The angel’s a jerk, the dog is proud, and the plane landed backwards. Time to go.
I’m no stranger to the jet-lagged delirium of a trans-oceanic red-eye flight.
I dropped a class in college because the professor’s preposterously long, slow, erudite sentences were verbal valium.
And I’ve seen The Talented Mr. Ripley.
But I have never been quite so asleep on my feet as I was in Apaneca. Three consecutive nights of inadequate sleep, bracketing a day of endlessly pacing the pavement of voting centers, had left me rather tired. Add to that the sultry Salvadoran heat. And to that an almuerzo lunch special of chicken, rice, and thick french fries, carbohydrates with a side of starch, and my eyelids weighed 17 kilograms each.
(For my American brethren, 17 kg = entertaining hyperbole for an eyelid.)
But I had an appointment at 3:00 PM (I’ll skip the 24-hour clock, in case y’all Americans are still touchy after the kilogram incident) with the zip-line people. My bleary eyes took a minute to focus on my cheap watch. 1:43.
I walked another block. Saw the same mural I’d seen the last time. The dog that barked at me before had given up on life and gone to sleep. My feet felt soaked in cement. Was I accidentally wearing two pairs of shoes? Looking down would be too much work. So sleeeepy .
Shuffled past the bus stop, where a past mayor claimed credit by plastering his name on the shelter. A few years of rough weather later, and it’s not really something one would want to be associated with. This rusty piece of junk was brought to you by the administration of…
Silly politicians, no vision in those people. I looked at the watch again. 1:44.
The church! Churches are interesting. The entrance was locked, but I’d seen the other door open. Back around the block. Past the same mural, still weird, same dog, still sleeping.
Inside the church:
One statue. An angel stomping on a grumpy devil’s head. Made the angel look like kind of a dick.
No! I walked some more, searching for something to find. Said “buenas” at varying volumes when I passed people. I wonder if they think I’m drunk? Looked at the watch. 1:44. Is that possible?
To the market across the street, where three old women with bulging bellies and sagging cheeks didn’t bother to chase the flies off the sticky table any more, but greeted me with smiles as I sat at a trestle table littered with mostly eaten pupusas.
Un cafecito, por favor. Coffee would keep me awake.
She placed the styrofoam cup in front of me. Who the hell invented that stuff? Their descendants should be punished. One of my earliest memories is of the horrible texture of those white bricks, rasping out of a cardboard box on the playground at my pre-school. Baby’s first goosebumps.
I’ve been at this table forever. A scrappy little dog gets up and barks at three schoolboys walking past. I can barely lift my head to watch. It comes over afterwards and stares at me, tail wagging with pride. Too fast for my eyes to follow. Go fetch me a nap, Fido. Pick a fight with me and I’ll kick your butt. Maybe.
I try to write something down and eventually realize that I’ve made a scribble, and the last thing I remember was riding backwards in a plane that was landing on a highway somewhere in China, and wondering if that was normal behavior.
I pay my quarter for the coffee and concentrate on lifting my feet high enough for locomotion. Head towards the zip-line office.
Two experiental hours later, two clock minutes, and I verify that they are still closed. Wander to the intersection, out of sheer inertia. Oh.
A hearse. It’s a funeral. With the entire town in attendance. I stand to the side, trying to look respectful. No sleeping at the funeral. Three men see me, detach from the procession, and approach. Uh oh.
“Are you ready?” They ask me. I don’t know. Have I made peace with myself? With my gods? Can I send a couple goodbye emails before you cook me?
Then I notice their shirts. Apaneca Canopy Tour. These are my zip-liners.
“Si” I answer, looking forward to cable-assisted flight. My eyelids weigh only 14 kg now. With luck, I won’t fall asleep while zipping…
(Read more about zip-lining with Apaneca Canopy Tour on my last El Salvador dispatch on the Ethical Traveler website here. And give it a facebook “like” just because.)