20. Two Roads Diverged


We picked up our towels, suntan lotion, books, slipped on our flipflops and started the trek to the south end of the beach. The sand felt coarse and the tide frothy on my feet at the tide line. I picked up tiny limpet shells and colored stones.  Empty and clean, few shells, pieces of driftwood or flotsam lined the intertidal zone. This was a deserted beach, quiet except for the surf and the crunch of our footfalls. There might not have been homesteads along it. There weren’t any pangas. Didn’t the people who lived on the beach go to it? My sense of unreality grew stronger. Nearing the structure we’d seen from the north side of the cove, I realized that it sat empty, too. A former beach restaurant definitely closed for beer. I plopped down in the warm sand just beyond a tiny cliff carved by the waves.

“Nothing there. I think I’ll catch a few more rays before lunch.” I said, spreading out my towel.

“We’re leaving.” Sam’s voice sounded petulant.


I hopped up, ran into the surf, dove beneath a breaking wave and paddled in the cool swells. I was too tired to think, but had I considered my situation, I might have realized that I was giving up the old blackened pot for a raging forest fire. What was that I read in some self-help book? If you feel like you’re on fire when you meet, you probably are?

Fernando joined me in the water, but we kept our distance. I wasn’t ready to slap Sam upside the head with it. I saw Sam wander up the beach into the shade with Parsley and swam to shore. Fernando bobbed beyond the breakers for a few more minutes and returned to his towel. I stretched out on my stomach after slathering myself in sunscreen and drifted into a nap.

The sun had shifted lower in the sky by the time I woke up. Fernando lay next to me, still sleeping. My skin burned a bit. I raised my head, looking for Sam and Parsley, but the palapa was empty. I flipped over and reached out to wake Fernando. Before I realized it, we embraced each other and began kissing like teenagers.Unknown

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” It was Sam crossing the sand at a near lope, Parsley happily bounding beside him.

Busted! Fernando and I flew apart and sat up. Where had Sam come from? He was spying on us, well, not hard to do—we were right out on the beach.


“You think I don’t know what you’re up to? I’ve been watching you carrying on under my nose,” he said, spittle flying from his mouth as he loomed over me, hands in fists. “I’m leaving. Get up and drive me to Oaxaca.” He turned and stormed off in the direction of my VW bus.

Sam wasn’t going to get very far unless he stole my ride, because I wasn’t about to drive the eight hours to Oaxaca with him.

!Se va! He’s leaving,” I said and grinned. I suddenly felt elated. A great weight lifted from my chest, and I threw my arms around my new novio.


Fernando and I sat on the beach for another hour. Slowly we wended our way to the señora’s compound to get cleaned up and see about dinner. My combi was right where I left it next to Gerardo’s, but Sam and Gerardo were nowhere in sight. I unlocked the combi to fix Parsley’s dinner. Sam’s suitcase was gone, but he’d left all his dirty clothes flung around the bus. While I gathered up the dinner things, Fernando wandered the compound looking for Gerardo. Eventually Gerardo appeared from the señora’s kitchen.

Hola, Gerardo. ¿Qué onda?” Fernando greeted his friend.

“You fucking slimeball,” he yelled, rushing Fernando.

“¿Qué pasó?” Fernando sidestepped the swing Gerardo took at his nose. The momentum rocked Gerardo off his trajectory and he stumbled, almost falling on his face. Fernando steadied him, but Gerardo shrugged him off.

“Her boyfriend left—took the bus back to Oaxaca. Now you’re leaving me and going with her? I saw her first.” Gerardo’s voice rose. He shrieked,”¡Ladrón! Thief.”


The men shouted at each other in rapid fire Spanish I couldn’t understand. I figured that Gerardo had a jealous hissy fit. He should have driven Sam back to Oaxaca.

We ate a silent, tense meal. After dinner, I settled down with my book and Fernando went to shmooze the señora. Peeking around the combi, I could see him gesticulating and hear angry words. It didn’t appear to be Fernando’s evening.

Soon he was back, attempting to explain that the owner was throwing us out because my husband had left and Gerardo blamed Fernando, or I think that’s what he said. It didn’t matter. We would be out of there first thing in the morning and I was probably driving back to Mexico City, about two days away. I’d better get some sleep.

I went to bed in my bus with my dog. Fernando returned to the Orange combi. In the morning, I paid the woman for our luxurious stay and packed up my gear. Fernando and Gerardo yelled at each other some more. What a mess. I didn’t know if Fernando would come with me or not, but as I made my final check that all was properly stowed and battened down, he tossed his bag into the back and slid into the driver’s seat.

“Let’s go to Huatulco.”


19. D-Day


The moon, a shrouded crescent, slipped into the Pacific during breakfast. Fernando and I had dragged ourselves off the beach just before daybreak but the heat in my combi forced me up to join Sam and Gerardo at the coffee pot.

“What time did you come in?” Sam asked, eyes squeezed to narrow slits.

“One?” I took a gulp of Sam’s weak coffee. Tepid. “Why didn’t you drip this into the thermos?”

“Yeah? My clock said it was five.”

I flicked the coffee into the dirt. “I’ll make another pot. Move.” I pushed past Sam’s chair and began to rummage around for the coffee making supplies. We’d spent the night on the beach? Time had shifted from normal hours and minutes to something non-dimensional—a perpetual now, marked only by the rising sliver of moon who had projected her pale beam across the placid sea in transit to the eastern horizon. I tipped purified water from the garrafón into the kettle and set it onto a burner.

Buenas días,” Fernando greeted us as he came around the bus. He yawned and rubbed at the scruffy looking stubble on his chin.


. The old guy went fishing. Give me a couple of pesos and I’ll get a fish for breakfast.”

“Sam, do you have a couple of pesos? Fernando will buy a fish,” I translated.

“Why should I buy your boyfriend’s breakfast?”


I could hear the slap-slap-slap-slap of hands patting balls of masa to flat corn pancakes, and fished into the cargo net hanging over the seats for a five thousand peso note, about forty-two cents. I handed it over to Fernando. “Get tortillas, too.” He could go charm the fishwife and close that “bad eye” that cast a withering stare in our direction.


After breakfast I donned my flower patterned maillot and we went down onto the beach.Scan

Fernando  looked sexy in skimpy aqua and black zebra-stripped bikini trunks and Sam, dowdy in my canvas “outback” hat, wore a white undershirt and black leather tennis shoes, his legs, jutting from the stone-colored shorts, white as a cadaver. The men smiled at each other, Fernando like a cat about to spit and Sam in disgust.

Fernando & Hal

 “D Day” October 29, 1991.  Fernando Leon Torrens vs. Sam H. Miller. 

The sense of non-dimensional time overcame me as we lounged in the sun near the spot where Fernando and I had stopped time the night before. The sand was thick near the cliffs marking the end of the beach. We conversed in a desultory Spanish. Fernando knew almost no English and how tired we were made it hard to do much beyond give each other goo-goo-eyes. Gerardo had stayed back at his vehicle to drink. Parsley, panting, left the hole she had been digging and stretched.


“You want to go for a walk girl?” Sam asked her.

“She probably wants water,” I said and poured a cup from my bottle. She lapped it greedily. My dog wasn’t much of a sun worshipper. “Let’s go down the beach and see what we can find. Doesn’t that look like a beach restaurant?” I pointed into the distance.

“Yeah. Maybe they have beer.”