A man recently separated from his wife considers having an adulterous affair while on a retreat in Costa Rica. Adultery is presented neutrally, it is the vehicle not the point. The goal of the narrative is to examine three relationships – man to self, man to woman, and individual to group.
The story takes place in a retreat just south of San Jose, Costa Rica on the days preceding Kennedy’s visit March 12-14, 1963. On the last day of the story, the same day Kennedy arrives, the volcano Irazú explodes.
In this story, I am attempting to be true to the issues of this time period (late 50s, early 60s), specifically the themes of alienation (existentialism), disorientation at rapid social and technological change, the changing role of women and men.
The aircraft landed as if it was descending a staircase made of air-pockets. Despite the turbulence, it landed safely.
The pilot waited until the loose luggage had been collected before opening the airplane doors. Immediately upon his doing so three lithe, athletic women jumped out, followed in short order by several more. A large, but no less athletic man exited last. Unlike the women, who were dressed in saris, mini-skirts and sundresses, which were appropriate given the heat and humidity, he was dressed in a dark, wool suit. Although he appeared neither stiff nor uncoordinated, he moved much more slowly than the women. It was unclear whether this was from nausea, a methodical nature, or the heat from his heavy Wall Street suit.
The man picked up his luggage and walked over the tarmac to the parking lot where the travelers had been told to wait for their ride to the resort. He was more of an observer than engager, so remained on the edge of the scrum of people waving for taxis. He was distracted by the call of a taxi-driver, which he mistook for someone calling his name. As he turned to respond, he bumped into a women wearing a straight cut jacket and pillbox hat.
The woman spoke first, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re from New York, aren’t you?” She spoke with a flirtatious half-smile, as if aware of the obviousness of her question.
He nodded and smiled. The woman made a show of peering at him over her movie-star sunglasses.
“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Schuyler.”
“How do you know my name? Were you told to expect me?” His voice had an aggressive edge.
“Only in a manner of speaking. I am a guest at the retreat, just as you are. I recognized your face …” She let the words trail as she realized her faux pas.
“From the papers?”
“From the cover of a trade journal”, she replied. “Something to do with container ships.”
Her flirtatious half-smile both raised and deflected his ire. He tested her, “You follow the Baltic index?”
Her smile flattened, “Container ships wrecked my uncle’s business.”
He smiled. It was inappropriate, but she took no offense because it meant that he could pretend she did not know about his much publicized affair.
She said, “Let’s leave shipping tonnage figures behind, shall we?” Their mutual smiles had no sharp edges.
Before he could reply, she spoke. As she did so, she touched his his right arm with both her hands. They were in white gloves. “But let us leave all that behind. After all, isn’t the purpose of this retreat to discover the present.”
He nodded noncommittally.
She began to reply, but stopped herself; instead pausing to inspect him. Her stare could have been indecent if not accompanied by her affectless smile.
After an idle moment spent gazing at the slow-paced bustle around them, he asked, “What is your name?”
“Chaitanya.” She replied as if she had just chosen that name from a list of available options.
They resumed their idle gazes. After a moment a horn honked. Chaitanya tugged Schuyler’s arm to get his attention. “Alexander, if my intuition serves me well, that is our bus.”
“Intuition. You mean logic. The schedule clearly says that the next bus to Puerto de Jimenez arrives at 1:00 pm.”
“What makes you think that the buses here follow a schedule?” Her words were mocking but her tone was matter-of-fact. “Look, I’m right. Its the noon bus, 1 hour late.”
She signaled for a porter to load their bags. She then placed her left arm in the crook of his right elbow, as if he had offered to escort her. He perfunctorily assisted her up the stairs to the bus, but she made him look gallant by locking arms. They sat down together, in the seats immediately behind the driver.
He was in a foreign land and was not going to take any chances. He said to the bus driver, “Is this the Puerto de Jiminez bus?”
The driver replied in English, “This is the 12:30 bus to San Antonio de Des. I know where you’re going. I can take you there. Its just a slight detour. Give me a tip.” §
The rainy season had only just ended so the roads were muddy and rough. For a moment they traveled in silence, then Alexander struck up the conversation. “I expected it to be rougher.”
“All of Central America. Castro has disrupted things around here. But its the same as it was before the … uh … events … in Cuba. In some places its better.”
“Where is it better?” Her smile became less scrutable.
“More organized, at least.”
“Organized …” She baited.
“Think of the sharks in Lake Nicaragua. Somoza is finally killing them all.”
“That’s good news?”
“Perhaps progress is a better word.” He shrugged. “I’m not so informed about politics. I’m mostly just concerned with business.”
As Alexander spoke Chaitanya dismantled her east coast look. Her pillbox hat disappeared into a bag and was replaced with a cream-colored sun hat, her thick horn-rimmed eyeglasses with large, round sunglasses styled like those made famous by Sophia Loren. Her jacket was removed and carefully packed, leaving her wearing a only a collarless, sleeveless cream-colored shirt; her handbag was replaced with a large shoulder bag
“Have you visited Costa Rica before?”, she asked.
“I’ve passed through San Jose a number of times.”
“Do you travel frequently on business?”
“Not really, mostly to the canal zone to check on cargo. But I’ve been around.”
“How is business?”
“Great. Despite the troubles in Viet Nam and the Dominican Republic and Cuba and …”
“Why are you here?” She asked, with an expected answer in mind.
“Its personal.” He wondered if she really did not know about his … affair, and decided she did.
“Don’t feel compelled to tell me about it, Alexander. I’m trying to converse, not pry. As you will learn should you try.” Again she placed her hands, no longer gloved, onto his right forearm. She appeared unaware that she had done so, as if she had a habit of touching with no intention. Perhaps there was no intention behind the smiles, either.
After a moment she said, “Don’t tell me. I’m Catholic and I believe that we all fall in different ways, but in the same way. Archetypes, if you think of it in terms of fundamentals.
“Or schematically”, he said, trying to be acerbic, but not succeeding.
She ignored him and continued her thought, “That’s why I like to read stories about how the different ways angels fall. So different but there are only so many stories, about greed, pride, fear, and envy.”
“Which one is mine.”
“Pride” she answered without thinking. Then was mortified at her rudeness, grabbed his arm and then said “Oh my. I only just met you and do think the best …” Then she burst out laughing. Before she composed herself she said, half laughing, “What is my fault? You’ve got a free pass you can say anything.”
He was an expert at these kinds of fighting games, but couldn’t come up with anything. Finally he said, “I cannot make any guess about what you are like. I don’t have much more to go on than your hats. But I’m pretty good with … uh … people stuff, I bet you’ll do one thing, and I’ll know who you are.”
“So let’s continue with you. What brings you to this retreat? Recent divorce perhaps?”
“My marriage is not over. We are having a trial separation.”
“How long have you been separated?”
“The anniversary of the break-up is tomorrow.”
“Your deadline or hers?”
“I’m celebrating.” He laughed hollowly. His comment had not succeed in being either ironical or self-deprecating. Chaitanya’s engaged but neutral expression did not change. He continued, “Perhaps the word commemoration is more appropriate. Yes. That’s a better word than celebration.”
“Are you here to let go or hang on?”
This flustered him, “Either, both. I don’t know. Perhaps I’m here to answer that question.”
“Perhaps you are going to the retreat to be healed? That’s my motivation.” As she spoke, the old Laidlaw bus went over a particularly bad pothole, the bump altered his expression into something more unsettled. “Can something scarred be called healed?”
“Mostly.” She shrugged, removed her hands from his arm and said, “Its difficult to let go, isn’t it?”
Her words made him think of the templates by which he and his wife used to fight. She fought like a lawyer, constructing a case, presenting evidence. He used his size and presence to intimate, or simply resist through obstinacy. But mostly he sought control and was driven toward violence by frustration.
She waited until he responded. Finally, he said, “Please don’t talk to me about control.”
She immediately said, “I’m most afraid of growing old alone. What about you?”
“I don’t know. I never expected to be single at this stage of my life.” He turned to face her, his right arm leaned against her left. When they touched she pulled away and then touched him again, but very lightly.
He paused politely for her to respond but she said nothing: she just watched him with an unfocused though present stare, so he continued. “Its not a fear of being alone. I don’t feel alone. I have lots of close friends. If anything I’m here to get away from them. No. It’s a different fear. Losing my wife has made me afraid of death. Everything reminds me I’m dying.”
When the bus went over another bump she encouraged his hand to slide into hers. They sat together, comfortably, left hand in right, for a timeless moment he tried to measure by counting distance markers.
As the bus wended down the Pacific side of the mountains to the Ocean, the tar-paper and aluminum houses gave way to jungle. He had a feeling of expectation as they neared their destination. Perhaps this came from the sheer improbability that the beat up yellow bus was managing to safely take them anywhere at all.
After one switchback, they could see a cone of smoke in the air. The woman nodded toward it and said, “Irazú is about to erupt.”
“Maybe it is erupting. We are 100 miles away from it, after all.”
“Do you think that is a safe distance?”
“We’re safe from the volcano itself but I doubt that we are safe from the effects of an eruption. If it blows it will disrupt things.”
They reached the bottom of the mountain and entered onto a coastal plain. The jungle began to cede to agriculture. The transformation was gradual because the banana and pineapple farms were in the process of being carved out of the jungle. After 30 minutes of driving through pineapple fields, the number of buildings lining the road increased, which eventually became dense enough to qualify as a villages. Interspersed between pastel colored cubic cement houses with metal roofs were the estates of the more well too do, which were surrounded by grey cement walls, and had entrances barred by iron gates. The bus stopped beside a dilapidated wall half eaten by bougainvillea. Its main entrance was an ornate iron gate wide enough to allow two trucks to pass side by side. They exited in front of a much smaller gate – perhaps a service entrance – that led to the former coffee estate that was now a meditation center.
The entrance opened onto a garden. The wall on the inside was lined by a plant with tremendous fronds, so was invisible. They were greeted at the entrance by a small group of people. Two of them he recognized from a brochure: the hosts Bari and Amanda. Amanda was a lithe, muscular woman; she had a mane of hair brown that had been bleached dirty-blonde, and skin that had been made leathery by the tropical sun. Bari, tall, muscular and shirtless, also had a mane, though his was chestnut brown. His several day old growth of beard was flecked with grey. Behind the hosts stood a pair of Costa Rican men. One was dark and slightly hunched with small, close set eyes. Despite his Hollywood villain demeanor he had a disarming, infectious smile. Beside him stood a slightly taller, thinner man who had long, dark black hair and chiseled, movie star features. He too had a beautiful smile even though he was missing a canine tooth. These men gathered the luggage and moved it to the reception area, a circle of benches in a garden beside the main entrance.
The Casa Renuncio was a group of thatched cottages centered around a large gathering area called the Centro, which could seat up to 100 people on wooden benches and tables, and had a kitchen, reception area and small, open space (where their luggage was now piled) that served as a stage. It was covered in a thatched, conical roof, ringed by hammocks, but otherwise was open to the elements.
A very young woman sat on the far side of the bar, near the kitchen, playing Where Have All the Flowers Gone on her guitar. A bald man with a ukulele accompanied her. Two other women sat with their backs turned toward him and sang harmony.
The harmony of the song – and the entire moment – was destroyed in an instant when an angry shadow stormed into the Centro. In the train of the angry shadow was a long, lean silhouette of a man who entered from the west, with the sun at his back. The angry shadow resolved into a the form of a slight Indian man, in shorts and a sleeveless undershirt. He shouted at he moved threateningly toward Chaitanya. “Where were you last night?!”
A lank but muscular man with a goatee and tattooed arms rolled out of his hammock and landed between the couple. He spoke to the man, “Let it go, Atash. Chaitanya didn’t do anything last night, I talked to her on the phone. She was at home …”
He ignored the peacekeeper, “I called. You weren’t home.”
“I was reading in the bathtub, Atash.”
“Calm down.” The lank, tattooed man persisted. Atash pushed him away. “Get out of my way. This is between her and me.”
“No it is not. This is a public place, which makes it between us all.” Bari separated the two men by walking between them. He was several inches taller than either and was enough of a presence to shut them both up. He put his right arm around the back of Atash and escorted him to a nearby cottage. They entered the cottage together. Hushed, intense echoes of a conversation emerged for the next few minutes. The newly arrived guests sat mutely in the Centro, uncertain what to do. Bari’s voice was firm, insistent, though indistinct; Atash’s voice swung between loudness and quiet, like his moods. Atash’s packed bags emerged from the hut a few moments later, followed by Atash, and the Bari.
Amanda had taken charge of the group while Bari dealt with Atash. She ensured those who wanted food got it, and whisked the rest of the guests off to their cottages. Alexander’s cottage faced the beach, which was on the edge of a gulf that joined the Pacific Ocean around the bend of a peninsula. It was large enough to have both a hammock and a bed, dresser and writing table. On the Pacific Ocean side there was a porch with a rocking bench. §
The members of the retreat met for the first time in a studio constructed of wire mesh but otherwise open to the elements. Vines and leaves blocked sunlight enough to cast the room in a mottled light. The entrance, an alcove separated from the main studio, was populated by two large, red Macaws that mocked and played with the guests. The birds’ play was a distraction, however, for the Macaws’ real goal was to escape from the alcove into the studio, where they could fly more freely.
The teacher was a little rougher and more wiry than expected for such a vacation. Her hair was blunt cut and black, Betti Page style, though shorter. She had a dragon tattoo on her left shoulder. Alexander had expected someone soft, presuming that gentleness accompanies spirituality
“Let’s introduce ourselves and talk a little bit about why we’re here. My name is Ananda. I’m here because this is my job, but also because this is my calling. Or where my calling has taken me. I spent most of the 50s in the Beat scene in NY. After a friend died – he overdosed on heroin – I was introduced to Alan Watts. From Buddhism, I discovered yoga, and here I am. Any questions? Of course there were none. Ananda’s brief introduction contained far more information than any person in the room would ever divulge.
Ananda continued. “Okay, let’s begin with introductions. I like to use a drawing game to break the ice. Draw a picture of what’s on your mind and then we’ll talk about it.” She efficiently passed out cardboard backed slips of paper with writing implements to the group. Ananda spent the next few minutes taking care of the birds. When done she sat down crossed-legged again and asked each member of the group to introduce themselves through their drawings. Most did so in terms of their complaints, mostly litanies about malfunctioning knees and wounded spirits. He was only interested in Chaitanya’s story so put on an air of focused interest to mask his boredom.
Chaitanya surprised, and annoyed him, with her picture, which was of an orange and purple crab.
“Why crabs?” He almost snapped out the question. He was annoyed because he’d hoped to find out more about her relationship with Atash.
Chaitanya composed herself for a bookish response, “Not just any crabs, Halloween crabs. They are as funny as they sound. They have round, orange bodies about the size of my palm” – she raised her palm outward to her audience. Alexander was struck by how long, thin and white her hand was – “with bright purple legs. Right around now, in March, they come down from the mountains to mate on the beach. Millions of them. Its really quite something. They will probably migrate sometime over the next two weeks.”
The promoter, the editor and the fitness instructor cringed at the description of the crab infestation. A short, fat banker asked, “Are you here to study them?”
“No. I just find them eccentric. They take my mind off of things.” She became visibly sadder as she spoke these words, and the memory of her earlier confrontation with her husband hung heavily over the group, so no one questioned her further.
Alexander’s turn came next. He had drawn a stick figure and given it yellow hair. You could tell it was female because of its triangular dress and the way the hair curled. He displayed the picture, but surprised himself by not having any words to go with it.
Ananda prodded, “Describe who you drew, Alexander and why?” Her voice was surprisingly gentle and encouraging, given her punk demeanor.
“Cate was a woman I met once at a yoga studio. She was very slight and her skin was so pale it was translucent. Her eyes were a washed out blue, her eyelashes were clear, and her nails were blood red. We meet once when she helped me clean up some beet soup I’d spilt, right outside the studio.” The story got an encouraging, though not amused, laugh from the sympathetic audience. “It happened a long time ago; at the time I had a crush on her. I sometimes draw this silly image as a way of remembering her that stage of my love. And what I’ve lost.”
“You should let go. There’s lots of fish in the sea”, the editor said. She wore sharp, bookish horned-rimmed glasses, and had a personality to match.
“But I’m married to her.”
“You’ve been separated from her for over a year.” Chaitanya waspish words clashed so obviously with the tone of the group that Ananda intervened by saying, “We do not talk about separation here.” Alexander appreciated Chaitanya’s words because they meant she cared about him or at very least he had engaged her attention.
A model named Jackie went next. She had short cut, sandy colored hair, fair skin and freckles. She showed the group a picture of a house. Underneath the house was written the words,The body is a house.
Every floor is like a state of one’s spirit.
The outside of the house is a façade.
Jackie was at the retreat to make herself more transparent. When Alexander heard this he laughed inwardly, not because what she said was funny, but because the idea of transparency as a goal was alien to him. He was a gambler. He had always tried to be opaque.
After the last person spoke, all the members of the group put their hands to their heart centers and bowed. They then went their various ways. The macaws howled something that could be interpreted as either affirmation or mockery as the group dispersed. Either way, it was clear they meant what they said. §
It was still two hours before lunch, so Alexander went for a walk. It was a strange experience, because mornings had been taken away from him between his obligations to his school, work and church. On the few vacations he took from his life, he’d party late and miss his his chance to reclaim them.
He walk slowly around a perimeter of the compound, which was a functional and quite beautiful tropical garden. On its west side it had an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean. He felt out of time and place which made it easier for him to brood about Cate and Chaitanya, two exclusive lives trying to coexist in his one reality. Even though he brooded about relationships, his mood was no more about people than it was about time and place. It was about archetypes. Chaitanya was dark and Cate fair; Cate moved like a spirit and Chaitanya moved like a predator; one Betty the other Veronica. He felt like an archetype as well, the fallen husband, the adulterer, a role he could only live out, not break free of.
The social life of the spa happened after hours at a bar called Marina’s that was a short walk down the beach. The beach was sandy and wide. The full moon had risen early. It was a nice walk to make by yourself. Introspection was needed, and came easily.
As he emerged out of the shadows he startled a dark grey cat, perhaps a jaguar, but otherwise arrived unnoticed. Which suited him fine. He stood in the half shadow listening to the conversations, trying to decide which one, if any, he should join.
Everyone talked about the dreams of the fallen: who they were trying to seduce, what they were trying to buy, justifying each extravagant goal with a plan to make money. Alexander retreated into the shade of the acacia tree to a point where the dialog at the bar became a murmur punctuated by the odd distinctly spoken word – money, cars, stock market … Kennedy, hats, shoes …
He withdrew to the point where the buzzing of the insects from the forest overwhelmed the chatter completely.
A shadow passed over his shoulder. It said, “People who seek redemption are no longer fallen.”
He looked up at Chaitanya. “I’m not seeking redemption. I haven’t fallen far enough to make the effort.”
“I hope that’s not an exit line. I need some company.” She clasped his hand in hers, but checked first to ensure they clasped in shadow.
Her replied, “I’m not feeling that sociable. I was thinking about taking a walk along the beach, alone.” She frowned and he hastily added, “But I would love you to join me. Please do.”
She let his hand fall from hers for the short walk to the beach, but once there reached out and held him lightly.
They walked in silence. He was comfortable but not relaxed. He felt compelled to talk and she seemed content to say nothing. He tried to start conversations, but kept censoring himself before he spoke. Finally he said what was foremost on his mind, “You’re sharing your cabina with Atash?”
“I am unavailable, if that’s what you’re asking. Even though my husband Atash has gone back to NY.”
“You are certain he’s left?”
She tentatively clasped his hand, squeezed it lightly, dropped it and continued walking. A couple of times she outpaced him, but realized it and slowed down so they could walk together.
The moon was nearly full.
She broke their silence several moments later. “I was thinking about the story you told. I’ve heard variations of it so many times. But only from men. It must be difficult, always having to be the aggressor and the initiator … always risking cross boundaries and risking offense, but being expected to try.”
“You mean boys will be Boys.”
“Is the archetype what we really are, or is it just a generic way of understanding ourselves, but ultimately uninformative because of a lack of detail.”
“I can’t help but pursue what I want, being what I am.”
“Which is why your marriage is over.”
“And why it was consummated in the first place.”
He didn’t deliver the line like an advance, but she took it that way. She said, “I’ve told you I’m not available. Are you really available?”
He didn’t know and didn’t want to lie, so he said nothing. §
The evening’s main event was a puja, a time of letting go. It took place on the beach. There was a huge bonfire around which stood a crowd. Far more people than he expected. The retreat created the illusion of isolation, but of course there were a lot of people living nearby, on the other side of the cement walls.
There were three groups of locals, the ex-pats, who were for the most part friends with Bari and Amanda, and even when not very friendly definitely shared their surfer lifestyle. They mixed easily with the people on a retreat, suggesting they had attended pujas many times before. A second group, were the locals, mostly teenage boys, sometimes accompanied by a kid sister, who were hoping to get lucky with the loose Americanas. The young men wore long swimming trunks, were shirtless, with thin, muscular torsos; many but not all had some form of metal chain or bead jewelry around their necks. They all had black hair and fine Castilian Spanish features. Though beautiful, and quite assertive, they had trouble mixing in, because they only had a cartoon sense of what American woman were like, and were completely unaware of the issues of class and ethnicity that were second nature to the Americans.
Though many blew off the locals’ advances enough accepted them to keep supply plentiful and engaged. The librarian was practicing Spanish with one of the taller, but younger, teenagers, for whom she was buying drinks. He was shy but earnest, and talked to the publisher in a deferential way, as if she were his mentor.
The third group of locals, mostly kept to themselves, though they all appeared to be on friendly terms with Brad and Amanda, but formal, perhaps contractors. They came as families. In most cases the grandparents were dancing and playing with the grandchildren around the fire, while the parents drank moderately and discussed prosaic topics like fishing and their children’s education and health.
A woman with blonde, beaded, dread-locked hair appeared from the direction of the retreat. She had apparently just arrived, so went straight to Bari and Amanda and introduced herself. After greeting the hosts she slipped over to where a couple of beatnik guests where smoking marijuana. She wore a long, light cotton wrap which she unraveled and carefully laid on a mat. The only clothing that remained was a slight bikini, which was so sheerly cut that she would have been barred from most beaches Stateside for wearing it. The woman removed a series of glowing balls from a beaded purse, which hung off her right shoulder. She carefully put the purse onto the mat beside her wrap, and then began to play with the balls. She affected a casual manner, so it took Alexander some time to notice that she was using the balls to trace the outlines of animals. The dancing children dragged their grandparents over to watch, and in minutes the light dancer was the center of the party.
“I can’t help but notice that you’re paying more attention to her outfit than to her show. Bikini’s are sexy, aren’t they?”
He took this opportunity to look at her full on, in a way that would have been indiscrete in other contexts. Chaitanya wore a suede skirt and shirt that had been torn into triangular strips. The tears were rough, however, so they appeared to be the consequence of entropy – or perhaps moths – not scissors. Long lines of exposed skin, that followed the curves of her body.
There were Her outfit was actually made of very little material at all.
He placed his left hand on her right hip, and felt the material. “Is it a rag, or was it made that way?”
The Light Dancer removed his hand with her right hand, but did not let go of it as she replied, “Its a tailored rag, a prom dress that moths got to.”
She lightly took his other hand and they began dancing. He knew how to waltz and tango, but it took a moment for him to figure out the Caribbean beat. When he did she let go of his hands.
With her rag dress, the primal beat and the fire, he felt like a cave man. Perhaps that was his archetype, not prodigal husband. He smiled at that thought, she caught his eye when he did and smiled back with a fierce primal smile.
They began to dance.
She placed her right hand on his left then move her body discretely, perhaps imperceptibly toward his. She smiled mischievously as she spoke, “I don’t think that you are letting go at all.” She squeezed his hand again and then moved away. His hand on her hip slide down the top of her leg and then fell to his side.
“It’s time. Goodnight.”
“What do you mean?” He thought they were just getting started.
Chaitanya replied, “I came here for the crabs, remember. Tonight is the night they arrive. Watch out for them when you walk along the beach. They will be very horny, and will view your feet as either unwelcome competition, or food.”
“Can I join you?”
“No. This project is all mine.” She kissed him and disappeared. He traced her steps to the edge of the wooden dance floor and looked for her on the beach and the forest paths, but she was gone.
He stood there, for a minute, like a teenage boy who had just been dumped by his prom date.
His feelings for her really weren’t conflicted at all. In his heart, he knew that his marriage was over, and he wanted to consummate that knowledge with Chaitanya. And maybe start a new life. It was liberating to acknowledge that he wanted to sleep with Chaitanya, because she was someone he wanted to start a new life with, or could. It was never like that with his mistress.
He sat down on a log, just outside the glow of the fire, and watched the Light Dancer finish her set. Most of the children had gone home now, so her audience had thinned, but was nonetheless still enthusiastic enough to groan loudly when she stopped and began to put her performance gear away into her beaded satchel.
The Light Dancer sat down beside him, “You’ve been staring at me for a while, y’know, so its obvious we should meet. I’m Tracy. And of course, you’re Alexander Schuyler. I’m Amanda’s best friend.” She elided words when she spoke, everything about her flowed, like a creature of water, which maybe was why she was attracted to fire.
“How do you know who I … ?”
“You’re the only single man at this retreat, Alex.”
“Well, actually I’m in the middle of a trial separation, so I’m not exactly single.”
“Pardon me. I heard otherwise.” There was no mockery or irony in her response, but neither was there any indication she believed his claim. He was certain she didn’t care one way or the other.
After a several second silence she said, “I’m going to check out the glowing plankton. There’s a bloom at the tip of the peninsula. You should come with me. Bring your sneakers, not your sandals. The crabs are due any moment now, and the forest path is a bit rough.” He noticed that she remained barefoot.
All of her was a picture of femininity (wide hips, full breasts and lips, kinky reddish blonde hair) except for her feet, which were coarse and calloused from walking barefoot all the time. He followed behind her. He found her lithe predatory movements alluring. He stayed close behind her and bumped in to her several times when she stopped to scope out a path through the crabs.
Perhaps 100 steps from the cove where the plankton were the moon went behind a cloud and the path became completely black. They both stopped in an instant, blinded by the darkness, and cautious. Still and silent, they became immersed in the sounds of the jungle. An insect buzzed with the sound of an electric field/wire. The jungle reacted to their movements, each one echoed by the rustle of animals. Behind Tracy’s back he could only just hear sounds from the bar.
Although the were not touching they were close enough that they could feel each other. He looked at her but could not see anything. The path was utterly dark but for the stars and the faint red light of the planet Mars.
She leaned over to speak into his ear. Her breast touched his shoulder. “We’re almost there. Let’s keep going. Follow close. Slow but steady. You don’t want to loose your balance. This is a bad place to fall. There are lots of crabs, and they’re just getting started.” Her breath was soft and warm. He nodded and she placed his hand in hers. She squeezed his hand slightly and said,
She continued, “C’mon, let’s get to the beach before the plankton go away. They’re not waiting for us, y’know.” She tugged his hand, which caused him to lurch, but they never let go of each other as they started carefully down the pale red path. The moon reappeared moments later, just when they arrived at the beach.
They continued their walk to the isthmus beach on an angle that intersected with the water. As they entered they saw the plankton, which glowed.
A meteor flashed across the sky. It made him think of his path, his direction, the trajectory of his life.
He reached over so that his hand touched her shoulder. He moved it down towards her breast. She intercepted it with her own hand, held it for a long breath and let go. She then rose away from him and rose with her sinewy grace.
She touched him and he felt the power of the ocean.
Once they had reached the bloom there was no rush, no where else to go to. With the absence of time, past and future disappeared too.
They stood, still holding hands, thigh deep in the sparkling, glowing water. He edged toward her, intending to kiss her. She let go of his hand the moment he began his movement, and he froze in place, unsure what to do next. While he hesitated she knelt down and scooped up plankton infused water into her cupped hands, stop straight, raised her hands above his head, and then anointed him with glowing water. She then grabbed both his hands in hers and started to laugh. He thought of anointing her but at this point they were too far along. They embraced and then fell over into the warm water. Sexually wrestling and swimming, crawling slowing toward shore, eventually making love at a point where light, water and earth met.
Venus joined their celebration by rising in the east. For a moment she shared the sky with Mars.
The soft hypnotic sound of the surf suddenly became punctuated with loud frequent clicking sounds.
Tracy woke him up hours later, shouting, “The crabs are here! Run. I’m not waiting for you.” She was laughing uproariously but in a hurry to get away. Alexander brushed sand off of himself put on his sandals and followed.
To his surprise the Fire Dancer swung herself into a small tree. “There are too many crabs and I don’t have sandals.”
“That’s crazy Tracy. I’ll carry you.”
She was laughing out loud, “No, go. You’re the crazy one. I’ll meet you at the Casa when the crabs thin out.” §
He returned to the Centro intending to have breakfast. He was early, at it was just before dawn. There were cooks preparing breakfast in the kitchen, and a couple of yoginis getting ready to salute the sun. He lay down in a hammock and fell asleep.
He was awakened by smoke. Irazú was erupting. The locals were sitting in the Centro around the radio. President Kennedy had just landed in San Jose. Everyone was talking about that, and the volcano.
The luggage of the departing guests had all been piled up at the gate at the entrance to the compound.
He looked around for signs of Tracy, but she could not be found. He wondered if she was still trapped in the tree, surrounded by clacking aroused crabs.
“Good morning, Alexander.” The shadow of Chaitanya temporarily blocked the sun. He turned to face her.
“Did you have a nice swim? I saw you walking off with Tracy.”
He thought of asking her whether Tracy made a habit of picking up all of Chaitanya’s rejects, but restrained himself. The words were far more bitter than he felt, a place he wished had been washed away. She answered his bitter question anyway, “I’ve never seen Tracy pick up any man, actually, in fact I was wondering which way she …. ” She clasped his shoulder and turned him slightly so he faced her full on. Mostly. His hammock had begun to swing slightly. He tried to place her expression, not regret, more wistful, perhaps a memory of regret. “You’re a very beautiful man, Mr. Schuyler, I can hardly blame her. I’m leaving now. Will you escort me to the bus?”
As he linked his arm with hers, he looked quickly around the compound, but Tracy was no where to be seen. To Chaitanya he said, “I’d rather be your savior, than your escort.”
“There will be no salvation for me, at least not in this life.” To his surprise, the smile that accompanied her words seemed happy, not rueful. “Save yourself, Mr. Schuyler. After all, you are the one seeking redemption. I prefer to adapt to the condition I find myself in, to pursue my dreams and revel in (celebrate) my victories.” She kissed him chastely on his cheek, clasped his hands and said farewell.
Her bus drove straight toward the volcano though there was no immediate danger to the passengers, because it too far away. The view was spectacular: fire burned rocks seared the sky, while smoking clouds bled moisture upon the earth.