From the notebook of T. Solstice, dated 14 april 2012
19 April 2012 § Leave a comment
Today I leave Boquete.
The far edge of the world.
Its translation to English lost somewhere between ‘asshole’, ‘blow job’, and paradise, Boquete is as its name implies – twisted and magical. here, even fate drives in second gear. Travelers arrive with days in mind, and stay for years. This is common. At night, we live in the shadow of a volcano, and not all is well here. Despite how it may seem.
My passport has been in a ménage à trois for months, sandwiched between Jose Marti and Mark Twain, its navy cover ragged. It was a coloring book, stamped and autographed by women who wear too much make up and men who carry guns to work. Inside, patriotic quotes lay dismissed and silenced by visa stamps; themselves subtle, prideridden evidence of how far I’ve come. Some are sole souvenirs of lifetimes spent wandering in search of, and rarely finding, the right questions.
I pulled it out this morning, as an afterthought, a day after I’d planned to use it.
My departure date, set so I would avoid the post-birthday depression of an old friend and to attend the wedding of an older one, fell on the 13th. I’m a skeptic, yes, but still a fisherman, so thought it meant I had to say two goodbyes to each of those I love, I waited until Saturday.
Staying was easy this time. I had what many dream of, and survived it. Another day with friends I hadn’t tired of, in a peaceful mountain town the north wind blessed even when the rest of the country suffered through high summer, couldn’t hurt. I was high on contentment, a drug that works so well you don’t need to be addicted.
On the way to Bajo Mono, a village in the mountains above town, there’s a park that no one plays in. From the jungle gyms only vines hang, swinging in strong breezes. the walls of an empty pool seem to have been built rather as a tiger pit. they’re twenty feet high and sloped on both sides, a Colosseum masoned out of riverstones, without the seats, statues, and trapdoors. The water slide, whose vined ladder climbs almost to a child’s sky, is wrapped in barbed wire and razors, the kind people coil around their houses when they think they’ve something to lose. Only when it rains is it a slide now.
Three years ago a little girl drowned. She slid head first, slipped into the timid water, and didn’t come up until she was dead.
Walk a little farther up the valley, and you’ll see a rock wall that pushes octagons of stone out toward the road. Penetrated by climbers’ metal screws, its edges chalked, they form a chessboard struck with vertigo, a distraction from the green jungle calm that in the mountains envelopes everyone.
Farther still, adjacent to the homes of the indigenous Ngobe-Bugle, a mixture of the higher-class cinderblock and doorless shoeboxes and corrugated siding-walled shelters roofed by painter’s plastic and tree branches (the wind is ferocious up there), you sense stark contrast to the million-dollar homes scattered about the Chiriqui province. You’ll weave with the river that graciously floods the small valley in October, smell the stench of lush coffee plants which is nothing like the scents that waft through Starbucks’, and feel a wind just cool enough to make you think the tropical sun won’t burn you.
The abandoned castle sits alone, unfinished, in a grove of tall pines. The rushing water from the river, not fifty feet from the front steps, pushes sounds of bubbling static through broken windows, and they reverberate through rounded rooms, which, for their uniformity, could have been mater suites or living rooms as likely. The castle’s flat roof is a moss-covered patio, complete with a perimeter battlement façade.
A gringo built the mansion for his wife; it was to be a gift in which to celebrate their lives in the place at least one of them loved the most. The day the electrician planned to install the light switches and outlets, however, the wife died. Her home now serves young couple who jump fences and rock hop across rivers in search of a romantic spot to have a picnic.
Some of us fool ourselves and think there’s more happiness than tragedy afoot.
They arrive and depart equally, though at times in a broken rhythm, often anonymous and unsuspecting as passengers at a rail station. It’s just that when we have one, the other seems so far out of reach.
Which is why, in my way, I use one to create the other. To keep them balanced. This time, I took my perfect life – good friends, a supportive and creative community, constant learning, beautiful place, a bona-fide if not biological family (many of those firsts in a transient life), placed it on a shelf, and walked away. I let the date on an airline ticket slip its hypodermic needle into my arm, and, knowing it was there but so taken with the novelty of what I’d found that, until my blood rushed again with my old favorite idea to Keep Going, I gave it no attention.
…and the bus leaves the valley with all the ceremony of a Top 40 song on repeat.