The End of
Mr. Hulot's HolidayIt's late April so it's time for us to leave Puerto Perdido. We put my swimsuit in mothballs, clean up the shack, bar the windows and doors against the sand and the siroccos of the summer. We say good-bye to the beach and the sun and the gentle waves that slap up against the shore. We say farewell to suntanned shoulders and peeling noses and the mosquitoes that come to sup on our blood all the long night.
We say good-bye to the nightly margaritas and the dogs that bark from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. without stop. We say good-bye to the grackle that nests in the ficus next to my bedroom and wakes me up with a beep --- I swear --- exactly like an electronic alarm clock.
We say good-bye to the ants that erupt nightly from the woodwork and live (and die) in the speakers of my computer. We say good-bye to the scorpions that, on occasion, nest inside my shoes and surprise me in the mornings by being so irritated when I stick my feet in their bedroom.
We say farewell to the geckos that run willy-nilly across the ceiling of the kitchen at inopportune times, and at odd intervals make their strange gecko noises (what one famous writer called the "kissy-kissy"). Too, we say adios to the colonel bird, with its mournful cry from the next canyon over --- the sweet sad sound that echoes across the hills at night.
We say good-bye to the evenings when we come home and turn on the spigot and nothing comes out because there has been a leak in the toilet that we've been meaning to get fixed but we never got around to, and since they turn on the water only every third day to fill the tank on the roof it will mean that for the next two days we'll be giving ourselves what they call a "Tijuana bath" --- a rag moistened from the five-gallon jug we use for drinking water.
We say good-bye to the water that does, on occasion, actually flow from the spigot, which may be good enough for mopping the floors or flushing the toilet or taking a shower (with the eyes and mouth shut tight) but which one never drinks, since it's drawn from the latrine and garbage area just outside Puerto Perdido, thus sporting an exotic collection of bacteria, viral infections, green floaty things that you don't want to hear about and, for all we know, ebola.
We say good-bye to that miserable joke that for some reason gets repeated here endlessly. I swear, I've heard this one or its variation about 1,000 times --- I even heard it once when I was waiting to fly out of the Huatulco airport, being repeated (as if it were a koan) by a six-year-old Mexican kid:
Que entra parado, sale mojado, y oliendo pescado?
Strictly translated, it means:
What goes in standing up (or, better, erect) and comes out all wet, and smells like fish?
The answer: Un buzo (someone in a wet suit who just got out of the ocean).
It strikes me that this nationally known bit of doggerel is not unlike the ones we used to fabricate from the poems they made us memorize in school. I recall one by Robert Frost about stopping in the woods on a snowy night that got changed to:
My little horse must think it queer
That I stop to give it to him
In the ear.
Or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's sappy poem about the village square that got wonderfully transmogrified into:
Under the spreading chestnut tree,
The village idiot stands
Amusing himself by abusing himself
And catching it in his hands.
We also get to say farewell to our weekly visits to the telephone company, trying in vain to get plugged into the world. The last time we were there, the lady said (again) that there were no connections to be made in our neighborhood and there would be none any time in the foreseeable future. We have to wait until any of our neighbors who has a telephone either moves to Ouagadougou or dies. Since people never move out of here, even to Ouagadougou, our only recourse is to wait until flowers and wreaths and weeping ladies dressed in black appear next door and then hurry over to the Compania de Telefonos and lay claim to the vacated line.
It's time to depart and I feel like I'm in the last scene of "Mr. Hulot's Holiday": The sand is blowing across the oceanfront roads, the fireworks went off last week for Semana Santa, that same old song is winding down on the phonograph --- only it's the radios playing at the public market --- and all the gringos are packing up their butterfly nets and tennis rackets and heading back to the place where the sun don't shine, at least not as fiercely and as well as it does here.--- Carlos Amantea
§ § § This article appeared at salon.com in slightly diffferent form. § § §