The road to life is rocky
And you may stumble too
So while you point your fingers, someone else is judging you
Love your brother man
Don’t let them change you, or even rearrange you, oh no!
We’ve got a life to live
They say only the fittest of the fittest shall survive
You aint gonna miss your water
Until your well runs dry
No matter how you treat him
The man will never be satisfied
-Bob Marley, Could You Be Loved – 1/23 Gulfo de San Blas, Panama
I write this from Chichimi Key, in the San Blas Islands of Panama… my prison. I’m very sick today, I don’t know why. Time doesn’t pass on this beach where I’ve laid for countless hours beneath a palm tree, and I’m surrounded by the glassiest turquoise ocean I’ve ever seen. It’s not so bad, I just… well let me explain.
I woke up to a terrifically windy morning with Rosie in Santa Marta. We took a taxi across the city to a food market. There we began shopping hectically, provisioning the boat like mad people with 6 days’ worth of meals for the four of us. Rosie was a lot of fun as usual, crazy and speaking Spanish fast, continuing to help me learn. The Colombian market was a maze between the alleyways with all kinds of different food and interesting people mingling around. We charged through the place buying stuff and filling my backpack, turning corners to new parts of the market and never looking back. We then went to a proper grocery store and finished the shopping. My backpack was now incredibly heavy and we made it back to the boat by 8:30, still with plenty of time to leave. Malcolm and Alessandro were doing good, they fueled up the boat and now our new our person crew was ready to set sail.
The ARC was ready too. The problem was the wind. In the end, it turned out to be just too strong, and Santa Marta closed the port, not letting any ships leave. The ARC was now delayed a day. That was fine with me, I had writing to try and catch up on. For some reason though, even with my whole day I was unable to.
I worked on my article for a while, then took a break and went for a bike ride. It was an experience, I biked far through crazy traffic back to the fruit market. I found myself exploring down all kinds of colorful alleyways, passing people, dogs, garbage in the streets. I went through a more upscale neighborhood with Spanish architecture and soon found the main highway. I headed out of town, in the direction of the massive Sierra Nevada. The slums and ghettoes were built into the dusty mountainsides, and the houses were made of all kinds of materials. Be it tires, garbage, whatever they had or could find it seemed like. Garbage was everywhere, the sides of the highway were ditches full of it. It blew past the hills, in some places it clung to the trees and bushes and covered everything. The place was tragic, but it was beautiful, it was foreboding and strange to me. It was unlike any place I’ve ever been, with high mountains on the horizon. There were other people on bicycles, but the traffic was violent with huge trucks carrying oversized loads. At some point I was photographing and kids waved at me to take their picture. Then they ran over asking for money. I would have given them some but I had none with me. Just a reminder that when you’re standing there with your camera, you are now a target. Otherwise my skin is dark and I think I blend in.
I went home and ended up being coaxed into going to the party instead of working. There I said final goodbyes to Troels who was staying to hitchhike through Colombia. I went back to the boat and then Rosie showed up, incredibly upset. She was mad at Mally.
“I go back to Bogota,” she said, “I no coming sailing… I leave. Mally is no nice, he is a bad man, joo will see. I leave tomorrow… I no come back. When I leave I no come back…never … never.” I had honestly thought this lady to be too emotional and that at sea she could be a real problem. But I liked her, and I liked her teaching me Spanish. I wanted her to come. She went on and on about how bad Mally is, and honestly I can see what she is talking about. “He cares about no one but himself.” Malcolm really doesn’t show her much love, and he is impossible to communicate with. I understand. I hugged Rosie, and at some point she made me cry too! I convinced her to come and give him another chance. “Thank you for your love,” she said. When I saw Mally I asked him to talk to her. Then I went to try and write and became frustrated when I was too tired to.
This morning we got up and left the dock. The wind was light in Santa Marta bay. Mally and Rosie had made up. The ARC was all present and the 40 boats sailed together into the sun beaten sea, past the rocky island at the bay’s entrance. At least most all the boats were present… some cautious ones stayed behind. The winds seemed light, but at sea… the forecast was not good. Soon we felt it. The 5-10 knot wind picked up to 15-20. People were talking about it on the radio. The swell kicked up as we left the mountainous Colombian coast in the distance. Then the wind raised more, to 25 knots, then to 30. Then it was sustained over 30 and gusting up to 40. The waves became monstrous and we surfed them. At one point a wave broke in as I was laying with my eyes closed, and suddenly I was underwater! What a shower! The waves entered the boat like that 3 times. We followed the fleet, but they mostly went faster than us and soon were distant. I was excited and having fun, steering down those monsters. Rosie was not happy with it, Malcolm was worried. Then I went to make some food and that drove me to sea sickness, I suddenly had a quick and violent puke over the side. After that I took a nap.
When I woke up, the wind and sea had calmed down a bit. Still, we were hand steering the boat, unable to use the autopilot in the heavy seas. I took my turn at the wheel. Then Malcolm went wandering on deck and was messing about with the whisker pole. I thought to myself ‘oh god what is he doing now?’ He decided to set the whisker pole to pole out the job and put the sails In a ‘wing and wing’ position. The sails were reefed down in the heavy weather, and when he did this I thought it was a foolish move; I would only use that point of sail in light weather. Allesandro agreed with me, saying what Malcolm was doing was bad and only making the sea sick Rosie that much worse. But we let it pass and sailed like that for most of the afternoon. It was just one more thing making me lose faith in Malcolm.
When the wind began to change however, keeping that point of sail became more delicate. As Malcolm was steering he would stray off the compass course ever so slightly and boom! The jib would backwind violently in the strong breeze. Then to correct it, due to the wing and wing position, boom! The main would backwind. This would have caused a jibe and potentially destroyed the boat except for the preventer line we had; preventing the jibe. Malcolm, seemingly unable to keep the proper compass course, continued to do this again and again and it would stress me out during the time the main was backwinded. All that force was put just on the preventer line. This was bad sailing but I just let it pass, it’s really not worth saying anything to Malcolm because like I said, he’s impossible to communicate with. But then the breeze kicked back up. It went to the 35-40 knot area as the sun got low. Now the wing and wing position was really not working and when I came on deck from my rest Malcolm was sailing along with the main backwinded. Then flop! The jib would backwind. I was watching him steer. Then flop! The main would be prevented from a ruthless jibe yet again. Each time this would happen the boat would shudder. But watching him steer… it was just the compass spinning away until the jibe, then spinning the other way until the jibe back. The storm was back, we were hardly moving, and Malcolm was out of control of the boat.
Now I had to say something. “Hey Malcolm, we should probably change the sails and get this boat moving properly. He just stared vacantly ahead like he was in some trance, and I’d flinch every time the boat would jibe. …Umm, hello! Wake up! I thought. After a few minutes he started the engine. No! I thought. “Malcolm there’s plenty of wind we should be able to sail in this.” I said. But he didn’t answer me. I’m wondering how I’m supposed to sail across the Pacific with this guy who is really so dependent on that engine as a crutch. Won’t have that in ocean.
Still the boat was not under control and I thought it simply was because he wasn’t steering properly. (That wasn’t the case, it was because we weren’t using the wind properly, we had nearly no control.) He’d jibe. “We should probably take the whisker pole down, and move both the sails to the same side.” Allesandro suggested. “I agree!” I chimed in immediately. “No, no.” Mally decided right away. I knew that was obviously the right thing to do, what I didn’t know was why Mally was so difficult. He just doesn’t seem very intelligent. He’s the kind of person who will cut me off if I’m telling a story, or telling about anything that’s not pertinent information. Even if it is pertinent information, he just doesn’t want to hear it, it takes some brain power to find other people’s thoughts useful/ interesting. I respected that and had already ceased any superfluous conversation in our relationship, but in this case, the only way to get through to him about the proper action to take was to tell him and then wait a bit until he thinks it was his idea. Meanwhile he has to shake the boat to pieces, and at some point I opened my big mouth and let fly that we need to get control of this boat. There was some anger which surfaced and I spoke about sailing in the Pacific. And I said at one point, “My life is in your hands man.” To which he yelled at me, “I know that!” Then he came up with the idea to take the damn whisker pole down, put the sails on the same side (not wing and wing) and sail properly. Oh wow, miraculous, we’re sailing great now and flying along at nearly nine knots. Well let’s turn the engine off then and go back to normal. The night began.
No autopilot could be used in these stormy conditions, so we’d have to hand steer through the night. I took on at 11 and let the rest go to sleep. Now I was alone and the wind was blowing up to 40, and the waves had grown to the biggest waves I had ever seen at sea. They would come in sets of monsters over 10 feet high to disrupt the otherwise normal flow of waves. I’d feel it grab the boat, and we’d be lifted until the whole empty moonlit darkness would span out to the horizon. Then we’d drop into the deep trough between the two waves and the world around me would become one of black shimmering motion. Sometimes they’d crest and break, I’d see the foam racing towards me, it would hit the boat and give a little splash. When these sets of waves would come I would stand up fast, put my strength into the wheel and surf them. As I got used to the movements as the hours passed I would surf them expertly. Occasionally one would come from the side and slam us, a rogue wave! I needed to be ready.
I stood watch for two hours until 1AM, that’s when I was supposed to give it up to Malcolm but he wasn’t waking up. I figured I’d let him sleep, I was having a really fun time and felt capable to steer through the stormy night. I prided myself in keeping the perfect compass course, not letting the boat jibe once, not even letting the sails luff. A good sailor never lets the boat jibe uncontrolled I thought, even with the preventer. But then after two more hours of sailing, at 2:45 Malcolm comes up to relieve me. Of course he immediately threw the course off and let ‘er jibe! I told him I had been here for four hours, sailing great and that hasn’t happened once. Then he did it again. “Strike two.” I actually said out loud.
Now I went down and went to bed and I hear boom! It happened again. Allesandro was on deck as well. Then… slam! Again. This one was followed by a “Mike!” Oh I was pissed already as I rose from the couch, (because Rosie had taken my bed.) I give up my perfect quiet sailing for five minutes to YOU and you break the boat. I went up on deck to see what was wrong and the sails were flapping as we sat rudely broadside to the fearsome waves. “The steering’s gone.” They told me. What, I took the wheel. To my horror it made many crunching noises and wouldn’t move any further to one side. I did not know what to do and my anger turned to fear. We got the boat somewhat under control, the sails filled and backwinded, and Malcolm went below to check the steering. Then like magic the steering came back. We were sailing again and I went to find out what had happened. Turns out the problem was in fact still unsolved. We had steering because Malcolm was halfway inside the compartment with the steering, physically holding it together. He was making all kinds of noises like an upset animal. I realize now that this was foolish, (the steering had gone because a bolt had dropped out and the two plates had separated.) … Malcolm asked for a hammer and string. I suppose he could have possibly tied the plates together, but he goes hammering away under there.
“At least we can steer now with you holding it, don’t break it the rest of the way,” I said mostly to myself. He was screaming and yelling, saying fuck this fuck that. He always does that, it’s just kind of the way he talks. It’s usually just funny and easily ignored but it was really starting to bother me at the moment. He’s yelling at me to bring him tools, and by god I am looking for them in the chaotic horde which is his bedroom. But as I’m searching frantically, he keeps yelling across the boat at me. I’m now bringing him many different bolts to replace the missing one, but each time I’m greeted with a shout that it’s the wrong size. I really can’t find this bolt he needs, and I take out all his tool boxes and start seriously tearing through them searching. Ignoring his shouts and groans and moans all the while. Rosie’s watching from the couch. But I can’t find it.
“Where’s the FUCKING BOLT!” He’s yelling at me over and over. Finally I explode, – “I CAN’T FIND YOUR FUCKING BOLT. TELL ME WHERE THE FUCK… IN THIS FUCKING BOAT… IS YOUR FUCKING BOLT.” There’s a moment of silence and I go back to searching. I slam a door. Eventually I don’t find the size he needs to fit the plates together, and he finds the bolt which had fallen laying on the floor below him. He can’t put it back on however, until he can stop the boat. “Take the sails down,” he tells me. That’s a bad idea.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“WE NEED TO STOP THE BOAT- TAKE THE SAILS DOWN!”
“Taking the sails down won’t stop the boat, we’ll still be moving.” I said calmly, “We’ll just be less stable.” He ordered it again. In my opinion, we take the sails down, then we’re bobbing in the water with no control, one of those rogue waves comes along and it flips us. So what do you do when you’re given bad orders? Do you follow them or not? Not, I decided, when I feel my life depends on it. I didn’t have to do anything because Malcolm was trapped under there holding the steering together. I went back out into the stormy sea. I tried to “heave to” but I don’t really know how to do that and was unable to make the boat stop. Then I realized, I know how the steering and rudder works, I completely reassembled Joshua’s rudder. We just need to stop the rudder (not stop the boat). So I just held the steering wheel with all my body and power, I held it still. First we sailed hectically in a circle doing that, but then the sails backwinded in a good way and we were able to sail a straight course while I held the wheel steady.
He fixed it. Things went back to normal. We all apologized for the chaos. “That’s how you get things fixed,” I said. But all I really felt was spite. I certainly didn’t get any credit for my idea to get the boat “stopped” (you can’t stop a boat from moving in a sea like that.) I sat there letting the adrenaline cool off while they steered until past 5AM. I thought the bolt was shaken out because of all the jibing, (Malcolm), but they assured me that wasn’t the reason… Finally I went and slept after being awake through all the night.
I woke up just a few hours later to “MIKE!” from Rosie yelling and waking me up. Oh god, I got up, went on deck, but it was okay. People were just hungry and wanted food. Cooking while sailing in heavy weather is quite difficult, so it has been my responsibility alone on this trip. I got to work still half asleep, preparing omelets. I used the avocado to put on the side because it was starting to turn, and then went making a little salad for it. I was chopping green beans and other veggies for the omelets. But it starts taking me a little while and pretty soon Malcolm and other people are yelling at me, “Hurry up!” “What are you doing?” And really, they were being absolute jerks. It’s like, shut up people, sorry if you didn’t want something nice, just shut up! I’m cooking here. Really I got quite agitated by it in the end. I took steering.
Some hours passed, the storm had started calming down. Rosie decides she wants to cook lunch, with the attitude I can’t handle it. It did bother me a bit because I had planned for lunch we just eat fruit, papaya, strawberries, some things we needed to eat before they go bad as well. But sure, cook what you want… However none of us were hungry and she decides to pull out the steak from the freezer when I had ground beef already defrosted and planned to use for today. I told her not to pull that out yet (my mistake), that I had a plan for the food, and Malcolm chimed in telling her not to. Malcolm also said to just leave the cooking to me, which I thought was unnecessary, she can cook if she wants to. Turns out I was still getting to know what Rosie is like, not rational, and when she suddenly felt cornered by the two of us she exploded in a storm of hellfire and screaming. Screaming at me, calling me names and insulting me, saying I can’t cook and she’s not going to eat anything I cook anymore. (She hadn’t eaten anything yet.) Screaming at Malcolm and throwing things at him, saying, “WHY CAN’T I COOK WHAT I WANT. WHY! WHY! WHY!” She was acting like a child throwing a fit.
So I made fruit for lunch, she wouldn’t eat it and wouldn’t talk to me. It made me feel really very bad as the hours passed. I tried to apologize to her and she wouldn’t accept it. I cannot be on a boat with someone mad at me like this, let alone the ungratefulness from all but Allesandro for my cooking. I told her she could cook and she said, “I’m not cooking anything ever.” So I was sitting at the wheel, and I started to feel like with or without Rosie around, I just didn’t want to cross the Pacific on this boat. I decided Hey, I’m just going to cry. So I did, and I cried as I was steering, and I said, “My life is too hard.” And they fucked off and went down below. Not long after I went and laid down in bed and went back to sleep.
When I woke up I was a little confused, then all the terrible sickening feelings came back as I stared around that cabin- that this is my life. Soon enough night came. The storm had mostly stopped but when Malcolm had fixed the steering he left the autopilot broken. It was another long night hand steering the boat with the engine running.
We passed other ARC sailboats in the night and by mid-morning Panama came into view as a swathe of American mountains cresting the horizon. Then we saw the low lying atolls before them. We closed in on the remote and fantastic destination, the San Blas islands. The stunning turquoise water of the shallow reefs surrounded us as we passed between the exotic palm groves on the shore.
Upon coming into the anchorage we had problems. A combination of factors… I was steering, Malcolm said to drop the anchor. Allesandro tried but the windlass wasn’t working. We drifted off the spot and I couldn’t figure out the steering momentarily because I am unfamiliar with the shifting on this boat. Malcolm yelled to Allesandro to not drop the anchor, but Allesandro can’t hear very well… too late. I’m not sure what happened with the windlass but the anchor went down and all the chain raced into the water. Now we had the problem of being anchored in a very bad spot with no windlass to pull the anchor up. Eventually they pulled the anchor up as I steered, and with much chaos and screaming, we were finally able to stop.
But now my head was spinning. I just didn’t want to be on this boat. I weighed my options. Looking one direction, I saw the South Pacific Islands… This beautiful string of palm fringed atolls edged by vibrant turquoise water. Looking the other direction, to the horizon, I saw the mountains of America. Panama, the cross roads, and it’s almost time to make a decision. Do I cross the Pacific on this boat… or not? Unfortunately of all the ARC boats I could have traveled with, I’m on Mystique Soul.
I went ashore with them and we all loved the island. It was a magical, uninhabited paradise. The water was unearthly clear, the sun beat down, the palm trees sparkled. I found exotic seashells on the beach. I walked the island with Allesandro. Even though his English isn’t 100% I poured my guts out to him about all my uncertainties, insecurities, and emotions. I told him I wasn’t sure about crossing the Pacific anymore, and he said the boat definitely isn’t ready to do that. I decided I should at least go to the Galapagos, which is how far he was travelling.
Once we were done with our walk, I saw some St. Lucia friends who are about my age. I saw Malcolm and Rosie too, and decided I just can’t stand seeing them. I ran off to snorkel the rest of the day with my friends. We saw manta rays and beautiful fish. We swam to Isla Tortuga and met the native islander man who lives on the tiny key. Hey was very friendly and gave us a tour of his island.
Throughout all of this, I hadn’t really noticed it, but I had been feeling sick. I thought maybe it was just stress, but I had diarrhea. Actually Rosie did too, possibly it came from bad food or water in Colombia. I cooked a good dinner of pasta with peppers, onions, sausage, tomato sauce with garlic bread. Later that evening I heard my stomach gurgle. Then throughout the night it was constant explosive diarrhea for me.
In the morning I was still sick, but it subsided and I tried to forget about it. I felt somewhat fatigued, but before long it was time to haul the anchor and set the course. The ARC was meeting today for a party on Chichimi Key. So we were motoring with Malcolm’s classic lackluster attitude. Why not sail in the fresh breeze? Because sailing takes some work and he really just doesn’t have it in him.
He has this really bad way about him sometimes. I was preparing us a coconut but sometimes coconuts are harder to open then other times. I guess I was taking too long so he comes to angrily ‘help’ me, trying to make me feel incompetent, grabs a sharp knife… I say “Don’t cut yourself now be careful…” So he cuts himself of course. Then goes back away to bandage himself and wait for his coconut but at some point starts yelling, he says, “Where’s my fucking coconut!?” Who raised you! I thought. “Here’s your fucking coconut.” I came up and slammed it down for him, but acting in a lighthearted way…
Allesandro had a nice app on his phone, it showed a gps point of us on the chart, and all the charts of the San Blas area. The area was dangerous navigation around the many crystal turquoise reefs. We looked and saw the channel we would take to get to Chichimi. But as we motored, we realized Malcolm had a different idea. We would set the course to take us around the backside of the island- the side exposed to the Atlantic- and get us to the anchorage that way. Didn’t seem so smart to Allesandro and I, but he’s the captain.
The sky was dark. I was being pleasant, trying to be pleasant as usual. Rosie was not. Malcolm was dreary. How can I be on a boat with these people? I was having a hard time inside my head. When at sea, I didn’t want to be there, when on land, the destinations were so fantastic I was exhilarated to be there. When on land I’d be ready to cross the Pacific, but alas, when at sea I was sure it wasn’t going to happen.
As Malcolm took us around the outside of the island, the storm was blowing. The waves grew huge. The boat with no sails up rocked around relentlessly. Malcolm was terrified. I wasn’t. I still was pleasant, saying occasional things, but since all else were silent, I grew quiet too. Oh why waste my breath. And I studied Allesandro’s chart on his phone. Yes, Malcolm doesn’t know, the fool. The reef is much bigger than he realizes, I’m sure he can’t judge with dead reckoning. We need to go farther out to sea. I guess I’ll tell him. He doesn’t care yet, he doesn’t listen, I show him the chart, but it doesn’t matter. Yep, he’s headed right for it. There it is, you can see the waves breaking. A little closer, he sees it now. Gave him enough time to let him think it was his idea and he changes course to go farther out to sea. Oh but it’s too late, the wind and waves are pushing us into it, and it’s a very big reef. It gets closer, all parties see it. Malcolm is breaking into a sweat around his sunken eyes and drooping skinny/fat face. He gives it the gas.
The waves grow bigger as the depth sounder climbs to only 20 feet beneath us now. I slip downstairs and pack my necessary belongings for a little survival into my dry bag. I watch as the reef grows closer, let’s see this ship sink. There, we see a ship wrecked on the reef as the enormous glassy waves wash against its grounded hull. We all are transfixed on its hallowed carcass, and we notice its mast lying beside it in the reef. The palms of Chichimi Key are not far behind, it will be a quick swim for me. We keep cruising along its edge and I was even slightly upset when we made it out unscathed.
No need to worry though, there’s another reef. Allesandro is steering now, and Malcolm yells to change course for 135. Allesandro and I looked as his chart, wouldn’t you know it, 135 puts us right on the reef! We were steering to clear it, our new course put us crossing right over it at a spot marked 4 feet deep. The boat draws 7 feet, so looks like we’ll really be sinking this time. Allesandro brought it up with Malcolm and was greeted by his shouting. As usual. I guess Malcolm’s chart, which was the ‘new updated version,’ declared the reef we were crossing as 14 feet while Allesandro’s said 4. While it could have been easily avoided, we would be crossing it to prove that Mally was right. Fine with me, (but upsetting to Allesandro), I knew if the boat sank then I wouldn’t have to cross the Pacific on it. We turned and headed directly for the breaking waves.
Mally stayed below. “This is a stupid decision,” the infuriated Allesandro said as he steered us into the reef. “You guys ready for some swimming?” I said to him and Rosie with a chuckle. We actually weren’t steering for the breakers, there was a deeper area we aimed for between them. We watched tentatively as the depth sounder climbed up, from 20 to 19, to 15, to 13. The waves became huge monsters of shocking turquoise as we could see the rugged coral sea bottom. 10 feet… We passed over the reef as the depth went back to 20. Well, Mystique Soul survived again. There were no further problems and we pulled alongside the other boats at the Chichimi Key anchorage.
We had missed the barbeque but I swam to shore. I swam to shore almost immediately after dropping the anchor, needing to get away from the bad vibes. Chichimi was an incredible paradise and all my friends were there. I went and talked to Tor and told him everything. How I love sailing in the ARC to these magical places, but how I can’t sail on Mystique Soul. Well he told me yeah, he knew the last crew left for a reason. I told him I didn’t want to drift across the Pacific in a life raft with Malcolm, that I would have to kill him, dry his flesh, and eat him.
Well Tor was supportive of me. I ate a coconut they gave me, but eating made me realize… I’m still sick. When I swam back to the boat they were mad at me of course, thinking I was at the barbeque without them. Yeah, yeah shut up, kill yourselves. Wow, you are supposed to love your crew on a sailboat. They are supposed to be like family in my opinion. Remember how nice it was for me on Joshua and Shalom? Here I felt bits of hatred swimming in my heart. As Rosie would say,
“No love… With Mally there is no love… he no love me… he is cold… He no love… no one.”
I spent the rest of the day swimming far and hiking all around the beautiful place. That night though Rosie really lost it. She flipped out, I’m not sure what he said to her, it doesn’t take much. She was screaming at him, and as he just blankly stared at her, she screamed louder and louder. “JOO ARE AN EEEVIL MAN! HORRIBLE! I HATE JOO! I’m leaving in Panama, joo will never see me again! He will leave you!” She pointed at me, “He will leave you,” at Allesandro. “EVERYBODY IN YOUR LIFE WILL LEAVE JOO!” I was standing in the kitchen when she threw her scalding hot coffee in his face and all over the boat, chucked the cup at him, then started finding other stuff to throw. Then I grabbed her and restrained her, and Malcolm came up with his fist in the air threatening to punch her, and now I was protecting her and yelled, “DON’T!”
Rosie slammed some doors and sulked. Mally assured me everything would be fine/better when she was gone. I agreed with him and said it wasn’t his fault, she was a psychopath. Didn’t change how I felt about Mystique Soul though. Later she came on deck while Malcolm was in his room. I talked to her for probably over two hours. At first she was mad and talked about everything bad Malcolm had ever done in his life. Interesting stuff. But as I talked to her she calmed down. You see Malcolm is bad… women are crazy, yes, but if you don’t talk to her then you can’t blame her when she gets like this. If he just went to bed with her like this do you think he’d have a very good day tomorrow? After two hours of open, honest talking in a loving way, Rosie was back to being lovely. She reminisced so fondly of her perfect family, and her apartment in Bogota.
“I ready to go back to Bogota… I no like this life…” she said. I told her I did in fact plan to leave. “I’ll go to the Galapagos,” I said. “Then probably take the cheapest flight out, to Quito, Ecuador. Maybe I can hitchhike to Patagonia, see South America a bit. Then I’ll just fly to Australia to get a job there.” She thought that sounded like a great idea and told me many times to not cross the Pacific with Malcolm. She told me I always have a home with her in Bogota.
For dinner that night Allesandro had cooked a lovely Italian pasta dish. Even though I could hear my stomach gurgling, I finished my portion. I knew it was a bad idea. My stomach continued to gurgle as I talked with Rosie. Before I went to bed it came on me… diarrhea. A couple hours into my sleeping it happened again. Then again. Towards morning it got worse, and I felt nauseous too.
I lay in bed shaking sick. When daytime arrived I was exhausted and still having attacks. I told them. They worried for me. Rosie gave me some fruit and I puked it up a few minutes later. That made her worry. I had been sick for 4 or 5 days but today it was by far the worst. Now I was puking. We weren’t planning to go anywhere. In fact Malcolm had said we may at Chichimi for 4 days because if we spent that time in Panama we’d have to pay marina fees. 4 days here didn’t sound good to anyone, especially not Rosie. I puked more throughout the day and couldn’t keep food down. “He needs the hospital!” she said. She was still angry, yelling at Malcolm. I couldn’t stand to be awake here. I went back to sleep in my room, with all those smells, colors, things which meant that I was here and that I live in this god awful place. Where I stare at this beautiful paradise of a place. But where it’s hot. So fucking hot, 95 degrees always, but in the shade of a palm tree, in the breeze, you forget where you are, who you are.
And there, to the west, are the mountains of America behind a curtain of humid Panamanian haze. There is a bridge of land here and I know where it leads. It goes to the desert, a place where people aren’t. It’s escape. There the weather is cool and dry, there I can live my own life again. Malcolm’s life, Silvia’s life, Rick Rosenberg’s life… So many problems when my life is usually problem free. Maybe this whole hitchhiking on boats things was a bad idea after all. Maybe I’ll try hitchhiking on land like those two Irish kids, or like Troels. Maybe Patagonia, or maybe… Estados Unidos… home… I would like to go to New Mexico. I’m not sure yet, but I can’t be here.
Rosie came and joined me on the beach where I had been laying half awake and half asleep all day in the sand under the palm tree. The water in the view was electric, the island was in static peace. I was so sick today, with my fatigue I could barely move. She had stolen Malcolm’s bottle of wine and was drinking it. He talked ever since St. Lucia about the special occasion, and how great it would be, when he opened that wine. Rosie laughed, “It’s okay… if he’s mad about it, I’ll kill him. I’m not afraid to go to jail. I will take a knife and cut his throat.”
“Don’t worry,” Rosie told me, “I’m your mother here, I will take care of you. You remind me of my son…”
I had a hard time thinking that day, and my thoughts of the possibilities for my coming future swirled. I didn’t drink Malcolm’s wine, just felt sad and bad and sick… trapped here on Chichimi Key.