I’ve always loved the rain. When I was a lad I would dream of the rainy season. I’d picture myself in a thatched hut with a beautiful, bronzed-skinned girl. She’d swat mosquitoes from her naked breasts. I’d angrily pound the keys of a rusty Underwood. I was writing the great American novel. Hemingway would weep.
For Ernest Hemingway rain symbolized death. At the time he was a favorite read. Perhaps this is why my dream always ended with me rotting away in a malarial cot, feverish, delusional; a medicinal gin and tonic my only comfort. I’d lapse into a sweaty coma. My girlfriend wailing into the jungle “ai si yo solamente arregle este maya en el mosquitero.”
Life is full of regrets. I reckon that’s why god gave us rum and shotguns.
Years later, it was my need for a high speed internet connection that led me to choose city life over a jungle hut. In Panama City I don’t spend my days swatting mosquitoes. Indeed, I’ve never been bitten by one. Nor do I pound an Underwood. I scribble in a $.50 raya ancha notebook, and edit everything on a Toshiba Tecra.
Some might say, I’m not living, I’m “dying.” After all, there’s no book deal, no Pulitzer Prize . Only a hackneyed web Zine, and a half-bottle of Flor de Cana. Hold the quinine. Still, after many years of fantasizing, I have taken the first steps into a new world.
I’ve moved to the tropics. I have a beautiful girlfriend who’d lament my passing. I’m writing, learning Spanish, and living in Panama City. And it’s the rainy season. If this is death, it’s apparently a slow, and painless one, filled with love, learning, good sex, and friends.
But even the best deaths are not without painful setbacks. A couple of weeks back, the tropical rains I dreamed of as a boy, stopped. The days got hotter, more humid. I was surprised, even a little worried.
This wasn’t the normal suffocating heat that precedes a refreshing tropical rainstorm. It was unrelenting. Why was it getting hot again? In Central America winter runs from May to November. It was late June. Where was the rain? Where were the blood-sucking mosquitoes?
My girlfriend had often told me how rainy and cool it gets in Panama for the winter. Actually, she used the word “frio” or cold. I didn’t expect to be wearing mittens. But I was hoping for cool temps and daily rains.
I guess temperature’s relative. Because as each day passed it got hotter and hotter. I began to dread walking about the city. I’d return home, fatigued, shirt soaked with sweat. And yes, I dialed up the air conditioner, something I almost never do.
I felt lethargic. It became a chore just to breath. I didn’t even want to write. So I asked my girlfriend, my go-to Panama expert. “Que pasa?” She rolled her eyes, and assured me it would rain again. ” Tranquilo baby,” she said, “es El Veranito de San Juan.” In English, that’s Saint John’s little summer. Apparently this brief return of summer is a regular event. It roughly coincides with the birth of Saint John the Baptist.
In the U.S. we have Indian Summer. In Central America, the green season (aka winter, or the rainy season), begins in May with a month or two of heavy rains and cooler temps ( 70’s – 80’s), then, around late June, early July, it gets hot, humid (80’s-90’s).
Mercifully, “Veranito de San Juan” only lasts for a week or two. Then the rains return bringing cooler temps. My girlfriend was right. For the last couple of weeks the storms have been so strong trees have been toppled, streets flooded, houses inundated, people electrocuted, and all the car alarms on the block triggered by explosive thunder.
And I’m writing again. It’s the rainy season. I’m dying, but the dream is alive.
-Cojito @ Panama After Dark.