Archive for the ‘Euphoria’ Category

Venturing Celestely

Saturday, February 26th, 2022

Mile after unexpected mile surround us, wrap us up in ribbons of new asphalt blackly cordoning off our sorrow. Like gauze, our memories stay light, transparent to the moment; there, but not all there is, even as we recall a silent ride on this road taken in the thin, slicing heat of the master's absolute fury, or the weight of his disappointment over a forgotten provision, pressing bare feet into similar paths.

The international concert of the artist that managed to get every last hotel in La Fortuna and parts beyond booked nevertheless failed to make enough of an impression so as to have their name remembered. Everyone knew the whole region was full, "of course", and that it was for "the concert", yes naturally, but of whom? "I think they're from Mexico". You could see it as bum luck, I guess, that in an otherwise lazy season, in the midst of a crisis of tourism, we managed to pick for an overnighter that one date presided over by anonymous Mexicanos with cult followings --but the better vantage is the one proposing it's a useful test. Of our preparation, patience, of what we've provisioned, of what we're ready to perceive. The very nature of traveling as we do, without promises, without pre-payments, free to call off whatever the fuck we feel like whenever we feel like it or don't, means occasionally some sort of bridge will be inexplicably out, inviting us to be creative.

Speaking of vantages, allow me to interrupt myself a moment to record the current, while the morning sun still dapples through it, warming my throat and shoulders as I perch above, Bimbo's excellent cold brew decidedly not steaming by my side. A grove of broad-leaved trees stretches out some pleasant walk's worth into the distance, old leaves and fallen flowers carpeting the way. These give off into a languid stream, where birds --kiskadees and montezuma oropendolas1 -- drink and flit, avoiding the occasional passing of a gardener in deep rubber boots. Against the crunch of leaves underfoot breeze moves through the trees in hushed, tremulous roars, cicadas insisting somewhere in the distance. The air is clean, gloriously unadulterated by anything whatsoever, which, while a near-constant of my life, is nevertheless noticable --a twist of perception I wish carried out as well in everything else.

In being disconnected from the daily flow of life I find myself tethered differently, that common paradox of acid-washing away life's incremental buildups. It's the earth; it's the sun; love itself, expression in leaf and language, undeniably abundant whether I feel like acknowledging them or not. I breathe in and bit by bit, the surroundings help me take the next, whether I want to or not.

rio celeste

Ah, but this view, this perch steeped in peace, had to be clawed and carved out of that National and International yet Apparently Solely Mexican Concert Debacle as I was saying earlier. So after a pleasant four hours' meander through familiar jungle paths to this, our intended sojourn, we found ourselves without a place to stay. "Let's just go to La Fortuna, there's a gazillion hotels, someone's gotta have something." Except that mecca at the base of Arenal was booked up right and proper, from unlit shanties barely indicated on the road to the big resorts with strobing signs suggesting the very essence of amenity.2 If it wasn't exactly a pity to turn around and head home owing to the beauty of the drive and the pleasure of having spent a day at trying, it wasn't all that ideal either, so as we turned our horses round I made a point of staying awake enough to see if we might not run into something rentable on the road back.

Twenty kilometers or so later, the "Bar and Marisqueria and Karaoke The River with Cabins" managed to meet the well-lowered criteria of 1) visible from the road, 2) with enough space in front to allow pulling off and stopping without having to brace against something3 . I asked a woman lounging around on one of the cut-trunk makeshift tables whether they had anything for the night, which sent her, all smiles, into the kitchen, which in turn produced a gruff if affable greyhair, evidently the owner-cum-cook. He reached under the bar and brought up a galvanized bucket containing a series of keys, and proceeded to fish around in it thoughtfully. Several keys were turned down despite the evidence that nobody else was there. Eventually, he seemed satisfied with No. 4, and gave it to the woman so she could show me what was on offer.

rio celeste

I've certainly stayed in dingier places, just not any time in all that recent memory. But it was cheap4 , reasonably clean, and the water did in fact run, so we took it, on the theory that we could check out some of the natural environs we'd come all this way for the next day, and see if the concert deluge had let up any, by then. We passed a fine night as only they happy enough with each other to let immediate circumstances fly for a while may, and though we woke up with nearly a hundred mosquito bites between us, we did manage to sleep. In the light of day, the place looked a little different, and we wondered idly whether the old guy had made this place his project long ago and meanwhile lost his determination, or if he was a newer owner intent (or not) on fixing it up. At any rate, it was apparent that at some point "El Rio" had been a life's aspiration, the nacre of a dream not quite capable of completing the pearl.

rio celeste

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In a typically Costa Rican twist of the unexpectedly fabulous, this place's seafood was beyond exceptional. I don't know if I've heard of more dubious places to try fruits of the sea and fresh-caught filets beyond perhaps an airplane, but I've certainly not been more surprised. I think I had shrimps on the rice device or something.

rio celeste

With a new day decidedly afoot, we mosied back to our original destination and found it blissfully emptied of concert-goers, and so we let down our suitcases again. This time, much more comfortably.

rio celeste

rio celeste

A splendid because hard-won repose was had, and then I spent a while appreciating what a proper bathroom looks like:

rio celeste

So that's: a shower big enough to comfortably fit four or five people, a magnificently large, powerful, vertical shower head, and semi-transparent glass tiling to allow abundant natural light. The curtain's a bizarre if less noticable addition, but otherwise that was one of the best showers I've ever had, and I have no idea why more of 'em aren't designed exactly like this.

Also, the instant mini-bar, as supplied by the Strictly Trained Harem Kitchen Corps5 :

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We spent a while refreshing and then set out to Rio Celeste, which at long last actually was the true object of this trip, that confluence of rivers where the water was supposedly bright turquoise blue. And, it was!

rio celeste

But that's a couple of hours' drive away yet; first, we stopped off at a...frankly, I couldn't tell you if this was someone's house, or a store someone else had started and kept passing on to family members who changed its contents every turn, or maybe some sort of community flea market or mini-storage or...they had big coconuts, at any rate, which is what I was after.

rio celeste

As I walked up, three middle aged women were rocking themselves in enormous, ratty barcaloungers, tinny bachata scratching itself out of some receiver somewhere in the piles and stacks of stuff. They slowly if enthusiastically organized themselves into opening a pair of coconuts for me while I looked around and tried to imagine the lives of they who produced this collection, and the organizational scheme, if any, of the owner, if such a role could even be said to exist.

rio celeste

rio celeste

Didja spot the chicks? Because they spotted you, and you don't look to be bringing them more watermelon.

Rio Celeste had been on the list of things to go see for a while, it's just that we'd made several attempts to check it out during the course of other trips and each time been thwarted by an unreasonably shitty road. On the last pass we determined through sheer trial and error that there are three approaches to the place, and the second's the one we want. As it turns out, what we really want is a combination of the first and second approaches, switching the one for the other at the halfway mark between the highway and the little track that winds up to the accessible part of the river, but anyhow; we finally managed, even if it still took a little backtracking.

There's a national park offering a hike to some stretch of this thing. There's also multiple problems there, such as being overrun by tourists and all the curio-and-overpriced-snackbar monstrosities that go with the clueless if loud and indolently milling throngs. It also "closes for entrance" at two in the afternoon, I guess because the locals don't want to see what happens if goofballs don't make it back to the trailhead before dark. I spent a while talking to a ranger, who described how to get to a different part of the river, outside the bounds of the park. Her directions being perfect, we quickly found our way to the river's edge. This one, with less official if still rather friendly greeters.

rio celeste

We walked a ways, enjoying the improvement in air that had already seemed unsurpassable. As with anywhere we go, and everything we do, we felt both the presence, and the lack of it, of that man by our side; or more properly, behind us, with some instrument of torture/toying/encouragement. It's as if the majesty of any place imprints the master on itself in the bas-relief of his absence, and even as I missed him with every step along the rocks, every appreciation of some new sight or creature, I nevertheless felt him there. And so we stopped and peered into the bright blue pools a while, until I surprised myself in deciding to go climbing out into the river's center rocks. "Why don't you just take your shoes off?" asked the Bimbo, but I shrugged and set myself the task of jumping and lunging over the streams of water just-so, and may my shoes get soaked if I can't manage.

rio celeste

But I did, and then the Bimbo joined me, and much revelry was had, along with plans to return.

And so the sun began its second setting on our voyage, and we turned again towards the glorious shower hotel. Which, as with nearly everything here, is a true voyage in and of itself.

rio celeste

I'd made a note to stop for a picture of this sign to a place anyone'd rightfully want to turn into, not even noticing the true gem of the Jbu in the background. Where is Jbu, you ask? It's where you go to Jbang, naturally. Oi-oi-oi-oing, boi-oi-oi-oing.

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With another day successfully eaten and licked clean, we rose the next morning --which was when I began this winding diatribe-- with an eye to the trail advertised beyond the bungalows.

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To diverge perhaps aimlessly yet again: as a child I was decidedly an urban creature, so surrounded by minimalls and ferroconcrete as to have never even climbed a fucking tree. I wasn't terribly interested, either; outdoorsy stuff, as far as I could tell, was all about spending a bunch of money you didn't have on "gear" you didn't seem to need in order to go make yourself really uncomfortable somewhere while you tempted fate to throw unexpected conditions at you, thus rendering the whole escapade moot. Particularly objectionable in all of this was the apparently mandatory inclusion of all manner of bugs.

Eight-year-old-me would be horrified at the prospect of hiking into the jungle, without even any repellent, what the fuck, aren't there like two-foot beetles and shit in there? Honey, most of this stuff hasn't even been classified. But I've learned that it doesn't give the slightest shit about me (or my preconceived notions, or my fears, or my preferences, or whatever else), and I love it, for it, for itself, for how far away it is from that past, geographically and paradigmatically, entire.

Besides, it's mostly plantlers, anyway.

rio celeste

rio celeste

Okay, and some bugs.

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rio celeste

If whacking a trail into the ever-ready creepers is as difficult as they say, the same they is extraordinarily adept. A wonderful trail, belying deep understanding of the place and what'd be a pleasant way to experience it.

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The hiking hiked, the river rio'd, t'was time to travel back to town, until the next adventure.

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  1. These are the guys famous for --other than looking like something scribbled on the margins of Pepperland (yes, the Sgt.'s)-- emitting a loud whoop and then dipping down and around the branch their claws stay gripped to. If anything's earned an ostentatious name, this species'd be it. []
  2. I'm not sure La Fortuna, or anywhere else in this minipok lillicountry, has ever been full in this sense before, hence no need for or even concept of "no/vacancy" signage. []
  3. Laugh, but if you've not done a "Let's see what we find" in Central America you'd be surprised how many "businesses" seem to have imagined all custom either coming in by foot or at the very least approximating the speed of such. I can't even recall how many places were insta-vetoed on the strength of being effectively gone once noticed. []
  4. To the tune of $15 or so. []
  5. That's: steak sandwiches, turkish eggplant salad, some fruited sparklvasser thing or other, and, of course, jars upon jars of cold coffee. The various milks and chocolate truffles were in the door and so not depicted. []

I would not tread upon the petaled crown of worldy wonder

Friday, December 31st, 2021

Translated from Lucian Blaga's Eu nu strivesc corola de minuni a lumii, 1919.

I would not tread upon the petaled crown of worldy wonder
nor would I kill
within my mind, the secrets, that which meets me
in my way,
in flowers, eyes, on lips or tombs.
The others' light
suffocates the unknown's magic, hidden
in the depths of darkness,
but I,
I with my light enliven worldly mystery--
and just as with her white rays Luna
does not lessen, but, in trembling,
magnifies the night's great secret,
just so, I bless the dark horizon
with profound shudders of holy mystery
and all ununderstood1
becomes still more occult
before my eyes--
for still I love
yet flowers, eyes, lips, and tombs.

  1. It's true that only an appreciation of other tongues will truly tell you just how short the English falls; and not just as a matter of comparison, but against itself! "Ununderstood", it's required, the underness perfectly negatable, but for reasons thoroughly outside of reason, we're to take the negating prefix as unfixable.

    Conventional English blows. Force mistakes today. []

A Bloom in the Gloom

Sunday, December 19th, 2021

I was saying last time that Burt Plantcaster had sprouted a few flower stalks. A couple of days ago I ventured out on the balcony to take in the view/attempt an inventory of my withdrawal from the world1, and discovered that the very tallest stalk had blossomed!

flytrap flower

The reason the rest of this voracious and quite happy venus flytrap's so out of focus is, well --that stalk's safely over a foot long. But not to worry, the pods are still a-multiplyin'.

flytrap flower

PSA: I intent to continue supporting and encouraging Mr. Plantcaster's evident hellbentedness on ensnaring, then eating, then inflorescententaclizing, the world. Fair warning. And take heed, MP's pets blossom in the gloom of death.

  1. An odd concept, I guess; how can a withdrawal produce an inventory? It's really a sort of reverse-accounting. I have to keep track of what I've done and what I need to do in order to stop. You know, like the rest of life. The shadow and cast of things changes even if the causes do not. []

A Splinter of it all at Arkakao

Sunday, September 19th, 2021

So many mornings my natural instinct to rise once I'm awake is simply gone. I don't want to remember what's happened, much less accept reality as it now stands. At least, in sleep, I'm either confused enough to dream him into being, or flatly, blissfully out, unaware. In one such brief pause of unconsciousness this morning came the memory, unbidden and seemingly related to nothing at all, of an odd woman we'd met --or, rather, been forcibly met by-- at a coffee shop in Buenos Aires.

I suppose it's not entirely fair to call it "a" coffee shop; in truth it was a sort of salon de residence, a place so fondly loved as to become something of an extension of our apartments. We discovered it one day on a long stroll through Recoleta --the walks in Argentina's capital afforded double-digit kilometer journeys by foot on the regular, with enough confangled and poorly-designed twists and turns of street and sidewalk to make every pass a little different. It was near a grassy nothing of a neighborhood park approached by a multitude of streets at crazy angles, and for the first few months after it was found I struggled to get us back there, even with a few editions of hand-drawn maps.

But we pressed through, and made the place a regular haunt. It was a gleaming white palace of coffee and confections, particularly ice cream. Buenos Aires being unrivaled in ice cream throughout the world as far as I know1, Arkakao was the top of its class in the city. This, on quality alone, but what really cemented the shop as a favorite was its respect for its own craft and presentation. I do not exaggerate when I say that the vast majority of such offerings in BsAs are shoved into ten square meters of space, or else serve ice cream and coffee only in cheap plastic cups with sporks and a zillion packets of splenda, or else have literally no reception at all, like a wheeled cart that somehow got stuck on the road and opted to pretend itself a cafe.

Arkakao was comfortable, an important point after hours of treading the often rough pavements of the city. The ceilings were high, the windows were large, and a polished gold samovar dominated the room, from which all good things flowed and around which all goodies were arranged. Arriving there felt akin to reaching an illuminated page in a long book; it was a sensual idea tucked into the string of ideas that tied the man and I together as we walked, and talked, and he told me things I'd never known nor known I hadn't, endless twists of mysteries and histories that taxed my imagination and memory more than the walk could ever tax my feet, even though they sometimes bled.

One such evening, halfway through a cup of turkish fig ice cream and cappucino, as he was teaching me about the nature of nuclear explosions with many a scribbled napkin of mine in tow, a woman walking strangle side-to-side approached us with a wide, conspiratorial smile. We looked up from the discussion and acknowledged...nothing in particular, no change in expression, just an inching ever closer and closer to our table --so we left her to her strangeness and went back to our business.

Except she just kept coming, until eventually she was practically part of the table, a standing woman in varicoloured streams of whatever fake silk, the sort of pashmina or katan or whatever garments make up the bizarre fashion vocabularies of the menopausal. On finally being proffered a "Yes?" from the man, she introduced herself, not that I can say I remember her name, and she announced that she'd just had a grandchild, whose name she didn't give. That was why she was so excited, she said, though I would not have been at all surprised if it turned out she'd simply laced her ice cream with valium and confused an alleycat with some new progeny. Then she stepped back, as if to take us in, and said that she was happy for us, because she could tell, "It's gonna be good."

It had been, and it was, and I can feel naught but profound gratitude for every moment I had by his side, under his hand. I can't imagine anyone on this earth has had it half so good as to love and be loved by someone so singularly great, to be wholly owned by someone willing and capable to rip anything and everything out, or to emplace anything desired. Save time, I could not have asked for more. All memories, microcosms of the splendour of life with him: of which this, amidst the chaos and clamour of Buenos Aires, our favorite ice cream shop, its extravagances, and its fortune-telling extrovert, is but one of the uncountable many.

  1. And while perhaps not exhaustively, I do know. []

Butterflies in gauze

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

The net caught naught but all the life most beautiful that passed its flit. Those things that beat with broidered wings the wind that then betrayed them, translating a soaring spirit into worlds so subtly less: vibrant, focused, and receiving.

A gust picked up, as though regret had marked the breeze's billowing heart, and wished to set its faithful free.

And for a moment, while I perched and heard the rolling weight of storms push menacingly for the sea, I thought I saw the net blow, barren. But the rain, as promised, fell, and laid o'er all another veil, obscuring in its dithering gray some portion of that day's true glory.

There, in the contrast, I made out the panicked movements of the creatures still captive. Silent, and utterly without effect; insistent to exhaustion. Did they curse the decoration of their wings? Did they resent the bosom of blessing, their wind?

They rested awhile, while I wrestled with mine: more menial things, borne of selfish, mad dreams, for not all branded freedom's thereby the same thing. So I freed them.

I'm not from there but it's where I was born

Friday, April 9th, 2021

The little apartment was set in the village of Giroc; a tiny, dusty, and thoroughly alien enclave possessing, at the end of a long poplar-lined road that connected it to the city, a single, pell-mell grocery store, and a rusted bus stop. The trees were uniformly coated with whitewash to two feet of their trunks. Their branches were uniformly pruned back with a severe hand, leaving little, it seemed, for the poor plants to work with. Heavy dust from the fields nearby joined with the constant autumnal chimney smoke to make the atmosphere thick and fragrant, and the sun in the afternoons was a ruddy blanket filtering redly over the rooftops.

On my first day I was taken to the house of the landlords, on the large property that sat behind the little cluster of efficiency apartments. The woman of the house ran it: kitchen, children, expenses, renters, conversation. Her husband receeded into the background like an overstuffed piece of furniture, while his parents, superlatively wrinkled, superlatively silver and white, tried with gummy smiles and incomprehensible interjections to goad me to speech. I could understand neither them nor the landlady, of course, nor my master, who spoke to them loudly, and apparently with great hilarity. They laughed often, and I tried to match my face to theirs --why, I do not know. Later I was scolded for not talking. I was told that people would think there was something wrong with me if I didn't "join in". I wondered how I was expected to join in a conversation in a language I didn't speak. It was not the first of what would grow to be many guilty confusions, but it was, perhaps, the first time I had felt it so personally, publically. I was quiet and ashamed.

Inside the apartment was a small folding bed, an antique wooden desk with great drawers capable of organizing much more than I had, a stand-alone closet, and two small chairs with a table. A window over the desk looked out onto a desolate strip of dirt and retaining wall, and the view reached over and into the street if one stood up while approaching it. Two identical doors at the far end of the room led to either a tiny bathroom or a tiny kitchen, each with tiny appliances. The shower consisted of a quarter-circle marked off in one corner with a faucet above it; the kitchen held a two-burner camping stove connected to a compressed gas can, and a miniature refrigerator.

After introducing me to the main house and walking with me to the small disorganized market --where he bought farmer's cheese, sour cream, bell peppers, and bread--, master spent a few moments with me in my new home, which primarily consisted of showing me how to make sandwiches out of the bought ingredients. I found them strange, randomly composed, but palatable. He left, taking a set of keys with him, and I wrapped myself into my oversized velvet trenchcoat, and willed myself to sleep.

I slept, over the next four days, in strange fits of time unbounded to the light outside, or lack thereof. Near-total silence entombed the place, such that the odd, distant echo of some other tenant's phone call, or the passing of a lonely car down the dead-end road in front of me was eventful. I popped up like a prairie-dog to see if such cars were maybe a taxi, bearing Him. I squinted against the foreign sounds of speech, as though by listening harder I would understand more. There was no internet connection; I had no outlet adapters for my laptop anyway. Disconnected from the world I had left, and with nothing to mindlessly entertain me in a familiar and thus comfortable way, I wandered airy halls of thought that eclipsed the small room I was in. I wondered what would happen, and how long it would take to occur; just-so, wonder without speculation, unspecific. I wondered why I was alone. I wondered what the people I'd left were doing, thinking.

Eventually, somewhere in the marginless soup of days I took out a paper bag-wrapped book my Dad had given me when I graduated high school. It was his journal from the first years of my life, written for and dedicated to me, and after a later childhood pockmarked by his near-total departures from my life, I coveted it. I pored over stories of his arguments with my mother, of his descent into drinking himself sick, of his many attempts to climb out of it. That I could read, in his own hand, his own thoughts, usually so inaccessible behind a wall of appearing well, and that so often, too, his thoughts had been about me --at least for the purposes of the book-- was the most indulgent, gratiating catharsis I could've imagined, then. I read through it several times.

It was almost a week before I saw my master again. He'd wanted to let me catch up on sleep, he said. It felt like a sort of abandonment-by-caring, a strange thing, but then I didn't have all that much time to dwell on it. As the visits came, my ventures out into the alien landscape really began, and intensified. I quickly discovered the scrawled, highly abbreviated schedule written, crossed out, and written over again endless times at the bus station was something I had to memorize. At seemingly random times of the day, my master would command me to meet him in the big town of which Giroc was a tiny satellite, and I'd have to tell him when I'd be taking the bus to get there. The first time he asked, and I didn't know, he had me walk the couple of miles to the station to look. In the time it took me to get there and back I missed the relevant bus trip. I was punished.

At first I took a picture of the schedule. But when he'd ask me when the bus going back was arriving in town as we were walking, my fumbling for the camera and sorting through pictures to find it proved unacceptable. So I wrote it all down on paper, though I transposed some numbers a time or two and finding the folded-up bit in my purse wasn't particularly better than spelunking for the camera. I committed the thing to memory. The departure and arrival times were wildly different from one day to the next for no apparent reason. I struggled, but after days of treating the schedule as the most important thing in my life, I got it down. A week or so later the man announced in town that he was going to come "back home with me", a rare and highly prized event. I told him when the bus would be there to pick us up; ten minutes late, the bus still hadn't come. Another five after that, he told me how disappointing it was that I couldn't handle such a simple thing. He took the pound of cookies we'd bought and turned on his heels, walking away without a goodbye, the typical foreboding cloud of deep trouble to come later on. I rebelled furiously but silently, hot tears immediately washing over my face. But like a miracle, the bus appeared rounding the corner, and I shouted for him, eventually daring to use his name as I waved my arms and pointed to the big yellow savior.

There were other actors in the bizarre stageplay my daily existence had become --at least, on those days when my master came, or called me out, and took me out of the tiny apartment in the hazy orange fields. He had hired a lawyer, for reasons I didn't at all understand, who likewise was responsible for so many tasks that our visits to his office were done multiple times each week. In later years we would become friendly, but during that hard initiation to life, he didn't look at me when we entered his office. He didn't speak to me --in fact, nobody in the office did. I sat off to the side and tried to pick Romanian words out edgewise from the ensuing storm of their conversations. Once in a while I managed to hear an "and", or the polite form of "you" (a blessing of five syllables, making it hard to miss). Or I tied myself in knots attempting to remember the lecture I'd just received on the walk over --these were always expected to be remembered verbatim, and just as often they seemed orders of magnitude beyond my ability to recall for both length and complexity. What I knew best was that I knew nearly nothing, but here were explanations of air insulation, microprocessor fabrication, comparative ethnography, the cellular level of kidney functioning, metaphysical notions of the self. I was spellbound but helpless. Climbing the crumbling, ricketty stairs to the lawyer's office, my eyes would frantically wander over the penciled graffiti and penknife-carved lettering covering the handrails and the walls of each floor's landing, as though somewhere in there I'd find a helpful note, a clue to unlock the mystery, or at least, to lock my memory to it.

Often the lawyer visits were accompanied by trips to the bank. The banks employed women only, from tellers to managers, and they were uniformly overdressed, overperfumed, and unsmiling. One male was allowed --a silver-haired security guard, who looked utterly incapable of confronting a conflict either with deed or word. Here too was a place where none of the staff either talked to or looked at me. Though I was glad of it, the bank being an interminable waiting room in which everything that was done required multiple stacks of paperwork and at least three different kinds of stamps --sometimes from my master himself, which was especially perplexing. At one point, after spending nearly an hour at the bank despite there having been no other customers, I remarked that he sure did seem to buy a lot of boats --for I couldn't imagine what other transaction could possibly require so much paperwork.

More inaccessible and mysterious still than any of these actors was the woman I knew my master was living with. After the tumultuous failed meeting six months before and half a world away, I still did not meet her, or hear much of anything about her. I was ravenously curious, but I kept myself from prying in the hopes that by being civil --a thing I equated mostly with being quiet--, I could encourage an eventual resolution, and maybe even friendship.

Slowly I began venturing outside on my own when the man wasn't taking me out, though I stayed squarely within the confines of Giroc.

I walked the dusty grid of homes that made up the village. A few seemed lived in lovingly; a couple or a few decades old, inaugural painted motif still visible above the garret window, grape vines covering little trellises outside with the early, fresh sort of maturity that only such vines can evoke. The rest of the houses were either so old their patched roofs sagged and caved faster than repairs could be made, piles of bricks, shingles, wooden shutters, and peeled paint gathering at the corners and doorframes, long-established garrisons of weeds daring the trespass of maintenance. Or they were new and awkward, betraying strange geometries that broke the eye and especially the spirit of the village. Their roofs were oddly slanted, their windows narrow and long or round and convex. Everything about them was purposefully mismatched, as though blindly chosen from some catalogue of parts --which is precisely how they were built.

Dotting this admixture of the ancient, the infantile, and the lonely in-betweens were the hobbiest erections, the houses-to-be. Great slabs of gray concrete festooned with rusting rebar jutting angrily in all directions, these buildings were always the most visibly occupied, for there were groups of men climbing them or huddling around the screaming concrete-mixers sitting in their yards. Now and then a bare bulb from such a property sliced through the gloom of my walk's dusk, sharpening the universally creased and consternated faces of the workers and casting inky shadows across the vague dreams of happiness being built there.

The penetrating scent of burning wood pervaded all. The garrish, new homes --like mine-- were fitted with gas heaters, but the rest were warmed by ceramic fireplaces. These churned through massive piles of freshly cut wood stacked on the sides of older houses, and the thick heady smoke threw all of Giroc into a more distant century, in a place further still from civilization.

It was on one such walk that I was first accosted by a local male. Frustrated, perhaps, or maybe merely acting out the social imperative dictated to him by the rest of the place. He was a short man, bald, but not apparently old enough to be so. His shiny, dark brown skin stretched tautly over his face in a permanent collection of smiles. He dressed up by Giroc's standards; his black shoes always glistened, his pants were pressed and bore a razor-sharp crease. I ran into him several times in the village's infinitessimal convenience store, a closet in a small corner house which opened up to the street, where you could buy a piece of candy or cigarettes, or use the much-loved instant coffee machine. Sometimes while on a walk and wishing to warm my hands, or growing bored at the bus stop waiting on a late trip to town, I would duck in for a completely objectionable, chemical cappucino --and often, the man was there, chatting up the unresponsive clerk, or standing just outside and smoking, waiting for someone to show up so he could launch interminable volleys of smalltalk at them.

For me, the smalltalk was useful. It taught me new words without being so advanced as to instantly kill communication. I was embarrassed of myself, of my poor grasp of the language. I blushed and laughed and was interested enough in his banal offerings that I hardly wonder at all whether I gave the wrong impression. One night, walking home from the bus stop, the man asked me over to his house. It was the largest, newest atrocity in the village, a shining, slanted modernist wreck that commanded the awe of the villagers. I declined. He insisted, for coffee, just like at the convenience closet; he had the same brand of cappucino at home, he told me, with a conspiratorial smile. I told him, as I had several times before, that I had a master, and that I couldn't go to other men's houses. He was quiet a moment, then shook his head emphatically and wrinkled his brow while he pantomimed sex with his hands --with one fist he made a hole, and with a clump of stubbly fingers pierced it with the other again and again. "No, no, no," he said as he gesticulated, and then his face brightened again. "Cafea." And his hands flattened and flew to the sides, dismissing their puppet play. When I declined again, he made a gruff little noise somewhere in his throat, and after a moment threw his arm out and grabbed my breast in his hand. He squeezed it frantically for just a second, then turned on his heel and wordlessly walked away towards his home. He never spoke to me again.

My first months in Giroc --almost entirely out of touch with the world I'd grown up in, with a new latitude, a new language, a new relationship, a new purpose-- found their focus not as much in acclimation as in backtracking. Twenty-two years of an American life had persuaded me into a certain slowness of thought and movement, a certain mindless adoption of mores and taboos that I wasn't especially well-equipped to investigate, much less defend. I was embarassed of myself, shy, and yet pretentious; the sort of life that depends on the implicit agreement of the surrounding society to not ask prying questions, and to never suggest unwholesome motivations.

Mortification was an essential ingredient, then, of my delayed coming-of-age. The first party I was taken to --the party's party, some thinly-veiled excuse to drink publically thrown on a docked boat by the local national liberals-- was an introduction to the kind of shedding that would be required to survive, over and over again. I dressed up; it was a thrift-store find I'd gotten somewhere in Ohio, black with red trim stitching, its halter strap and bias-draped skirt vainly hoping towards flamenco. My master came to pick me up. At the threshold of the apartment gate he cut a deep red rose from the vine and put it in my hair. I felt more beautiful and bashful than I could ever recall having felt. We walked, we caught a taxi, we arrived at a haphazard collection of stairs and terraces by the river that lead down to the softly lolling boat. Inside it looked much like any other bar there: a long rectangular room, some smattering of mismatched furniture pressed up against one length, with a tiny desk at one end where beer taps sat poised for duty and real alcohol presumably hid somewhere on an inner-shelf, well-obscured.

There were very few people yet there. My master sat himself on an overstuffed couch near the door, easily the best seat available. I sat next to him; he ordered variously; I asked for rum and cokes throughout the night, against the straight vodka and cognac that constantly replenished on the table. It was October, not quite cold enough for excuses, and yet everyone smoked inside. I happily joined the frenzy, keeping my hands occupied with glass or cigarette, or both.

People came and sat next to us, struck up what seemed like smalltalk. I practiced the few sentences I was learning. I apologized for not being able to understand much. After an hour or more I was sent on another trip to the bar to order drinks. When I returned the question was why I'd just gone to the bar --why wasn't I dancing? In truth, I'd done my best to avoid noticing the handful of people awkwardly foot-shuffling to the stultifying ecclectic mix of old pop duds wafting through the room. It was the least interesting thing going on, and I'd assumed my Master thought the same thing. Not so; he admonished me harshly for not having started dancing as soon as we'd arrived, and told me how disappointed he was that he'd finally had to say something at all. Humiliated, dripping with shame, I stood near our table and willed myself to dance.

It was the empty-hearted, self-aware sort of dancing that betrays deep disenjoyment, and I couldn't fake it better. After a few songs, the man grabbed me by the wrist, pulled me down to him, and pointed out a verbally obnoxious woman I'd thought he didn't like --he told me to watch her, and to dance like her. My humiliation deepened. But I watched, and wondered what it was that made her something to emulate. Nothing was particularly striking, except the sense that she was genuinely enjoying herself, something I knew I couldn't make myself do. I tried. I drank more, I tried to dance with the woman herself, who refused to look at me and eventually walked away. I asked for a break and was denied. I complained that this was the strangest, most awkward social situation I'd ever been in, and to please have mercy on me. I was sent back to dance. Eventually, thoroughly mentally exhausted and not too physically fresh either, I was called in, and made to sit in silence while my master fumed next to me, too disgusted, it seemed, to speak.

We left and he walked me to the taxi station a few miles away, towards Giroc. He wanted to know why I hadn't told him I was so terrible at dancing. He told me I was the worst he'd ever seen. I protested that I'd grown up in dance classes, and had never had a problem before --but that I didn't really listen to that sort of music, nor did I ever try to dance to it, nor did I much enjoy normal people --the sorts of people who went to political party parties in jeans and t-shirts, the sort that made smalltalk. What's more, I didn't understand them and they didn't understand me. Surely these gaps were the problem.

Not so. He insisted the problem was how completely incapable I was of dancing. I protested that I could bellydance; he ordered me to on the spot, in the street. I protested that I had no music --he didn't care, and I couldn't produce anything past my enduring shame and embarrassment. We arrived at the taxi stand and he sent me off with the sort of soul-crushing sendoff that had no embrace, no gentle look, no smile or sweetness or allusion to the future in it. I got home and realized he still had my keys, since I'd given them to him to pocket while I danced, and hadn't asked for them back. It was three o-clock on the morning. I had to wake up my landlady and her family to let me in.

The next morning, the horrors of the night were found far from faded. If anything, they'd put down roots and were now working on foliage and flowers. Over online conversation, my master demanded I make sense of the rift between my terrible performance and my notions of competence. I eventually arrived at the unpleasant realization that I must've been lying to myself, and thus to him, one way or another. The unavoidable truth was that when given the opportunities, I couldn't dance. It didn't matter that I thought I could do better, or ought to have been able to, or that I thought I did at some other time, before. What mattered was that when the time had come to show it, I had nothing to show, and the only possible explanation was something like deception.

The conversation abruptly ended and I knew the man was going to appear. I prostrated myself, naked, on the floor, pointed towards the door, waiting. I was terrified of my realization, confounded by what it might mean. How had I managed to lie when it was the last thing I wanted to do? Why did my intention to be pleasant company and to have fun end up buried in humiliation and failure? Was he going to forgive me? Was I forgivable?

I heard the keys thrust faultlessly into the lock in the plastic door, and then he was in. Tall and swift, like an electric wire in his winter coat, bringing the sweet blue crispness of the autumn cold into the room, he wordlessly whizzed past me and into the kitchen. He retrieved the old plastic soda bottle full of tuica, the local bootleg brandy, from on top of the mini refrigerator, and walked over to my desk and chair, unscrewing the cap. I smelled it. I thought, "He's going to cover me with that stuff and then light a match. He's going to set me on fire, he's going to kill me." Waiting, I don't know how long, kneeling with my wrists and forehead on the floor, my mantra had been "I can get through anything. Any form it takes is fine." And yet...would it be fine if I was drenched in brandy and set on fire? I thought about how I'd look with no hair or eyebrows if he did it and I survived.

"Ahh." He'd taken a drink. He re-capped the bottle. I wasn't going to die. "What the fuck am I going to do with you," he began, and a series of pointed questions and fumbling, unsatisfying replies followed. These exhausted, he stood and tied my ankles together, then my wrists, and knocked me onto my back. He retrieved the long white extension cord I'd been using to keep my computer facing away from the room's window, on the desk. He wound it a few times round, making a bundle of two or three loops. He beat me hard, and yet somehow summarily, on the legs, and on the back when I reeled over as though to escape the hits. He spent what seemed like a long time beating the soles of my feet, screaming at me to shut up when I screamed myself, in pain.

He untied me, and forced my fists into a pair of votive candle holders, binding them to my wrists with several layers of duct tape, rendering them closer to hooves than hands. He put down a dog dish on the floor and filled it with kibbles. He ordered me to eat. I half-chewed, half-gagged the acrid, metallic chunks of dog food, unable to use anything but my mouth to scoop them up. The bowl seemed endless. The more I ate the more I seemed incapable of producing the saliva needed to get it down. He sat at the desk, doing something on the computer, occasionally scolding me to eat faster, reminding me that he didn't have all the time in the world. Nearly done but with a few kibbles still left in the bowl, I began choking on a hair of mine that'd gotten into my mouth. I thrashed and spat and tried to expel it but couldn't, not without hands. I begged for help. My master stood before me, took out his cock, and told me he needed to pee, and ordered me to drink it. I took it into my mouth and tried to swallow the stream fast enough to keep my mouth from overflowing. The strong taste of the urine and the twinging of the still-present hair down my throat repeatedly made me gag, and I asked for a bowl so I could throw up. The man just looked at me. I begged for a bowl. Finally, unable to keep it down, I vomited on the floor, gagging and gasping.

"Eat it," he said, and I both believed him and couldn't believe him at the same time. I was disgusted, and yet somehow the sheer disgustingness of it all soothed over the edge, as though there were nothing capable of making me afraid, or doing me any harm, past this. It took me nearly an hour, but I lapped it up and ate it all, while he watched with a face full of what looked like crystalized disdain. I hadn't noticed, but he had put down a camera when he took his drink of tuica, and had recorded the ordeal in its entirety. When I was done eating my own vomit he replayed the video for me while he fucked me over the chair.

A Season or Three

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

Time and trouble pass like water over the parts of life that matter still, that which cannot move, or, going towards the oblivion of the sea so slowly, never move too far or fast to leave a given moment untouched by their familiar presence. What's taken through the dells and valleys of the days and weeks and hence away from me, the flotsam of experience, traces with its margins the negative space in which all that really matters, is.

That which itself is not matter, but feeling.

seasoning

seasoning

Not things that are broken, but toil of mending.

seasoning

seasoning

I am a unit of a legion, a cog in a machine, and yet, alone.

seasoning

seasoning

The possibility of life, undeniably beautiful, carves into the living the closing doors of chances lost.

seasoning

seasoning

And so my landscape flourishes. The water flows as it should. The joy and longing thrive, so that I lack for nothing.

The cup runs over; the table's laid so plentifully it can hardly stand.

seasoning

seasoning

The carnage's daily made into another form, that I might keep the soul but shed the sinews.

seasoning

seasoning

I wander day and night finding something of my riverbed in unexpected, sidelong glances, in the sudden opening of eyes.

seasoning

seasoning

And, always, I know where I am ultimately going: to the sea. To the sea.

seasoning

seasoning

Where I will ever drown in those I love.

seasoning

And float back, bidden by memory.

* * *

It's been a tumultuous stretch of time since I last posted, but something in that tumult's taught me how to love the chaos better. People sometimes ask me what a normal day of mine is like, and I never seem to be able to answer. Perhaps it's because I don't have normal days; perhaps because I don't spend much time looking at the shape of what goes by on a minutious basis. Or I could be full of shit.

Besides, speech is a rolling-mill that always thins out the sentiment. Sometimes it's better to just do spoons.

seasoning

Close Encounters of the Costa Rican Kind

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

Lately it's not too likely to run into anyone you know --or anyone you think you'd like to-- out in the streets of paradise. Folks roam doggedly towards one-track destinations, lacking something of the ruminant charm characteristic of this place. They've been spooked into complaisance, it'd seem. I couldn't tell you by what. In any case, the space they've left is happily occupied by other organisms in this teemingly biodiverse traproom of a country into which everything nature crazed up seems to fall. Allow me to recount a few new friends and neighbors, those dear hearts and tender non-people getting their best impressions in while homo sapiens sleeps.

* * *

The Kiskadees1

It all started when I attempted to plant some poppies. Not those kinds of poppies, don't get excited. A few pots on the balcony, and some pumpkins aside, because I've never had a balcony pumpkin before, and anyway the seeds were there. A couple of weeks later, I couldn't help but notice the pumpkins seemed to be doing fine, sprouted as expected, following some normal course of plantitude. But the poppy pots had nothing. Not even the loneliest suggestion of a tendril of green pushing up from the dirt, which --well, it seemed somehow re-done. A somnambulous sprouticide, in which the perpetrator attempted to sleepily cover their tracks? Whatever, I planted more seeds. I very carefully patted the topsoil just-so.

And a few days later noticed the dirt all tousled again, no sprouts. No seeds, in fact, either. The pumpkin plants gazed on, shrugging in the wind with what was now several inches of proof I hadn't hallucinated my attempt at gardening. A few days later still, as I was holed up in some dark corner of the house trying to separate уже and ещё, someone in a different corner excitedly exclaimed there was a kiskadee hopping around the hallway floor. However softly I tried to tread over there, of course, it was still a trundling horror to the tiny bird, which flew off to the balcony, where his lookout-friend was waiting. I stood unseen awhile and watched them take turns jumping into my erstwhile poppy pots. They hopped, they scratched through the contents, they took little fancy-pantsy premium topsoil dirtbaths and ate the occasional ant off the side. And the occasional seed, though by then not many were left.

I've been told I ought to keep supplies fresh. After all, a kiskadee attractor is something just as much to be observed and admired as a pot of poppies, even if it's quite a lot louder.

* * *

The Crocodile2

A pleasant morning at the beach. Miles of powdery sand still unscorched by the day's sun, moderate waves neither too tame to challenge nor seemingly orchestrated for getting as much up the nostrils as possible. A fresh breeze, a string of pelicans skimming the water like an unhooked pearl bracelet being brandished gracefully over an enormous bowl of soup...well, maybe not so much. Em.

But it was a nice day, and I stretched under the benevolent sky, watching the hermit crabs wander to and fro. Everyone else was in the water, naturally, but between a freshly broken toe and a monstrous case of ennui, I was intent on saving fun for later, whatever that means. I watched a line of surfers decline to attempt any surfing. I stretched on the sand and drifted into serene nothingness. Eventually I had enough of nothing and got up to join the more animated world, at which point I spotted MP jolting hard, intentfully, towards the shore, whereat he collapsed on the slick sand and sat panting, shaking his head at the sea.

"I saw a fucking crocodile."

"What?! No you didn't."

"I did, a juvenile, I saw the eyes in his head. He fucking looked at me."

"How big was it?"

The man put his arms out wide enough to freak me the fuck out.

"I was just about to go in. You sure it wasn't a log or something?"

"Not a chance. I'm not going back in there, what the fuck."

"Wow. You know, I might've had trouble believing you if we hadn't seen one here before."

It's true, we'd seen a baby, possibly a caiman rather than a crocodile, years ago, in roughly the same spot, parked on the line where the sea meets the sand and utterly refusing to move except to lunge at anything it deemed sufficiently impudent.

We all went for a wave-hop and a swim a good half-hour later, and no further sign of the beast was found, even if a few initial jolts were had at the sighting of a suspicious stick.

* * *

The Gecko

I've heard that Costa Ricans generally dislike limpiacasas, the little house-dwelling geckos that abound in Central America and distinguish themselves from nearly every other creature so found by emitting a loud sound rather reminiscent of a boisterous cackle. Something about a superstition involving dermal contact negatively impacting one's soul. I exempt them from all charges of pestilence on account of their not having any obnoxious behaviors whatsoever, and moreover being adorably evocative of a tiny reptillian squirrel on just about every count. A tiny reptillian squirrel that laughs.

We've long had unknown generations of geckos making camp in and around the house, and now and then will spot one rushing off to some important meeting. But the relationship is generally a distant one; they have their business, we have ours, and any hanging out to watch a film or whatnot is done at least at a few arms' lengths.

Which is why Nikki was so particularly exceptionalized by the sight of one swimming in the carrot juice rapidly approaching her mouth, recently. In the hubub of attempting to unpack a farmer's market's run worth of produce into an already-overstuffed fridge3, the poor girl took it upon herself to pour an innocent glass of juice, which glass she'd gotten from the usual perch for drying dishes, by the sink. And so she poured, and in a heroic organizational fete attended to the screaming refrigerator door, re-capped the juice jug, exhaled, and drank --and immediately let out a screeching whine, something between a surprised water buffalo and someone whose card was just eaten by the ATM. She dashed the few paces back to the sink, pouring out all the contents of her glass, from which emerged a rather vitaminized gecko.

Following his near-fatal engulfment by girl --not to mention by carrot juice--, he scurried behind the dish soap bottle (sudsy and probably toxic), and was eventually coaxed out towards the whetstone (you know, where the knives are sharpened), and afterwards, the far hinge of a cabinet door (the metal hinge, not all that forgiving against tender gecko flesh). Whether his poor choice of refuge will continue to place him in the path of danger I don't know, but I have my suspicions.

* * *

That's all for now, 'til the next critter dares, or the masked men come to their senses.

  1. Possibly not an exact identification, though if they're not Kiskadees they're most certainly professional Kiskadee impersonators. Part of living in the crossroads of so many species is ready confusion and Everestian discernment. At least for the lazy amateur. []
  2. Or Alligator, what the fuck intractable animal identification persnickettiness has come to sit down all over my story! []
  3. I had just made moussaka and tiramisu, and there was a big pot of minestrone in there also, which asides a full cheese drawer and like seven kinds of chilera and a handarm of plantains and eight jars of cold brew in various stages of completion...oh and of course the refrigerator has an alarm, like all self-important appliances these days, and for some unknown reason I sit around writing shit like this instead of taking a sledgehammer to the back panel and hitting until the beeping stops...when I say hubub I mean it. []

Cold Knocks

Monday, May 4th, 2020

I told him once that I'd always wanted to walk through a city like I owned it; no one on the street, no cars or noise or closed doors.
"I've done that," he said,
"It's easy when you're in a war zone."

The snow that day had no trace of warm tones in it. The sun was smuggling light and heat to and fro somewhere far above the clouds, which reflected the same uncaring blue and gray that were all the banks and blankets of snow had to offer. My legs were already hard and numbing under their thin nylon veil by the time I'd walked the three kilometers to the meeting place, an ugly intersection whose several bus and tram stops marked "The Hammer". I was fifteen minutes early, as was my habit. The time was usually spent preparing my mind for the meeting; sweep off complaints, tidy a few topics, put something interesting to rise in the oven. But there was no oven that day, and the rest of the work was thought through quickly, so I walked a while through the frozen paths that wound around The Hammer's blue-gray concrete apartment blocks.

The meeting time came and went without event. I paced the building's fronts now, eager for a sighting of him. "Any moment now," I told my legs, which insisted on taking more steps, no matter how small, so long as something in them kept moving. "We'll be off in just a moment," I told the rows of pigeons huddling together above the doorways. An hour passed, an absurdity made undeniable in ten minute increments by forlorn references to my phone (which neither rang). Though each minute taxed me, it delighted me all the same with the promise that it couldn't be much longer.

Another hour turned my hope to endurance. I ducked into the decrepit magazin on the corner and pushed myself slowly down each aisle, pretending to consider the junk on offer. It was all TO-CE-HD goods; to be torn open, contents enjoyed, husk discarded, like me. I didn't have what with to pay for any of it, not that I would've wanted it anyway --nor that I'd've been allowed to. I could feel the clerks staring down my suspicious perusal. I made elaborate scripts of finding some (nonexistent) text on my phone, rushing out to meet the sender, not finding them, and going back into the store. But this only worked, inasmuch as it did, a couple of times. Eventually the hostile atmosphere was worse than the biting cold outside.

I traced the snow-capped tramlines two blocks, always circling the focal intersection. My parabolas were punctuated in the landing alcoves of half-crumbled hruschebas, where I turned down several offers from old women sweeping the steps and wiping down the trash cans to let me into the buildings --for the view'd be too narrow, and I'd miss him, and it would only really be two or three degrees warmer in the stairwells anyway.

Finally, like the sun through the mountains, like a first kiss, I saw him, his familiar shell, the outline of a hat and coat, the brisk and even movement that's always identified him past any particulars of shape or size. Had the delay been my fault? It wasn't my fault, but some broken piece of equipment, which was now all settled, and being done, the first point of the agenda was to go to the lawyers'. Except my frozen legs and feet would not cooperate with his speed over the ice, unaccustomed as they were to the slick frost. I grew up on the beach, and to this day don't really know how to walk on snow and ice --especially at anything approaching a normal human pace. So I slipped. I slipped and slipped again, I slid around like an idiot only occasionally catching up with him to hear an admonition or three and then fall behind, panting and barely not wiping out on the sidewalk.

He had enough, and told me to lead him to the nearest cab station. Hadn't I mapped out and memorized the locations of all the (informal, unmarked, a quintessential Romanian strategic delight) cab stations? I hadn't. I had no idea. I had panic, and the complete abandonment of feet from reality --nothing useful. I had nothing useful to give.

He told me to walk to the north train station, another four kilometers or so across town. The rush of my remorse, huge and all-enveloping, was still not fast enough, and he was gone, turned on his heels, before I could say anything more than "okay" (not that anything more would've mattered, as I knew, as I know). I let myself fall into a slow and mournful gait in the right direction. The blue and gray world congealed with brown as I neared the city's center and the traffic sent mud mixing into everything. "He'll meet me there," I said to myself between bitter oaths against the local cabbies. Bitter oaths against myself. Wild but silent protestations against my intentions being so terribly, utterly divorced from what I actually did.

On the right street but still considerably off my target, my phone rang. "Where are you?" A clumsy report, insubstantial on the second pass and finally clear about my insufficiency on the third. "It's been half a fucking hour, how slow are you?!" I should have actually calculated it, but such obvious things weren't obvious to me then. What was obvious to me then was that I was sorry, which is what I said. "Walk to the cathedral downtown". "Which one?" No answer came back. I had heard a gentle music in the background over the call, and drifted into wondering if he was at home, that home that I had never been to, some set of walls that existed somewhere unknown in this city, a nirvana entirely closed off to me, secret and of course tantalizing. What color were its walls and were there plants? Which way would the windows face and how would the light fall in his room, did he have pajamas? I searched after useless, unknowable details, ignoring the very real ones in front of me. I lost my way.

The phone rang again, the adrenaline cutting through my daydream and dividing the warmth of fabricated reverie from my frigid path. I knew where I was; it wasn't right, and it wasn't far, but it wasn't enough. "Jesus Christ, so go to Badea Cartan, and hope you get there before nightfall." Was it almost nightfall? Almost. The crows were beginning their chorus of vespers; the traffic was peaking. Badea Cartan, the market, was far, and I wasn't at all sure I knew how to get there --not from where I was, anyway. Through the stiffness of cold I forced myself to map out how I'd get there from somewhere else, and how I'd get to that somewhere else from here, and how I could trim off excess streets, because by then, at least, I'd understood that if I didn't get to that market before the next phone call I was going to be walking the streets forever.

I tried to shut out the impending sense of doom and focus on walking faster as I moved through less familiar routes. The sky was turning pathetic shades of winter's sunset, and sent along a steady sheet of frozen sleet, soaking my hair and running down into the collar of my coat. The air thickened to stew, the world outside a meter's bubble incomprehensible. I had long since stopped being able to feel much of my legs, or my face, and my fingers hardly knew how to hit the right button when the phone rang a third time. "Well, so are you there?" "No!" was all I could muster, over and over again. The line was dead before I had them all out, before I offered up my fear of being well and truly lost, this time.

But I was only a block away; as I pressed on the market revealed itself through the slurred atmosphere. Really I had been across the street and some short paces away from that open-air sailboat of a building, whose peaks were now obscured in the storm. I wanted to call back but knew I couldn't. I wanted to claim victory, and I hung onto the tiny almost-fact of it as everything else in me slumped towards defeat. I sat down at the bus stop on the corner and took off my fingerless gloves, laying them on my face, trying to feel the softness of their wool against my cheek, and to hide the tears that I'd been fighting back for five hours.

It grew earnestly dark. The sleet crystalized, hardening everything that was wet, clawing deep into my bones, rattling my teeth. The odd car stopped at the intersection next to the bus stop, and people stared at me from inside their warm sedans. I stared back. I didn't want to be in their position, but I didn't want to be in mine --I wanted my living room heater, and a bath, and I wanted to be fast, and intelligent enough to never have to do this again. I wanted not to die at the bus stop by Badea Cartan. A drunk man in winter rags --which is not at all to demean them, they were far more adequate than mine-- approached me and told me I could be his, I was for him. I asked him to leave me alone and after a few circlings-back he did, disappeared to someplace better than my frozen stoop. I waited. And waited.

The phone rang. He asked me if I was going to get better. I said yes. I wasn't worried; I had no doubts. It was too cold. He told me to go home. "You don't have to go fast," he said. I raced back, completing the circle around the city, to my apartment, touching my gloves against the rusted railings of the traintrack overpasses, blessing the cold objects of the place with their promise of impending relief. "I'm going home." It was the sweetest mantra I could imagine, and after I desperately closed the front door behind me, I ran to my living room heater, and spent an hour pressing against it gratefully.

The next morning at six I was sent out to list, map, and memorize every cab station in the city....

Jabberwock Jaunt

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

There are plenty of reasons why I'd rather spend the entire paranoia apocalypse in Costa Rica than just about anywhere else, and reasons one through three are about coffee. Nearly as importantly, though, is the fact that a couple hundred kilometers' drive --down a road that knows no rival in any category that matters1-- yields absolute relaxation. I don't know that any particular spot on the Southern Pacific coast is "better" than any other, nor do I think there's much point to the debate; there's too much beauty abounding, and why stick ourselves with the plight of Paris anyway. This particular escape-from-paradise-towards-interestingly-different-paradises settles itself in Dominical.

Where, happily, hospitality is humming along, no shoes no shirt no masks no alcohol in gel no problem. "I hear toucans. Do you have toucans here often?" "Yes, in the afternoon, every day you can see them." Sold. Well, and there are other factors, like a very pleasant, minimally chlorinated pool.

downsouth-1

In the Central Valley pools tend to veer on the brisk to shocking side, but on the coast, it's like dipping oneself into endless silk. Utterly perfect and nearly impossible to leave.

downsouth-2

This guy hung out poolside all day, allowing all manner of silly anthropomorphisms as he showed off various poses on the theme of laziness. Friends and enemies --who knows?-- came and went, climbed trees, went about their business in the basilisk recruitment depot I mean mangroves, chomped on yellow orchids...but our friend was committed to the path of most languidity, may he ever prosper (slowly, one toe at a time).

downsouth-3

Have you ever seen an iguana ear?

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Also attendant, wayward baby frogs! Nikki here briefly interrupted her regularly scheduled program of noodling to rescue a tiny guy who was swimming for his life in the deep end.

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All while King Jurassic MiniPok looked on.

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The leaf-cutter ants, perhaps overwhelmed by sheer choice, left emerald carpets wherever their trails marched on.

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And the momeraths outgrabe.

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It might as well indeed've been a Lewis Carrollian dream, giant candycorn fruits fallen from the peaks of plants where ruby-throated lizards rustled and crows impersonated the unpacking, shuffling, and dealing of cards.

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I still don't know what sort of tree this was, but these are its shiv-roots, fully aerated and housing who knows what ecosystems of scaly chimeras.

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But in case anything too terribly gnarly should emerge, there's a very nicely manicured safety zone. Also, for earthquakes.

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...Or Clint Eastwood Octopi.

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The Sealing Wax Palm2. It eats the previous night's sunset and releases it, partially digested, the next evening3.

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Probably the pool iguana's idea.

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"In here, life is beautiful."

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"The girls flowers are beautiful."

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"Even ze orchestra foliage is beautiful."

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Wild chili peppers peeping out from passionflower vines overhanging the reptile reserve. Every outing here has some moment where the fascination and splendor of nature makes one downright incredulous. "Oh, COME ON!" This was it, for me anyway.

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The coming-down passiflora.

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The wee snake dames' room.

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The serenity now.

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And, why not, let's end with an antique dulap, pentru cheful dulapului. I don't know if it's seen better days, but it's certainly seen a lot of them. Likely enough, other, older days offered up to the hysteria of "pandemic" --but not nearly as consumed by it. The cabinet goes on, and so will we, even if our contents are a little rearranged.

  1. The 34 sports: flanking palm groves, ridiculous mountain twists, sudden all-encompassing ocean vistas, scarlet macaw flyovers, multiple roadside fruit vendors, bridges over egretted estuaries, and probably the least amount of potholes as compared to any other road in CR. []
  2. Really its name. I only make shit up like 80% of the time. []
  3. See? []