Sam and I headed out of Oaxaca onto the narrow country road winding toward the Pacific. We cruised my 1969 VW pop-top camper as though chugging an old Chris Craft along the sloughs of some sleepy delta. The ride felt thick and smooth—I had installed air shocks in place of the regular stiff factory stock.
Villages with tongue twisting names peeked from under profusions of blooming vines. Churches, soccer fields, and markets overflowing with fresh vegetables and fruits, dark skinned families carrying pottery and crafts, and plots of marigolds pungent-ripe with golden flowers drifted by our open windows. The countryside smelled of fresh tortillas, burning chilies, chickens, goats, and the ubiquitous corn. As we ascended the foothills, the terraces of maize stretched into the clouds that hung around the high peaks above us like wooly ruffs.
Sam drove. I popped some old Moody Blues into the tape deck and cranked it up, making it impossible to talk and leaving me plenty of time to savor the shifting view of Mexico. I settled into my wide, red leather seat that some previous owner had pulled out of a Cadillac and installed into the cab.
I could feel Sam rankle, and I didn’t care. I was still pissed-off that he’d followed me from California to Oaxaca—even though he had brought me the suitcase of clothes to replace my entire wardrobe stolen from the camper on my first night in town. It was bad enough that he’d signed up for the same session at my language school, but then he finagled lodging with my hosts. Worse, we’d shared a room for three weeks and I’d settled right in to the old relationship. I hated that it was so familiar, so easy, but mostly I was disgusted with myself for stringing Sam along to soothe my own apprehensions about traveling alone. I’d managed to take care of myself from Mazatlan to Oaxaca over the last two months. What was the matter with me?