Plaza de Armas, Constitución, Chile.
And now my parachute drops from dream to dream through the spaces of death. – Vicente Huidobro
Yesterday I woke up in the dorm of The Princesa Insolente hostel in Punta de Lobos, Chile. I didn’t know where I was at first, and then the first thing I thought about was whether I had snored. Lately I’ve developed a habit of reading until I’m so tired I can’t do anything else, and instead of brushing my teeth or turning off the light I just put the book off to the side and curl up slightly and go to sleep. This is a preliminary sleep, I’ll usually wake up and then get up and brush my teeth and take my clothes off, put the book on the floor, get under the covers and go to sleep for real. Sometimes this preliminary sleep is more of a half sleep and I can hear myself snoring or breathing loudly and I wake up embarrassed if I’m in a public space.
After waking up I went downstairs where the two Germans were preparing the breakfast. We did not speak Spanish. How are you? I asked one of them. Tired, he said. I looked at the items on the counter and began to name them in German: Obst (fruit), Brot (bread), Butter (butter), etc. I wondered if I looked like that old guy in the hostel who tries to speak everyone’s language, poorly. When did that transition happen? When did I go from being a normal age for a hostel to being the old guy. I told a girl in a hostel recently that I was 33 and she was surprised. I thought maybe you were 30, she said. That’s nice, I said, a lot of times I meet people and they think I’m 35.
After breakfast I took a walk to the end of Punta de Lobos and then packed up my stuff and drove into town. If my board was ready I’d grab it and head south, eager as I was to get where it was unequivocally green. But it wasn’t ready. Come back in the afternoon, Marcelo, the owner of the shop, said. Like at 1pm? I said. No, man, he said, Like at 4pm.
I went to a coffee shop called Cardumen to kill time, and ordered a latte. It was perfectly prepared and I told the guy working there that. Oh my God, I said, A real latte. No worries, he said. We take care of you here. I retreated to a corner where I sat next to an older Chilean couple and tried to write. I stared at the blank page. I didn’t want to write anything, and with every sip of caffeine my brain became more and more of a mess. I exchanged glances and smiles with the couple next to me. I enjoyed the music, which was hipster music. And then eventually I got up to leave, the writing wasn’t going to happen. I could’ve forced it, but it would’ve made my brain hurt even more. The prudent thing was to go to the park, lie down, and then look for lunch.
I slept in the park for probably 30 seconds. There was a kid sitting on the playground smoking weed and that made me uneasy, not because he was smoking weed but because I don’t like to sleep when strange people are lurking about. I actually liked that he was smoking weed, I liked the contrast of drug use with the innocence of a playground. At one point he was actually swinging on the monkey bars and I thought, You’re just a child. You’re just a 20 year old child.
At 4pm the board still wasn’t ready. Mañana first thing in the morning, Marcelo said. I exhaled, annoyed. I was hoping to leave today, I said. Get the board and head south. We agreed that I would come back at 630pm and follow him to where the repair guy was, so to kill time I went to another cafe. I ordered a black tea with coconut and a slice of cheesecake that cost five dollars. This is a terrible use of my money, I thought. But the cheesecake was delicious. It brought instant pleasure. The tea was bitter by comparison and I sat there as a girl in a black dress to my right smoked a cigarette, and a girl to my left stared, brow scrunched, at her laptop screen. Eventually she talked to me.
Do you live here or are you just passing through, she said.
I explained a bit about myself. She worked at a wine shop opposite us and explained to me a bit about the wines of the region. It was nice to talk to someone. We could’ve talked about anything, about breeding show-quality bunny rabbits, and I would’ve been enthralled. After talking to her I got up to leave and heard a whistle from across the street. It was Marcelo and he was waving my board at me. It was a wonderful sight. I crossed the street and cradled my board, checking the quality of the repairs. The repair guy had repaired everything, even things I hadn’t asked him to. The board was perfect. It felt like holding a $60,000 Picasso in my hands. It’s gorgeous, I said to Marcelo.
Wendy was of course waiting for me and we hit the road south. It was getting on towards evening. I hoped to surf but didn’t know if there was anything in the region. There were practically no cars on the road, and we raced around curves and up hills, the Pacific always glistening in the distance. We crossed rivers and wound our way down a dirt road along a lake. Finally we came back to the coast, and now the sun had almost set. I got a completo, a hotdog with tomato and guacamole, and kept driving. Cars had their lights on now and turned their brights off when they got too close. On the horizon stood the last ribbons of daylight, quickly disappearing, and Wendy and I continued south into the darkness.