Ivonne and I are walking to the street to catch a bus north. My bag is ready. Towel, sarong, classwork, camera, War and Peace, wallet, copy of my passport. My favorite red and orange bikini is peeking out from under a slouchy white tank. Ivonne is in her usual cool surfer girl look. She is carrying a beautiful new surfboard which, while it is actully very small, is dwarfing her tiny 4’ something frame. Short shorts over muscular brown legs, a over-sized tee shirt tumbling over her shoulders revealing her green and blue Reef, and her long shiny black hair twisted around and around into a bun on the top of her head, like a tiny lean little sumo wrestler. We look bad-ass.
We wait in the shade for our bus. Ivonne teaches Spanish to extranjeros at a local Spanish school, but in spite of this, she makes no attempt to slow her rapid chatty speech, or grade the slang out of the conversation for me. I appreciate this faith in my abilities, but am sure that my face is scrunched into some strange, probably pained expression as I focus in and try to keep up. I have been told by people who watch me read, or knit, or play piano, that my “I’m focused” look is deeply concerned and slightly angry. I try to relax my face.
The bus arrives. “Tome! Tome!” The driver’s helper guy grabs Ivonne’s board and tosses it on the dashboard in front of the driver. She grimices and starts scolding him. ”¡Verga! ¿Quieres comprar una nueva para mi?” He shrugs. He looks to be in his mid to late twenties, tall for an Ecuadorean, with a disgruntled expression on his face. He then makes the mistake of trying to charge Ivonne more then the standard $1.50. “¡¿Crees que puedas cobrarnos más porque somos chicas?!” I watch her tiny little body get bigger and bigger until she seems to be towering over the man. His sour look changes to surprise as she rants at him, he mumbles something and hands Ivonne the rest of her change.
The bus is full, so we sit on a raised area next to driver, near the stick shift. The disgruntled bus employee glaces sulkily at us every time he passes. My feet are resting on a stack of crates that are emanating a strange musky smell and a chorus of little cheeping noises. I direct a puzzled look at Ivonne. “Pollitos.” I move my feet.
There is an old woman sitting next to a young woman, who is clearly her daughter. I try not to stare at them. I love looking at the faces and bodies of parents with their children. Looking for that same nose and the way their bellies poke out in the same way. They have the same exact pinkie toe. I don’t feel bad though, because I catch the younger woman starting at me too, looking confused. I know the look and can hear her thought process. She’s latina, but where from? Not Ecuadorean, her hair’s too curly, the bone structure’s off. Argentinian maybe? Columbian? Wait, now she’s taking. There is no way. Where the hell is that accent? Maybe she’s not latina. This thought process has been said out loud to me, in a kind of stream of consciousness form, by a very stoned Argentinian selling quartz crystals and handmade bracelets on the street. And it was not so different in the United States, though the guesses would range farther than South American countries. Are you Greek? Italian? Filipino? Mexican? Is there some Middle Eastern in there? Notice how Mexico usually covered all the Latin American guesses. (These guess are all incorrect by the way.)
The bus goes twisting and turning up into thickly forested (jungled?) mountains. The driver is taking the turns like he’s doing one of those crazy rally race they do in Europe, and I feel my stomach drop and rise like I’m on a roller coaster. The little chicks in the crates are not happy. We come around a turn and the trees open up. I can see down through a valley to the beach which is our final destination. The tide low, very low, and sand looks like it stretches out for miles. The waves, from this distance, look like little white lines drawn around the shore in the blue, like a the ones a comicstrip artist might draw around a person to show that they’re shivering. There is an island with two large rock formations poised out in the water. They look alien, like someone plucked them out of the desert the set them down on this far away ocean. I wonder if they are confused by their sudden abduction. The birds, the rain, the flowers and trees, all so strange to the desert dwellers, but at least the heat is a reminder of home. As we move along, the opening in the trees snaps closed. No, they say, If we let you watch the way, it wouldn’t be foreshadowing, would it? It would just be the view.
7 hours later I am on the bus again. My hair is briny and my nose is getting redder and redder as the burn starts to settle in. The entire front of my body is bruised of the surf board, from the tops of my feet, to my forehead. Muscles that I haven’t used in years are screaming for pity. The sensations in my body constrast beautifully with how I am feeling. Fresh fruit, watermelon seed fights, fighting against waves, flying with waves, standing on waves, laying in the sand, reading in the sand, reading War and Peace, using War and Peace as a pillow, the sun and therefore the shade moving while asleep, waking up a different color, cool salty water against unintentionally toasted skin, toasted plantanes, ceviche. Next to me, Ivonne is passed out against the window breathing heavily. I look past her through the window. I wait for the same opening that earlier, had promised me this day. There it was. The waves make the coastline shiver and the marooned desert stones gaze sadly out to sea. Except this time, with a red sun sliding down through an orange purple sky.
Original published June 19, 2011, on tumblr as “Rocas Solitarias”.