The sun shone directly overhead, filtering through the palms that faintly clacked in a freshening afternoon breeze. I lounged in my folding sling chair reading a novel, Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley—it was on the bestseller list in October 1991 and Sanborns, where I shopped in Mexico City, carried all the bestsellers—but I couldn’t concentrate. The orange combi remained parked at its campsite, and I had that sinking feeling in my solar plexus. Fernando was gone and I was going to be stuck with Sam forever. At least I could buy books.
Sam, in the meantime, paced, fidgeted and complained.
“Take Parsley for a walk, why don’t you?” I said.
“Aren’t you going to the beach?”
“No, too much effort. I’m reading. Find somewhere for dinner.”
Sam shambled off in the direction of the sports bar, towing Parsley behind him like a reluctant dinghy. She glanced back at me with a mournful look on her face. I felt guilty for disrupting her peaceful slumber in the shade, but no one on this bus got a free ride, and her job today was to entertain Sam. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Maybe I’d drop Sam in Oaxaca for the next session and then go on to Mexico City. Maybe I should go home. Really, what was I doing in Mexico?
Like the grating of stone pestle on stone mortar, the unmistakable sound of a VW bus side door opening ground through my bones. liquefying my body, all except for my now racing heart. I maintained my cool, nose in book, dying to turn around. With my luck, it would be Gerardo, hung over and mean. I read the same sentence six times.
“Buenas tardes, Anita.” He greeted me from his camp.
It was him! Fernando. “Hola. Sleep well?” I called back
“Sí, gracias. Tú?” he said, his tassel loafers crunching the packed sand.
“Come over. I have coffee.”
Fernando and I drank a carafe of fresh coffee and I made him some eggs. The frisson between us crackled. He talked about all kinds of things, most of which I couldn’t understand in his rapid fire Spanish, but he slowed down when the topic came around to Zipolite.
“Where’s your friend?” He asked.
“Sam’s taking a walk with the dog. Gerardo?”
“Still passed out. Let’s go when he wakes up.”
“Go to Zipolite?” I had to repeat things to make sure I understood what Fernando said.
“Bueno, let’s do it. I’ll get my things.”
He was going to jump Gerardo’s ship and ride with us? I wondered how you say, “hold your horses” in Spanish. But the problem was solved when the combi door ground open again and Gerardo clambered out. He trudged over to join us. The energy surrounding him was like a swarm of angry black bees. I handed him a cup of coffee and he sat down. Fernando outlined the caravan plan to him. Gerardo didn’t appear pleased, and they argued briefly but he calmed down when he learned that Sam was going too. This was going to be interesting. Now there were two guys to ditch.