, however, I do know. And concussions often play a role.