An anti-romantic love story...
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I start running as fast as I can, given my physical imbalance and the denseness of this herbacious hell I'm penetrating. After a couple of minutes I hide behind a tree and listen: I do not hear the boar's bloodthirsty, cloven hoof steps coming after me. This is good. And what's better, I find something that is much more like a path than any of the other paths I've been on so far. I follow it for a minute and then realize it goes straight up a steep hill which I'm sure I didn't come down before.
But since I don't have a better plan, I keep on climbing. It is a path, and it must go somewhere. I'm still very dizzy and nauseous, and I feel my sweat sticking to me and getting clammy in the chilly night air. To add to the overall ambiance, some extremely aggressive insects start dive-bombing me from all sides. They have a really nasty bite, and I'm certain they're making off with huge chunks of my flesh. But there's nothing I can do to stop them, and so I keep on climbing, further and further up, until I come to the very top of the hill, and I hold out my lantern and I see a graveyard.
"Not good," I say to myself.
No further reflection necessary; I do an about-face and head back down the hill. Downhill is more precarious than uphill, though, and I trip on an exposed tree root and go tumbling into a soft, mushy clearing. Soft and mushy are its two best qualities; its rank, pungent aroma is its worst. It is an enormous trash heap, which has probably been festering on this hill for generations. But this isn't your ordinary, civilized trash heap of plastic bottles and old hubcaps -- oh, no. This is a Yelapa trash heap, piled high with decomposing fish heads, raw sewage, rusty tin cans and a dead, rotting donkey, which I don't notice I'm standing on until too late.
As I stand up, my foot crunches straight through the donkey's decaying skull and lodges in its brains. I scream in utter horror and try to free my foot from this grotesque stranglehold. My motions start an avalanche on the hill. Me and the garbage and the donkey's head start sliding down fast. I tumble headlong into this rolling, decomposing mulch, spitting out a mouthful of putrefied filth. After a vain struggle to get to my feet, I give up and go with the landslide, because it's taking me back down the hill and I see a vast, dark void way down there which has to be…the ocean!
When the Refuse Express makes its stop, I stand up and shake the donkey head off my foot. Amazingly, my lantern is still lit, and I see that my leg is badly cut, probably by a rusty tin can or some ancient barbed wire. Also, I've lost one of my hundred and seventy-five dollar Charles Jourdan sandals inside the donkey's head, and there's no way in hell I'm going to grope around inside those maggoty brains to retrieve it. Shit! Chloe's the one who made me buy these damned things -- I would never spend a hundred and seventy-five dollars on a pair of sandals!
This is all very disheartening, and my impulse is to stand there and whimper. But crying really isn't going to do me a lot of good at this point; so, instead I limp on my pained, bleeding leg towards the shore, which is definitely pulsating out there beyond the brush.
I wade into the ocean to wash off my cut. As I splash the water on my leg, it explodes into a shower of light like a liquid starburst. I look out and see the whole ocean gleaming an intense, sparkling silver/blue. The sky above me is heavy with twinkling stars, and its horizon meets the glisten of the ocean in a seamless tapestry of dancing, dazzling light. As I walk out onto the sand, my mismatched footprints (one shoe, one bare foot) are a magnificent, quivering, shimmer of blue.
I know the phosphorescence comes from millions of tiny plankton, and I pick up a pinch of sand, trying to isolate out just one. I filter the sand through my fingers, and finally I'm holding in the center of my palm a single beam of blue light. It is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. My hand feels enchanted, as if I've just caught a tiny, falling star.
My spirits are revived, and I make my way along the water's edge, holding my lantern in one hand and my little, sparkly friend in the other.
But this doesn't last for long. I hear a noise and I look out to see a motorboat on the water, coming into shore. This is very disturbing -- more disturbing than my cut leg, the donkey head, the wild boar or the pack of dogs. My first thought is that it's John the Boatman coming to exact revenge on me. Even if it's not him, I surmise, it must be at least four o'clock in the morning, and whoever’s out in that motorboat at this hour can't be up to anything good.
I see a little wooden boat grounded on the beach, and I decide to hide. I blow out my lantern so nobody will see its light, and I crawl into the boat and crouch under the bow.
The motorboat lands a ways down the beach, and three male voices speaking Spanish head in my direction. I lie there in the darkness, frozen still, barely breathing, my stomach clenched in fright. I am completely hidden from their view, but weirdly enough they come straight over to my boat and shine their flashlights into my face. I can't believe it! I'm startled and scared and embarrassed, and I'm desperately hoping they won't try to maim or maul me. But they just stand there watching me curiously. So I step out of the boat and start babbling.
"I'm supposed to be on vacation, but I got lost, and I can't find my treehouse. I know it's by the water -- it's called Casa Isabelle. But I fell in a trash heap and now my leg is cut, and, and -- " I break off, suddenly feeling very sorry for myself and desperately fighting back the urge to cry.
The three men argue with each other in hushed Spanish, and finally one of them points into the jungle and says, "Casa Isabelle?"
My heart skips a beat. “Yes!” I nod furiously. “Casa Isabelle! You know where Casa Isabelle is?"
He nods his head and motions for me to follow him into the brush. The other two guys head off in the other direction. I limp after the first guy, amazed at my dumb luck.
My guide speaks a little English, and manages to convey to me that they were out lobster fishing. It’s best done at night, apparently, because a shining flashlight attracts the lobster’s attention, and then you spear it through the head. It’s a gruesome image, and makes me feel bad about the outrageously tasty lobster I ate tonight. Anyway, the guy tells me that Casa Isabelle is about half an hour away.
Only half an hour? I’m almost giddy with gratitude. I estimate that I’ve been wandering for three to fours hours now, and a tiny thirty turns of the clock’s hand is all that stand between me and my clean, treehouse bed! I say, "Gracias, gracias," over and over, and he pretty much doesn't say anything. Then, after a few minutes, he says, "Me make fuck with you."
I stop in my tracks. "What?" I implore, sincerely hoping I've heard wrong.
"Me, you...make fuck. I sleep with you in bed."