Monday, April 8, 2013

Back in Nicaragua

Have I mentioned the heat? It is overwhelming, overpowering, it is overcoming my capacity to come up with adjectival hyperbole; it is too hot to even speculate about what degrees F or C it is. It is so hot that all day long we lie in the hammock or rock in the rocking chair – an iteration of the rocking chairs that are found in every house in the village, the same rocking chairs that are lined up and sold by the sides of the dusty road – and move as little as possible, and only move enough to stay out of the direct sun and watch the mangoes fall from the trees. That’s right: mangoes falling from the trees. But don’t let hammocks and mangoes fool you into paradisaical fantasies. It is too hot to even imagine picking up and peeling the fallen mangoes, mangoes that fall with a thud onto the packed earth and send up a small eruption of dust upon impact. More dust to inhabit every pore and orifice you have, and some you don’t have.

In the morning we learn that last night’s clanging of metal and shouting was a certain drunken man smashing his neighbor’s house with his machete. Drunk and angry about an unspecified insult, he banged his machete against the walls and windows and tin roof of his neighbor’s house and bellowed out threats, and banged even harder when the inhabitants and other neighbors shouted for him to stop. This morning, we are told, he on the other side of the sugar cane field, persona non grata, sleeping it off.

Of course while we are weighing heavily upon the hammock and rocking chair and nodding listlessly in the direction of the plummeting mangoes, men are out in the fields cutting sugar cane, and men and women are harvesting a sweet variety of bananas favored by the inhabitants of Granada, and women are washing clothes and baking in earthen ovens and bathing babies, and children are cranking wells to bring up water and gathering firewood and kicking makeshift soccer balls in the packed dirt. And Rojita is snarfling up food and water.

Later when it is marginally cooler but still stratospherically hot we go visiting with Colby to the house of the lovely Paola with the curly eyelashes, she whose smile disperses even the heat. Earlier she brought fresh tortillas and avocados to Colby, whose name she loves to pronounce, like a magical incantation. Paola’s smile is clearly a direct defendant of her mother’s. Her little brother will do anything to elicit that smile.
Because Doña Pastora is away at cult, we go have dinner at Colby’s neighbor. There is something about Doña Indiana’s demeanor that inspires respect, and a little apprehension. Her ducks wander in and out of the house as we eat. One duck waddles coyly up to CSB, stares at him, and then piddles onto the dirt floor. He will not forget the piddling duck inside the house for a long time. The menu remains the same rice and beans.

That night, lying on the Chinandega bedframe, we are almost asleep when the dogs start their barking obbligato. It is a symphony of canine pipes and reeds and strings. Then our corrugated tin roof rattles and then – or more likely at the exact same moment – the earth trembles. We are jostled in our bed. Everything is making noise now: objects in the house, roosters, pigs, hens and especially the skinny dogs.
I say to CSB: It’s an earthquake.
He shouts outside to Colby: It’s an earthquake. Are you alright?
Colby answers that he is fine.
I say: Shouldn’t we go outside? What if the house falls on us?
CSB says: I don’t think so. There’s not much to fall.
I say: In 1972 most of Managua was reduced to rubble.
CSB says: I think this one is over.
But I stay awake for a very long time awaiting the aftershocks and after-trembles and tremors. I could tell you how many I felt, but I could not promise you that I did not imagine them.

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