Saturday, September 26, 2009

Monday night, flames searing my body from the previous day's attempt at riding Roja (no es un caballo--es una muchacha), I filled Malko's yellow plastic tub with hot water and climbed in. When I leaned back the water rose to my neck, and I felt the soreness beginning to fade. I had a nice, long soak--I even did a little snorkeling--and when I finally got out I was refreshed and revivified. My bruised and battered limbs didn't hurt anymore, and as I dried off I sang a song, in fluent Spanish, about the transcendental powers of yellow plastic bathtubs.

Or that's what I imagined myself doing, anyway, as I stood in the cold shower, post-bath. In reality, only about 6% of my body fit in the small contoured space at a time, and after submerging different areas--my legs, my torso, my head--in a futile effort to re-create a "normal bathing experience," the water, which had only been warm to start with, became tepid and then cold. Eventually I gave up the ridiculous contortions and just sat there, hugging my knees, feeling disgusted with Costa Rica's insistence on (cold) showers and feeling sorry for myself. All I wanted was a hot bath--was that too much to ask for? I didn't need one often. Not every day, not even every week: just now and then, after Roja kicked my ass or when I was depressed.

The day had been unusually upsetting. When I woke up I was literally unable to move, I was so sore, and although a handful of aspirin eased the pain I still felt exhausted. My throat hurt, and I wondered if the body aches were partly due to the flu--the swine flu, that is, which I was obviously coming down with, along with malaria, dengue fever, and rickets. I was sick, and I was going to die. In Costa Rica, far from home. I'd be taken to a hospital and, since I don't speak Spanish, I wouldn't be able to ask for the menu. I'd have to eat whatever they served me--beans and rice, probably, maybe with fried chicken. Which actually didn't sound too bad. But still--how would I ask them to turn off the TV? Those Latin American music videos were so weird. So melodramatic and dumb. And all in Spanish, of course.

Spanish. I didn't care about learning it anymore. Nor, for that matter, did I want to have anything more to do with Costa Rica: I didn't want to eat the overpriced peanut butter or the bland, watery avocados, the disturbingly yellow butter, or the overly salty (and freakishly large-curd) cottage cheese. I didn't want to live with toilets you can't put toilet paper in, start sweating the minute I walked away from a fan, or swim in water of questionable safety (cleanliness, current, crocodiles). I didn't want to share my home with ants and geckos, obsess about the distance to a decent hospital, or make new friends. I didn't want to learn to love this country, its ways, and its people; I didn't need a new world, a new reality, or a new life. "Adventure" and "new experiences" suddenly just looked like a lot of hardship and uncertainty: at thirty-five, with a husband and two kids, what need did I have for those things? I'd already been through a lot, lived a lot. And normal daily life, with the ups and downs of marriage, childraising, and work, was turbulent enough. It was hard enough, it was scary enough. Who in their right mind would willingly take on more craziness? Only a fool. Only an crazy person.

The day dragged on--Joedy picked Lula up from school, I tried to lift Malko (my pathetic arms couldn't handle the weight), I fell back into bed, Joedy made dinner, I took more aspirin--and I decided to take a bath. It seemed like a good idea, but I wasn't thinking straight, obviously. In the end it just made me feel more like a loser. Sitting in the cold water, the words "reckless," "folly," and "unfit parent" running through my mind, it hit me that in the month since we'd been in Costa Rica things hadn't felt quite right. A feeling of dissatisfaction had been lurking on the edge of my consciousness, and though I tried to ignore it, to pass it off as temporary, I knew it wouldn't go away. As much as I might enjoy myself here--and I'd enjoyed myself a lot already, it was true--the thought of forcing a happy situation from one that didn't feel natural and right seemed pointless at best. If being surrounded by strangeness made us crave familiarity--Trader Joe's, 24-hour drugstores, streets with clearly marked names, friends, and family--what sense did it make to stay?

I stood up and turned on the shower. The sound of the running water was good because it disguised another sound--one triggered by my sadness and my relief, my huge relief, that someday soon I might take a real bath again.

1 comment:

packofchicklets said...

oh dear. no hot showers? no proper baths? how can a civilized being live like that? but as you know i am a creature of overly extravagant comforts (i have actually created a new official hobby: comforting oneself. and i am great at it). not to mention the Real butter deprival. i will send comforting vibes your way. in meantime i hope you have an extremely vivid dream of eating a trader joes bagel dripping with french butter while sitting in a big tub of bubbles.

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