I’m currently ‘reading’ Water for Elephants via Audible.com. I think it’s another case of where the audio version outdoes the printed word. Sara Gruen’s book is written from the perspective of the young and the old Jacob Jankowski. Each of the Jacobs has a different reader rather than a single actor trying to portray both parts giving the story a unique ‘feel.’
The old Jacob is 90, or perhaps 93, and, naturally he thinks about the aging process. Looking in the mirror one morning he observes, ‘I still expect to see myself. Instead I find an Appalachian apple doll…I can’t find myself anymore. When did I stop being me?’
I know the feeling. I go to shave myself and it’s my father’s face in the mirror instead of mine. I look at my gnarled and twisted fingers. They aren’t mine; they’re my mother’s. Sometimes, riding on the bus I look up and catch a glimpse of an old man in the rear view mirror. I know it’s me, but I wish it wasn’t.
What a strange day. It’s like something happened overnight that I wasn’t aware of. Moved into some kind of parallel universe, sort of. I mean Where IS everybody? I needed to go into David to do my pre-weekend shopping. Usually I have to stop a couple of times in the 150 yard hike out to the bus stop, but not this morning. Nobody home.
It was a short wait at the bus stop. One came by at 9:15. Now lots of times the nine o’clock buses are lleno (full) packed and will just pass by because there isn’t even standing room. I’ve had to pass up as many as three buses because they were ‘como latas de sardinas’ (like cans of sardines. Isn’t my Spanish getting better?). But this time there were only four people on a 36-passenger bus and only one young Indian girl and her baby got on before we got to the InterAmericana, three kilometers down the hill.
There was a net gain of two riders between ‘El Cruce’ (where the Boquerón road crosses the InterAmericana) and the 20 kilometers of so to President Martinelli’s Supper 99 supermarket which is the outer edge of what one would consider downtown David. From there to the terminal I was the ONLY passenger and the driver took side roads the buses never travel on which was cool because I got to see new things.
At the terminal I always hop on the Dolega bus since they depart every 10 minutes and pass by Plaza Terronal where the El Rey supermarket that I wanted to shop at is located. This is a very popular bus because people who work at Conway (Panama’s Target) Panafoto (think Best Buy) and other stores at Terronal use this bus and it’s general standing room only. Today it wasn’t even half full when it left the terminal.
The REAL Twilight Zone, however, was El Rey. Those of you familiar with Florida, El Rey is a Panamanian version of Publix. My footsteps nearly echoed off the walls. I’ve never seen it so empty. I asked the cashier if it was a holiday or something since it seemed as if the entire province hadn’t checked in at dawn. She just shrugged. ‘Es temprano,’ (it’s early) she said.
The normal hustle and bustle of the terminal at 11;30 a.m. was subdued. The Boquerón bus was in its slot and I was on my way home after a 15 minute wait with the bus less than half full. I haven’t the slightest idea what’s going on. I think I’ll take a nap and hope everything returns to normal when I wake up.
I’m back on line, and had the best night’s sleep in nearly three months. What’s happening? Well, I moved again, that’s what. As regular readers of this increasingly irregular blog know, the lease on the house here in Boquerón ended at the end of November, and the house actively went up for sale. I was assured by the owners that I would have at least 30 days notice if the house was sold in which to find new accommodations.
I have enjoyed the security of the last two-year lease and have come to love this little neighborhood and the people that live here. I certainly don’t care to move. So, when a lady three doors away said she wanted to rent her house and would I be interested I decided, after a week’s contemplation, to move there. We had a lease drawn up for a year with a continuing option, went to the notary’s office in Bugaba and I spent several days dragging my junk up the little hill to the new house a hundred yards away. You never really know how much crap you have in your life until it becomes necessary to move it. That’s what I really liked about living on my boat. I spent nine months in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala and yet I was home every night.
I was almost instantly sorry that I’d decided to move on day one. First of all, the new house was stiflingly hot. The construction is typically Panamanian. That is, the walls are cement block. Not the thick block we’re used to in the States, but block that is half as thick. Probably a cost-saving design for countries where people don’t have as much money as they do in the States. Anyway, when the walls are up steel girders are installed, a galvanized tin roof goes on and a suspended ceiling with drop-in panels finishes it off. There’s no insulation between the ceiling and the roof and now, at the height of the dry season the temperature in the space between the ceiling tiles and the roof rises to nearly unbearable levels.
Of the two air conditioning units in the house I only had use of one. It was in the back bedroom and was an old window-banger type installed through a hole in the wall. Gaps of a quarter of an inch were visible all around, and with five panes of glass missing from the jalousie windows cooling the room was nearly impossible.
And the place was noisy. At the old house I could hear roosters crowing all day long, but they were about 50 yards away. At the new house there were dozens of roosters 25 feet away and they crowed, like clockwork at midnight, 2:10 a.m., 3:40, 4:15 and 5:55. Plus the next door neighbor’s two dogs barked at everything that moved between dusk and dawn.
I caught a break on the second of March, though. I got a call from the landlady’s daughter. She said her mom was very sick and that the doctor wanted her to move back into the house here in Boquerón since the house she was living in in Bugaba was still under construction and the dirt and noise wasn’t conducive to a good recovery. Her mother, she said, would return my deposit to me so I’d end up living in the house for three months but only paying for two.
A quick email to the landlord of the old house was all that was needed to be reinstated there. So, over the last week I packed all my stuff and moved once again. You never realize how much crap you have in your life until you have to move it somewhere.
When I mentioned to my neighbors that Gladis was going to be moving back in to her house there was a lot of eye rolling. She is NOT popular here. Everyone asked if I had a lease, and when I said I did they all said, “Then tell her you won’t move.” I didn’t get into how I didn’t like Gladis’s house, so I settled for, “To what purpose? If she’s sick and I say I won’t move then I’m a bad guy. What do I get out of being a bad guy? Nothing.”
So, here I am, right back where I started. Who knows how long I’ll be here since the house is for sale. I’m not looking forward to having to move again.
Oh, the only bad thing about the move is that there’s a tree just on the other side of the fence here that’s in bloom and the pollen is absolutely kicking my butt.