18. On My Way


images-1

I lit the Coleman lantern and Emiliano Zapata tottered off to his

“Where’s the lantern fuel?” Sam asked as the Coleman sputtered and faded.

“In the cabinet. Can you stick in Dr. Loco while you’re inside?” After eating, I was feeling frisky—maybe a little baila to “Muevetè” would be in order. Dr. Loco’s Rockin’ Jalepeño Band was made up of a bunch of university professors and students, some from Stanford, and often played in the Bay Area. I’d bought a cassette at a concert at College of Marin, one of my two tapes in Spanish. This would impress Fernando, I thought.

R-5967127-1407622361-1497.jpeg

“Let’s listen to Simon and Garfunkle.”

“Sure, after.”

“Trying to impress your new boyfriend?”

Oh, good lord, Sam had to go. Where was Fernando? It was completely dark and the roar of the waves breaking on the shore sounded closer and louder than before. The heat radiated out of the sandy ground in the cooling evening air and millions of stars pierced the navy blue sky. It would have been perfect, if only. . .  .

“Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson . . .” played. I glared at Sam, but it was hard to be angry with Simon and Garfunkle singing. He screwed a new canister of propane onto the lantern, set the Coleman onto the table, lit it with a soft pop, sat down, and tossed the empty to me.

c162b144abb3bfff188c3ecbc020b781“So we’ll get out of here in the morning and go to Huatulco. Club Med. Without the Mexicans,” he said. “Hand me my book, would ya. It’s on top of the cabinet.”

“Sure,” I answered. I tossed the spent canister into the garbage bag and handed him a dog-eared paperback. Fernando had just stepped over the low wall surrounding the “house” and my stomach did that little baila—butterflies dancing—as the Maná song went.

“Hey. What’s up with the old lady?” I asked him, gesturing toward the wing chair.

“Religious. She doesn’t approve of men and women traveling together. I said you and Sam are married and she relaxed.” He drummed his fingers in time to the “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin Groovy)” and smiled. “Me gusta mucho Simon y Garfunkle.”images-2

“Hey, good musical choice, Sam. Fernando likes them too,” I said in English, and then in Spanish, “So you think we’re safe?”

“Ask him if these bandits are going to rob us in the night,” Sam demanded.

“We’ll be okay,” Fernando said.

“Okay? He said Okay?” Sam leaned around the hissing lantern to see me on the other side of the table.

“Sam, you’ve studied more Spanish than I have. You can understand him. We’re okay, and tomorrow, after checking this place out, we’ll leave.”

“What do you mean? We’re leaving first thing. As soon as it’s light.”

I rolled my eyes at Fernando, who could see me clearly. He jerked his head. “Come on, let’s go check out the beach,” he said.

“What did he say?”

“Fernando wants to know if we’d like to walk down to the beach.” Parsley perked up her ears at the word walk.

“And just leave our stuff alone? You go with your boyfriend, I’ll stay and watch camp,” he said, his words trailing off into the implied it’s what you want, poor me.

“Come, Sam. We’ll lock up. Everything will be fine,” I said crossing my fingers behind my back to mitigate my lie and stood up. Parsley woofed and bounded from under the table, snuffling and wagging into Fernando’s open hands. They’d already fallen in love, and I saw the shadow of recognition cross Sam’s eyes. He knew what was coming, perhaps before I did. If my dog loved him, I would too.

Sam got up and pushed past me into the bus “I’m going to bed. Take your key.” he almost spat the words at me.

Fernando had followed the exchange closely and asked, “¿Todo esta bien?”

Si, vamanos a la playa, yes, let’s go to the beach,” I said and grabbed my chair.

 He grinned and grabbed his.

“Night Sam,” I said as he slammed the camper’s door shut.

images-3

Fernando and I skirted around the silent hovel, guided by my flashlight. I flicked it off when we cleared the house and hit the deep sand shining under the brilliant sky. The waves breaking onto the shore rumbled peacefully, a lion purring in its slumber. The rich odor of un-groomed seashore tantalized my nose—it smelled like home or the home in Sausalito’s Waldo Point Harbor I’d given up to come on this crazy adventure. 10libI felt a little prick of hot tears at the corners of my eyes. For just a moment I missed my houseboat and my funky Schoonmaker Building office, my eclectic bunch of bookkeeping and tax clients, my family, and yes, even the almost ten years I’d shared with Sam—but that had ended when he signed up as a contractor with the DEA and left to chase drug shipments through Belize and the jungles of Guatemala. He left me behind and I’d learned to live just fine without him, thank you very much. And now I was on my own quest. But what was I looking for?images-6

Whatever I was after, the ghostly white beach, the rich balmy air, the gentle roar of the surf, the luminescent foam cresting off the waves, and a hot guy slipping his hand into mine as we trudged to the tide line was lighting me on fire. I trudged into my future, giddy with anticipation. The Past wasn’t going to hold me back, no matter how nostalgic—I was on my way.

images-5

Advertisements

7. All I Wanted Was Some Dinner


Las Palmas Trailer Park hunkered in a coconut grove at the north end of the bay. The camping spaces, defined by the trees, had brick barbecues with metal grates. Although the park was sparsely populated, I felt safe enough because of the tall chain link fence separating me from the beach, but Sam complained that it was too empty.

“Where are all the surfers staying?” He asked, squinting his eyes into a frown as if the surfers purposely hid.

I ignored him and checked the bathrooms. They worked. They had real toilet paper rather than rolls of brown crepe paper that might be left over from some celebration a decade past like the t.p. at Pepe’s Trailer Park in Zihuatanejo. The shower water even felt warmish—a plus.

“The bathrooms are okay. We’ll stay.”

We staked our claim halfway to the beach entrance. I sat in the wide side door of the combi and gazed toward the mouth of the bay across a fleet of low, open boats drawn up on the sand like colorful beached whales, but I didn’t start to unpack. Instead I thrust a folding chair toward Sam and handed him one of the Pacifico beers I picked up at the tienda. I figured he couldn’t talk if he had a beer bottle to his lips.

Parsley was giving me that “feed me” look. I fixed her bowl.

“That place smells good,” I said of a tiny taco joint visible at the edge of the trailer park. “Let’s get dinner.”

“Are you nuts? Looks worse than the roach-coach back home.”

“Then what do you want?”

“Aren’t there any coffee shops here?”

Parsley finished eating and we strolled onto the esplanade.

“What about that one?” I pointed to a place tucked under a thatched roof with blaring salsa music.

He looked at a menu posted by the entrance. “I want a hamburger,” and walked on.

“You won’t find a Lyons.”

We strolled to the end of the esplanade, reading menus and quibbling over which to choose: too dirty—too expensive—no hamburgers. All I wanted was some dinner. A quesadilla, tacos, whatever.

“Isn’t that where you’re supposed to meet William and Kathleen?” He thrust his chin toward a dumpy looking cinderblock building with faded paint and peeling trim, squatting at the edge of the street. An old sign said “Sports Bar” and the familiar flicker of television lit the interior. Sam trudged up the several steps to the door. “They have hamburgers.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” I said when we stepped inside. A sports bar, indeed. Two huge TVs showed games and the patrons crowding the small, smoky room shouted and cheered in English.

Sam marched toward a table, but stopped and threw himself into reverse like a cartoon character when he realized the smoke was coming from numerous joints passing through the crowd. “Let’s get out of here.”

I looked forward to the World Series and that Acapulco Gold.

We settled on a restaurant across the esplanade from Las Palmas. Our waiter brought a dish of scraps along with the bowl of water we ordered for Parsley. My huachinango mojo de ajo was fresh and grilled perfectly. The fish was so delicious, I forgot to fight with Sam.

After dinner with our bellies full, and our attitudes toward one another more kindly, Sam and I cruised with the flow of tourists, lovers, drunk surfers, and locals, noting places to explore in the coming days before we returned to Las Palmas to set-up camp.

Palm fronds clacked in the gentle sea breeze and the balmy night smelled fresh and salty. Sam snored inside my no-see-um-netted bus. I was lost in Gabriel Garcia Marques’ Love in the Time of Cholera when an orange combi pulled into our trailer park close to midnight. I paid little attention. Parsley, on-duty at the edge of my tiny circle of light, kept watch on the two men who emerged from the VW, set-up camp and disappeared back into the bus, pulling the door closed behind them with a thwunk.

Dos


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?

***