C. R. 3: A Walk in the Rain

In the end, after everyone has left and Quan is being Aryuvedically oiled, I go for a walk in the rain – out of the center, down the street – coffee plantations on one side, and the cacophony of radio and TV pouring from the shacks on the other, a taggle of coffee-coloured kids playing marbles around a puddle.

I happen on a horse – free in a pasture, in contradiction of what Theresa said was common practice here – but he is antsy.  My ability to read animals is rudimentary compared to Quan’s, but this is easy – something in his groin makes him toss and jump – like the ‘cribber’ set free the other day, but with none of the joy – it’s all agitation.  With a 5’ barbed-wire fence between me and him, I am little help, but he is glad for someone to play with, to distract him for even a few minutes.

On into the little town set into the hill, I pass the trucking firm with flatbeds stacked with old axles and other parts, smelling of grease and rust.  In fact, the whole town in the rain is a profusion of smells.  Underlying sewer gives way to diesel smoke rolling over me with each passing truck, replaced by the two boys’ overblown cologne as they wander in search of the heart of a Saturday night – but it’s still afternoon.  Fragrant yellow flowers give way to pungent smoke and beer from a bar.  As I wander farther up, newly turned earth and sawdust in the Saturday afternoon labors of the suburban house-proud.  The rich houses on the crest have no smell at all.  Behind that crest is another little country slum facing the hill, more coffee, and I turn reluctantly short of the top, as the light fails fast in tropical climes, and by 6:30 it will be dark. In the west, a glorious Old Testament swath of sun is sweeping through the clouds, and the beads of water on the leaves burnish into amber.

On the way back the rain stops and my green umbrella turns into a walking stick, as I wash downhill in time to the happy rushes of the streams in the gutters.  Each person here, no matter how tattered, is so clean, I am ashamed in my T-shirt smeared by the horse’s nose.  As I repass him, I let him nuzzle me again; his jock itch is still driving him crazy.

Slipping quietly through the gate to Pura Vida, I feel I have been given a window into Costa Rica.  Not the gated community of Theresa (or Pura Vida), not the mountain refuge of the shaman who ceremonied Quan before disappearing into the cloud forest again, not the coastal idyll of the tourist, and not the hustling crackerbox of San Jose, but a life lived for a long time out of the trafficked way, full of the stories that are everywhere generated in small towns.  In such a place might sit some Jorge Luis Borges.

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