3.21.2013

Saw there was one for every day.

S--
It's dirty, they told me. At home in Panama city they told me I'd hate it, that it's too expensive, that Costa Rica has been so Americanized that it's not worth more than a passing glance. They told me it's capital is unimpressive and small, that a night, at most, was the best way to see San Jose.

I've been here almost two weeks.

I forget sometimes that I like that: all the dirty busy cities of this world, the buses and trains and hoards of people. Here the cabs are red, and they encircle the city center like I do, seeking a new fare, scrounging about at a somewhat thankless job for ten or fifteen bucks here or there.

I know you hate all that stuff, the people and frenetic pace of giant metropolises, but I love it. I love feeling anonymous in their streets, and here when I walk alone I make sure to do so swiftly and with purpose, and for a minute or two in my head I'm passing for a local, and everywhere I ever go I ask myself the same question: could I live here?

But I suppose we shouldn't call this what it isn't.

I sleep in a nook of the upstairs dormitory that we colloquially call our room. We, Oliver and I, are not very good at keeping our room clean. There are usually clothes and empty packs of cigarettes and all of our chargers to our many devices strewn all over the place. But it works, somehow, and in the morning when the sun rises and streams so fiercely though our windows I never have too hard of a time finding all my toiletries under my bed and dragging them into the sole shower that we all share. This is usually the only time that I am alone all day, and so my anonymous walks through town mid the melee of the urban center will have to serve, in the meantime, as my majority source of solitude.

But here's the weird thing Sam: I need less and less solitude the longer I'm here. My months on the road and especially my week in Panama has left me acclimated to being around people all of the time. There are people packing their bags on their beds outside the bathroom when I'm exiting, wrapped in a towel. There are people around when I'm cooking dinner, and I will turn from the range with a sizzling hot pan only to narrowly miss bumping into one of my roommates. There are people around when I descend the stairs first thing in the morning when all I want is a coffee and a cigarette, but there they are, and they know that I work here, and so they, at seven-thirty or eight in the morning tend to greet me with a barrage of questions. How do I get to Manuel Antonio? Which bus station serves Managua? Can I stay another night? Who's coming back today? I don't know, I tell them. I'll look it up for you after I drink this, smoke this, wake up. And that's on my day off.

We used to do that. Remember? Our little world of two from which we shut everyone else out, and we could spend days and weeks in rooms full of people and still be completely alone. Together.

But I suppose we shouldn't call this what it isn't.

Here, in Costa Rica, we have all arrived alone, or most of us have, and we make our family dinners like we've done this forever and like it's never going to end. We chose who will do the dishes and set them out to dry, and then my co-workers and I will roam about downstairs turning off all the lights and locking up for the night. And when everyone has already gone off to bed, we might pile into Richard's secret bedroom, off the kitchen, and we'll drink cheap wine from a box until the wee hours while we fight over who will open the next morning. It's usually me.

And I know, Sam. I know that here isn't exactly like us, but it seems so similar, like we have nothing save what we've built right here.We so fiercely protect this feeling, and if you're me, then you spend day after day postponing buying a bus ticket to Tegucigalpa wondering if a part of you will die if you cross those borders.

We built something once, you and I. We did, I know it. We built it with canvas and latex paint and razors and songs and eyeliner and cans and cans of Oly. We built it from one, solitary Old Style. We built it from what was left when our parents were gone and we were but 16 and perched at a slate table overlooking downtown-hometown, and we were often skeptical of those who came to live inside our creation. It was real, it was, and I remember how safe I felt sleeping together in our little glass house. I guess I've just never exactly admitted how much I miss it.

My alarm goes off in the morning at 7. I tap the red icon on my iPhone which means I'd like to sleep for nine more minutes, but this fierce Central American sunshine will jar me from my thin blanket in five. Then I'll shower and dress while most people are still sleeping, and by eight I will have descended the marble stairs with my hand trailing the patinated oak banister, and then I count the till and open reception. When my second alarm goes off at nine, I pad into the kitchen and fill the electric kettle, I plug it in and turn it on so it will boil, and while I'm waiting I retrieve a bowl from the upper left-hand cupboard and put one yellow label tea bag inside of it, its tag dangling from a string toward the kitchen counter. You see, Ollie is from Belgium and he takes his tea in a bowl, and he'd likely sleep all day, or at least until his shift at two, if I didn't bring his tea to his bedside.

It was dangerous, Sam. I mean, I think about it all the time. Do you? I held you before everyone else in my life, I would consider you before my husband when making decisions. I left him in Miami for a bar stool across from yours on the opposite coast, and to this very day it seems, somehow, like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Last night we all piled into Richard's bed again and I told my co-workers of you, and I heard myself say, out loud, that I will probably never love anyone as much as I love you. And that's so hard to know, because of all the questions I have left in this wide world I'm quite sure that I can never know you again.

But I suppose we shouldn't call this what it isn't.

I'm not even writing this to you. These letters back home, this is a device, and even if I did still know you this wouldn't be for you. These are for me, to chronicle some largely unimportant stuff that I've done, and this one happens to be addressed to you. Why? I'm not really sure, actually. It just all seems so fitting: all this heat, our strange built family of misfits, the slight late teenager that I met in Panama and shares my room and who's tea I make every morning at nine and how I'm determined this time not to fucking destroy him. I wont, Sam. I wont. We tried to be good to him, didn't we? But I look into Ollie's face now and they look so much alike, or rather Ollie looks as he once did, back then, and I'm no longer so sure. Our distance, I think, would have served him better.

We're older now and these things are easier, at least they are for me. It's easier now to distinguish those things that wont turn out the way that we want them to and I thank my years for that, but it's hard to remember that 22 year old me and 32 year old me are the same exact person, and it makes me cringe to see Ollie's face now and remember that one fateful August ten years ago when I let, for the very first time, a very forbidden pair of lips lower to meet my own.

Fuck, I don't even know what this is anymore.

We spent years designing ourselves as twins, but I'm not sure at all how alike we ever were, because I love this. I love it here, both in San Jose and in the wide world anywhere, and I love the twinge of fear I get when I think of relocating here forever. Because Sam, I could do this. I could live in San Jose and live off a few hours of sleep each night and check in new nomads every morning. I love this because they are actually like me, and so are Richard and Ollie, and I could walk these streets anonymously for years as my Spanish improves. I could keep working here, I could be here, and although I always wanted you to, being anywhere else than our hometown is just something you probably can't, or more aptly wont, do.

This should have some eloquent ending, but it wont. The truth is that a four pack just walked in, I have three new emails to answer, someone's buzzing the front door, and in a half-hour's time I have to turn my till over to Roger and go buy groceries for dinner and I have to go.

But it's cool. Right? I mean, to you, this isn't the first time that I've left.

--M

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