I’m up here in the occasional cool of Mabrouka’s cockpit with an emaciated afternoon wind sidling through. It gets up enough energy a minute or so at a time to make it almost pleasant. Angry pewter thunderheads are growling over the inland hills, complaining to have been shoved up into the heights by the muggy breeze, but knowing all the while that they’ll escape bondage to come romp along the coast as the sun relinquishes its hold on the day. Still, the thick air clings in my armpits, the crooks of my elbows, behind my knees and various unmentionable places. It has no sense of propriety.
A ballad shivers in Spanish out over the water of the marina from the new restaurant at the head of the dock while the silver mylar streamers tied in the rigging of boats around me shimmer, intent on rustling away the little black and grey swallows that pillage the harbor air for insects from resting on the lifelines and stays. Bird calls punctuate the day and fish break the surface with the splashes of life and death battles being waged out of sight in the silt brown water below. The marina is quiet enough that these sounds predominate except when the murmur of cars and the occasional growl of trucks on the road nearb
y remind me that we are nestled here like a barnacled rock on the shore of a sprawling city.
It’s been an unusually active day for me. I was up a little after 8am, still groggy from a long, but fitful and sweaty sleep as I scooped myself into a pair of shorts, heaping in one leg at a time like piles of mud, and squirming a tee shirt over my head in reverse imitation of a snake shedding its skin. I’d found excuses over several days to avoid a grocery run, but could delay no longer so, instead of just ambling on my bike across the road to Rico’s for coffee and toast, I went equipped with my panniers for the additional mile to Walmart.
Thus inspired to be diligent with chores for the day, I returned from shopping to bury my head in the bilges, using up old varnish-stained rags to wipe up the black gunk that seems to grow down there in the damp while I’m not looking. An hour into that job, my tee shirt soaked and my glasses blurred with sweat, I was called out of the depths to respond to a voice from above, “Is anyone aboard?” Then, when I stuck my head out of the companionway to see Darrel all bright and shiny in the noon sun, “Wanna go for a bike ride?”
“What time is it?” I asked as a delaying tactic while I decided whether I was up to just that sort of exertion.
“Around noon,” he said, after which I asked myself, “Bike riding?” I followed up with, “…at noon, …in Mexico, …in the middle of September?” We’d established an early morning riding routine that was being disrupted by weather of late, and Darrel’s look of eager expectation wouldn’t allow me to disappoint him with a negative reply to any of my several silent internal questions.
I did hedge on the schedule, though. “When do you want to go? Will one or two o’clock be okay?” So it was settled. I’d call him between one and two and we’d set off.
We had a good ride, although as a quest for mileage without puddles of rainwater or deltas of mud and gravel fanning across the road, it was a failure. My Montague Paratrooper, with its olive drab paint job and rusty front shocks, is inured to such affronts, but Darrel protects his brand new carbon fiber Trek (“Trick,” he says.) X-whatever from the tawdry attentions of those dirty road hazards with a vengeance. Through devious detours from road to sidewalk and the occasional dismounting, his shiny lime green-anodized hubs were nearly as immaculate when we got back from our 15 mile circuit as when we’d left.
After our return an hour or so later, I sought relief from the hot sun by hiding out below reading under the mechanical breeze of my salon fan, but the sweat that was supposed to be cooling my body still tickled in small brooks down my temples and arms. After a while the reading teamed up with the warmth to make me drowsy, so I went topside to my cockpit lounging area to stretch out in the shade and the emaciated breeze to turn a few more pages until nap time took over. I hadn’t been dozing long before the sun got low enough to evade the dodger and turn my spot into a tanning bed, so I went back down below to read some more and snack on cookies and milk.
I’ve been up topside again writing for about an hour. The sun dropping down through the clouds offshore has turned the light around me to the tawny color of a lion’s mane and the breeze has risen and shifted to pick up from the direction of the grey and silver clouds that have been stacked over the hills. Their return to the coast has brought the rain and the silver mylar streamers have turned to shoo away the birds from the other direction. Though I should move below to keep my laptop from getting wet, I’d rather endure the errant drops that evade the dodger to land in chilly slaps on my left knee than wade into the humidity below. I think I’ll sit here for a while, perhaps popping a cold beer, to watch the rain make circles on the water and the western sky change into a patchwork of orange fjords and lakes in a landscape of darkening grey.