Matt CassedayShambling Through Paradise

A Few Hours in the Life

shambling through paradiseI finished work, had a short smoke, and went straight to the beach. It was late afternoon, the tide was out, the rain had stopped, the waves were steady, but not of the monstrous tourist-killing variety. I am an avid body surfer, or as I like to joke with my surfer friends, a surfer without a flotation device.  I was in the water for close to an hour, rode some waves, breast-stroked in a meter of water, dove and flopped and stroked and floated—the ocean is better than any gymnasium once you learn to move with the waves.

The early December sun was setting, an orange ball of fire squatting on the horizon. I was in the beachfront bar now, dripping salt water, cold beer in hand. All around me cameras came out, at every table someone had pulled out their electronic device and was filming the sunset. I watched it live, wondering if all of the people filming would later watch the sunset again, to see what they missed the first time. At the horizon the sun was an intense red-orange, not to be stared into for any length of time. Maybe that was why everyone was filming. I stared at the sun’s reflection in the wet sand at ocean’s edge. The sun receded as if in time lapse photography, the orange ball became a distant taillight, then gone. I’ve spoken with people who have sailed the seas, seen sunsets from every angle on the horizon in the most open of waters, but none of them had ever seen the green flash of legend—I saw it on this night, but it wasn’t a flash, just an ultimate gasp before that ball of fire vanished for the day.

The brief Costa Rican dusk was falling, so I walked to the road to wait for transportation. The bus was due, but I also had the option of the informal colectivo taxi, if one arrived before the bus. A low-riding sedan with one dim light flashed his brights as he came around the curve. I flagged him down. I threw my beach towel on the front seat and set my wet ass down on a seat that was broken down to the base—I immediately sunk in and felt the support springs pushing , straining to break through the flimsy seat. The seat belt would not connect, so I held it in place as we barreled up the mountain.

A Quepos mother and son shared the ride in the back seat behind me. They knew the driver and their conversation was animated as he zoomed up the hill, passing a slow bus on a curve. The springs of the seat smacked into my butt with every jolt of the car. The driver occasionally turned his head toward the back seat to address his friends. I noticed the windshield on my side was broken, cobwebbed, like a rock had hit it from the outside…or maybe it was a skull that had struck it from the inside, when the crazy, unlicensed driver turned his head to converse with his passengers in the back seat, and the poor fool in the front seat, holding his useless unconnected seat belt while the springs of the broken seat dug into his butt just before he flew headlong into the windshield when the brakes were slammed all of a sudden…but no, not on this night. My 500 colon chofer dropped me safely near my apartment.

At the supermercado I bought eggs, bananas, refried beans and a few beers. I walked the steep hill to where I live, went inside, opened a beer and turned on my computer. Outside, the barrio hummed with activity. Inside, the world of right now awaited me—emails from work, messages on facebook, the news sites selling outrage and fear, this outside world that seemed more absurd with each passing day went for my throat, but it would all have to wait. This day was done, another day in paradise in the books. I shut it all down and said to myself, ‘buenas noches’.