Semi-drunk and down $40 I step out of the casino and get hit with warm rain. I dash across the busy street. Grenade-like dollops explode on my face and slam the roofs of cars on either side of Via Espania. It sounds like I’m shooting the rapids. Several Kuna Indians with brightly colored leg bands huddle in a doorway. Street vendors scramble for cover. Cars and taxis shuttle past like water bugs.
I duck inside a small tobacco shop just in front of the Hotel Panama, order an aged rum, light up a fat cuban, and feel the chill of air conditioning on wet skin. That’s how I like to roll. When it rains someone pours. And every time the skies darken, or I feel an icy blast of central air, or get one of those nasty headaches from drinking my cuba libra too fast, I think of my friends in the great white north, buried under all that ice and snow.
When it rains in Panama everyone stops to watch. Today I watch a foamy river rush down Via Espania. Its raining so hard that tall city buildings are shrouded in a grayish mist. My world has become a giant Jacuzzi. I re-light my Cohiba, order another drink. Brightly painted buses struggle up a hill like tired salmon. One slows, as if wearied by the climb. It slogs to the curb and falls silent. Muerte. Now only the river chugging at its undercarriage can be heard. A bus like this one drowned a while back. It sat in an immense puddle for two days with its driver inside.
The rain gets heavier . It runs off roofs pounding sidewalks with mini waterfalls. Only half-naked children are brave enough to run wild. The rest of us huddle together under eves, or hide in doorways, shops and Internet cafes. Lightning and thunder crackles overhead. So loud it makes you think you’ve fallen off the edge of the world. Sewer drains, clogged with trash, back up and flood the streets. Small lakes form. There is nothing to do in these moments but wait. And order another drink.
The rainy season in Panama runs from April to late December. But its not exact. Sometimes it starts early, sometimes it runs late. Such is life in the tropics. What’s certain? Rain is vital for Panama’s health. Plants flower in the dry season, but its during the rainy season that they are most productive. Rainwater cleans the cities, turns plants and grasses green. It percolates through the soil into the mangrove swamps, ensuring the fish will have the proper nutrients to survive. The canal, Panama’s cash cow, needs rain as well. It takes 52 million gallons of fresh water to float a ship through the Panama Canal. Water that comes from several lakes. If these lakes do not fill with enough rainwater the canal cannot do its thing.
So all this rain is important for Panama’s survival. But I like it for selfish reasons. I like hanging out under eves with the hoi polloi. I like balcony sex on rainy afternoons. I like cooler temps ( 70’s), fewer tourists, and that the kids are back in school. I think the city smells nicer after a good rain. There are minuses of course. It’s harder to get a cab. Unpaved roads and paths turn to mud. And with all that tropical rain the mosquitoes grow to the size of small monkeys.
Its early yet. Soon the rains will come to Panama City every day. Streets will flood. The city will again be hidden in a dense white froth. The rainy season is life in a blender. Mother nature has pushed puree.
In an hour the blender stops. The sun breaks free. Vapor rises from the wet pavement. The Kuna vendors return. Cars and buses no longer swim in the streets. Nothing lasts forever. On my way home I encounter the children wet, and caked with mud. They smile and laugh. I wonder why we lose that feeling. And if can we ever get it back.
-Cojito @ Panama After Dark.