It was the year I turned forty-eight, and sold off all my gear, keeping only a few books and a laptop. I was trying to conjure Bolaño, smoking and writing like a fiend before his death at fifty. I was hoping I still had a few good years.
At first, it felt good to be back in Panama. The daily rains. The cheap rum and beautiful women. The friendly man who sold coconut ice-cream from a watery-blue cart.
I quickly got in the habit of reading and writing on my balcony. My flat didn’t have air conditioning, nor did it have working ceiling fans. But my canopy level balcony always seemed to catch the ocean breeze.
I was out there one night watching a storm roll in over the bay of Panama when I glimpsed a cute girl chasing a three-legged dog across Calle Alberto Navarro. The dog was barking, snapping at a lizard in the street. I could hear the girl scolding him in Spanish, telling him to watch for cars.
The girl had an easy, sensual gait, and a dark Afro-Caribbean face. She pulled up in the shadow of the tall palms opposite my building. Her long black hair was gathered behind her head by a red and green bandanna.
She looked like one of those good Catholic girls destined to scrub toilets for Panama’s elite. She had on a tight-fitting green maid’s outfit that buttoned down the front. A silver cross hung from her neck.
She kept looking up and down the street, like she was waiting on a taxi or a friend. She pulled something from a pouch slung over her shoulder, some kind of a hand-rolled cigarette, or blunt. I was hoping for the later. I hadn’t gotten high since I’d left the States.
She ran it under her nose and inhaled, like you would a thirty dollar Cohiba. I could see the flame from her lighter flickering, then a puff of blue smoke. I watched her chest expand, and the scent of cannabis came to me on the wind. Reflexively, I inhaled, trying get a contact high five stories up.
I felt like one of those eavesdropping geckos. The girl looked up and smiled at me; a mischievous smile that crept up her serious face and caught me off guard. Our eyes locked. I felt a jolt.
There was so much darkness in my world then. But in that one moment, a spark. It didn’t last long. With the passing of a car the girl turned back to the street. Her dog staggered over and began urinating on the side of my building.
Lightening flashed in the distance. I counted three long seconds. I heard the long rumble of thunder. The pericos started squawking.
The girl looked up at the sky. She shook her head, then she slipped through an opening in the greenery behind her. I couldn’t see her after that. Like smoke, she’d faded into the night, and I was left watching the rain fall.
written by Cojito © 2012