It’s happy hour at a beachside restaurant and I am drinking a spectacular Margarita, chatting with Irene. She sticks out in this beach town; late thirties, fleshy belly and bikini top with a leather skirt, and a low-slung army belt with lots of ammunition pouches. She has a tattoo that covers half her back and a sunny disposition.
Irene and her pal are in Montezuma ‘following the festival circuit’. The party was at their place last night and tonight some guy with a manison up the hill is hosting. She talks about Burning Man and describes how everyone in her small northern Californian town is “highly conscious”.
It occurs to me that no one I meet here has kids.
Might parenting make one less available for inebriated consciousness parties?
Enter a floral printed and sunburned Doug from Coburg, Ontairo with his minute bespectacled wife. Doug asks me a question, but then immediately interrupts. I listen to him banter with Irene; late night stories which have a quality of triumph about them. Doug says he is “all for the hippie thing”.
I sit back in my chair thinking about partyers: having a body that wakes with the sun, this is a tribe that I have been unqualified to join. I’ve long wished those contexts fed me rather than leaving me feeling deaf, marginal, spiritually bereft and dying to go to sleep.
When Doug asks what I’m doing in Costa Rica I say I am here for some contrast, clearing my desk off from the regular rigmarole of family life.
“Well you seem kind of tense to me,” he says.
I do an uncharacteristic conversational turn, wave goodbye and withdraw to the street, full of self-doubt.
Ouch, Why did that happen? This trip has been nerve wracking in some ways. Did he think that was helpful? What if he’s right: I am not chill enough? Or was he just an alpha dog, grandstanding for Irene? And I AM operating outside of my comfort zone, like a mediation retreat; of course things come up, I get nervous, so what if people don’t like it or understand?
It is very dark now, my last night. Under a streetlight I switch from flip-flops into my running shoes for the 40 minute trek up my hill. I few meters away I see a round bald man in his 60s, funky glasses getting into his shiny white SUV.
I walk over to his open window. “Are you going up the hill?” I ask. “Yes!!” he says. He is surprised and amused at my request, but smiling and gracious.
Once I’m in his car it turns out my place is up the wrong hill, but Brendan from Ireland (who lives in Spain) insists on driving me home. I’m worried about what this road might do to his car, but he reassures me me; “Oh Dar-ling, I’ve been ev-ery-where in this car!”.
As the car strains up the hill, without thematic prompts from me sparkly Brendan tells me how he LOVES to “Go home early, put on a Goood film, and Eat-My-Choc-late!”. He adds in his Irish drawl: “I don’t need to Paar-ty! I’ve DONE all That!!”.
A cautious driver, Brendan finally stops at the top of the hill at my little glass box, on the dirt road that parts from the main dirt road.. One little light shines behind the white curtain, darkness all around.
As I get out thanking him, Brendan acts like driving me up an unlit, potholed, crazy steep dirt road on request was like Christmas.
I close the gate (no lock) and scoot up my (unlit) outdoor stairs, wishing desperately I were Irish, and therefore gracious and generous of spirit. Brendan; What an antidote for my Doug-itis.
And (for you “fear is ridiculous!” folks): I cheerfully check my outdoor shower for bad guys.
Hours later I fly home east of Nicaragua.
I can see both Pacific and Atlantic oceans simultaneously, framing this section of the continent. I look down on a smoking volcano.
In the many years he lived there I never visited my brother Ian in NIcaragua, nor when he lived in Santiago. A missed opportunity; he’s dead now.
Once home I will gratefully curl into the warm and open arms of my family, my adventure, with its Dougs and its Brendans, the crunchy with the smooth, safely behind me.
Sun shining down on the top of the clouds; to say I was blessed would be a drastic understatement.