Today’s prompt is to write a story from first person point of view. The challenge is going to play with point of view coming up, so expect to see this story (based on personal experience) repeated over the next few days.
Sundays in Catholic country are always difficult for sightseeing, but seeing as the two of us are Jewish or Protestant Americans, we forget this travel truth. We had made plans over coffee brewed from the finca outside of the cafe to go to this nature reserve. It was open for a half day, so easy-peasy decision to make. We also forget that not everyone runs on American timetables even though we only travel outside of the U.S. Time habits are hard to break.
Once we arrive at the reserve, we check with the gate, asking in tourist Spanish when the last bus heads back. Four in the afternoon. We look at our watches. I only wear mine when I’m traveling; at home, I am on time if I leave on time and my life has enough clocks in it, I don’t need one strapped to my wrist.
We have about three hours to swim, sit, chat, and enjoy the explosion of green behind the gates. One last check with the short, brown, sleepy man: yes, definitely the bus leaves at four. We sprint to the wooden platforms and add our bags to the mix of tourist gear Dada-ing the benches.
Three different languages and the sounds of splashing overpower the rush of the river into the lagoon. My friend and I dip in, trying to get acclimated to the water and ignoring the cold. She drops beneath the surface and comes back up imitating that scene from The Little Mermaid where Ariel dramatically flips her hair over her head. I laugh and copy. My hair is red so the competitive part of me that gives a shit about this stuff decides my version is better even though her hair is probably the right length and she totally got a better arch. But really, no one cares. We laugh and swim. Watch the twenty-something boys do stupid shit to impress the bored, tattooed girls with them.
I ask her if she wants to climb up to the overlook, but she’s hungry so we go back to our bags to root out the aguacate and tortillas we shoved into one of our bags. Well, they are in her bag. We know, because when we grab our stuff, her eyes go wide and she drops it. “Hormigas!” Her bag is crawling with very large, red ants. I snatch her bag and dump the contents out. One of the rangers (I have no idea what the word is in Spanish) comes up and points to the bag and says, “Hormigas.” Indeed. Lots and lots of hormigas. Thank you, sir, for your help.
We both swat at the bag, turn it inside out, swat that out, and then shake everything off. On every inspection there is at least one sucker still clinging to the bag. Round two: shake, swat, sweep. Still a couple of ants looking none-to-pleased at the ride they somehow ended up on. Both of us are cackling, because yes, of course, ants have decided to invade our food bag. Of course.
Once clear (or to be honest, clear it enough), we make our snack and eat. We finish the water we brought. I ask if she still wants to climb, and we both check our watches, trying to assess if we have enough time. It’ll be close, but everything has been late leaving from the moment we arrived. We’ll be fine.
The climb takes a half an hour in heat and humidity. Sweat drips down my back. Climbing is not my thing; I am much better on the descent. She is the opposite. She says that is the difference between cyclists and runners. Her quads are strong, but hamstrings, not so much.
We take the last 6 wooden steps to the overlook, and the view catches my breath. Three hundred and sixty degrees of green and gold and pink and blue and all the colors nature cared to make. Birds fly by us, and the sky is clear and blue over the tops of the trees. We look down to see the pool where we swam an hour before. The people are small. I laugh. They are ants.
“Even if we miss the bus, this was worth it.”
“No. Don’t say that. You’ll jinx us.” She checks her watch. We take a few more pictures and decide it’s time to go. We have lots of time, but why risk it? Americans still on American time.
We make it down, pass the ants, and exit the trees. Our feet kick up the dirt on the road. We are five minutes early. Our chatter dies when we round the corner and … there is no bus. She starts running. I take off after her, not sure what we are going to do and hoping that the bus is just late.
As soon as she is at the gate, she starts asking where the bus is. It left already. But you said four, I protest. A shrug of the shoulders and she is demanding what the hell we are supposed to do. Except she doesn’t say hell; we haven’t gotten there in our Spanish skills. More shoulder shrugging. I ask where the bus went, and the guard says it has another stop down the road. We look at each other and take off running. I know we aren’t going to make it; feet vs. motor, but we have to try. She is running much faster and starts to slow down to let me catch up, and I yell “NO! JUST GET THERE AND MAKE IT WAIT FOR ME!” She takes off.
She is a good fifty feet ahead when we see a bus take off away from us, and she’s running faster, waving her arms, getting enveloped in a dust cloud. I keep moving, willing my legs to just keep moving. I catch up to her only because she’s stopped. Her face is horrified. What the fuck are we going to do? The town is an hour’s drive away, and we do not have directions. And no car. The sun is ridiculously hot. My breath is having trouble catching.
“We cannot be on the roads when the sun goes down.”
We start walking. Uphill. In the sun. On an unpaved road. In Guatemala. With no water. I am pretty sure that we are in the middle of a movie now.
My skin protests against the unrelenting sun, and my lungs scream against the dusty air. I make it up two hills before I have to stop. She is twenty feet away, determined to get somewhere.
“Just go on without me!” I plead, the broken friend weighing our hero down.
She growls, “I am not leaving you here!” We are definitely in a movie. I’m only hoping it isn’t a slasher flick and Jason or some shit is waiting around the next bend looking creepy as fuck. I cuss a lot more when I’m hot and can’t breathe.
I get out my inhaler and say a little prayer that it does its job. I throw my bandana over my face to block some of the sun. My breath is slowing, calming, actually getting oxygen into my blood. She tells me I am really red. I laugh, “White girl.” Okay, I am ready, but I can’t go as fast as we were.
We start talking out our situation; if we talk through every possible rescue scenario we will somehow get out of this. Mostly we repeat that someone has to drive by at some point. We saw so many trucks on the way to the reserve. But the roads are deserted. Seriously, we are in a horror movie. Sassy, busty ginger and sweet, fit brunette. I know which of us gets slashed first (hint: me). I pull us into the center of the road. She looks at me.
“We’ll hear cars coming early enough to get out of the way, and we want to make sure they see us.” And silently add, “And we’ll be marginally farther away from the psychopath waiting to kill us.” Never share your paranoia with your travel buddy until the danger is over.
“Well, lesson learned: don’t leave town on a Sunday.”
“Ha! As if we’ll actually ever learn that lesson.”
We round a corner and there is a house with two trucks and a guy standing out front. She tells me to stay and watch for trucks or cars on the road and walks up to him. She’s breaking rule one of horror films: NEVER stray from the flock, but I guess missing the bus means rule one is already broken. I look around for any movement that isn’t the wind or a small animal. Their exchange is brief.
She walks back. No go. No one is heading to town. Everyone is in for the night. Fuck. She is tearing up, because we just can’t be here. Here is the emotional scene where the hero thinks there is no way out. The sun is dipping lower and lower, and we are stuck. I put my hand on her shoulder and pull her in for a hug. It’ll be okay. We’ll keep going and something will work out. Wasn’t there a farm up farther? I regret suggesting it as soon as it comes out. So many terrible ways to die on a farm.
She pushes back and wipes her tears. We pick up our bags, look up the hill, curse the sun and our lack of water. Just as we are leaving the driveway to head up the road, the perfect purr of a car coming our way and heading in the right direction hits our ears. She shouts! I fistpump the air, but not as excited as I should be. Who knows who is driving that car.
The blue truck rounds the corner with two hitchhikers in the back already. We have a flock to join! We wave and flag it down. Squealing when they stop and wave us into the back. They are heading back to town. We jump in, grip the sides of the truck bed and laugh at the wind now whipping our hair. Deus ex machina in a Chevy. She smiles at me as we get going, leans down, and whispers in my ear, “The busty ginger makes it out of this one.” She winks. We have clearly known each other too long.