Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark | Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Road that Goes Around

I swim before there's anyone else down there, before the communal coffee has been brewed, before the front-desk lady shows up. The waves in this lake are highest in the morning and in the evening, and so even as I try to coordinate my breaststrokes with the bobbing water, I constantly get splashed in the face. I climb up onto the dock, which rocks wildly, and I look all around me; far in the distance, someone is paddling a kayak. I imagine their tilting, flailing craft.

I write in the open kitchen. How's your work coming along? the South African guy asks, but other than that he's careful not to disturb me. Tired of rice and broccoli and carrots, I splurge and buy a Snickers. God, it has been so long since I've tasted something that good. I eat it way too fast. I imagine the maids, who are perched up on the stone wall at the top of the hill, snickering at me as I lick chocolate from my fingers and wipe a fleck of it from my keyboard.

When I get tired of writing I walk to the tienda, down the dusty, dusty road that goes around the island. I pass a woman tossing water onto the ground from a bucket, I guess so that when a rare car passes it will swirl up less dirt, but I could have told her that the heat will dry up those splashes so quick that her work won't make any difference. I almost don't notice a little boy standing in a tree along the road. He wears a red shirt and is sucking his thumb, thirty feet up, perched there like a bird. I wave. He frowns and says nothing.

The man at the tienda has three cantaloupes lined up on his counter. How much, I ask him, drawing one up to my nose, and when I smell how sweet it is, feel how soft and round and warm it is in my hand, I know that the price doesn't matter. I will buy it; I love it. Cantaloupes in American supermarkets are so big, so firm, so uniform in their spherical shapes; I like how small and lumpy this one is.

On the walk back, a little dusty girl appears from behind one of the lakeside gates. Her hair is all messed up from the water and wind and she throws mangoes at me. I pick one up and throw it back, softly, and she laughs and hides. I like that dusty girl. A cab passes, a little red cab that I can't believe is shiny on this dry, dry road. Alongside it runs a dog, a dog that looks like it's been in many fights, a dog that barks and yips and jumps and then gives up on its game and stops to look at me. You'd better be careful, I tell it. You might get hit someday.

When I return to the hostel, I put my cantaloupe in the fridge in the open kitchen, and then I look at myself in the mirror that someone has tacked over the sink. I look dusty, just like that little girl with the mangoes, and my hair is all blown around. There's a blob of dried toothpaste on my shirt, right under my boob. I wonder how long it's been there; I wore this shirt yesterday, too. I decide not to change it. I walk down to the shore to look at the waves.


  1. It's getting monotonous always writing comments about what a fine writer you are, so let's just say that if you write it, it's fine.

  2. thanks, donigan. it seems you are my biggest fan.

    also, maybe i can get some advice about BA at some point? looks like i'll be there towards the end of (the northern hemisphere's) summer. i'd love to get some advice on places to stay, etc..maybe we could exchange a few emails?