Don’t Sweat It (World #3)
From the baggage claim onward, things are different. He thought it would feel like a vacation. Although he was present for reasons far beyond poolside mixed drinks with a side of gossip and over indulging at the beaches, he didn’t expect this place to present this offsetting welcome.
The bright sun shone through the glass, as if to blind visitors of what awaited them under it’s ever-reaching embrace. The dark complexions of those lining the exit gates were silhouetted against it, their bright eyes contrasting their skin. The dark and light. The antithetical ends of the spectrum. It was like this place was keeping something hidden from the jump, eager to see if he would seek the truth somewhere in the middle.
He looked out the window of the bus, dirty and grumbling. It belched thick black plumes sporadically, the hue darkening with each bump in the excuse for a road. He was so tired. He remembered counting 137 palm trees before a screeching halt awakened him. “Aquí estamos,” called the driver. Lowering his things, he thought he saw a tarantula scurry away.
Not the time to be playing tricks on yourself, he thought. He flopped on his bed, or maybe this would be considered a cot? Power hungry flies were fighting for the front row seat at the alter of the flickering light, buzzing lazily all the while. Sweat begins to bead. Then run. Then drip. The same sun that blinded him at the airport was now offering a blanket and a caressing lullaby. Eyelids fluttering, fluttering. He had flown sixteen hours non-stop to get here and was feeling bloated and immobile. If he could just close his eyes… and let the sweat… run… KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! He would have to sleep on the bus.
The cane field, albeit serene, was located far from all else. The journey there was rough and cultured, the kind that affords no chance at sleep. Tin roofs and off-angled supports dotted the village, the way an abstract artist would try to enjoin a myriad of shapes as puzzling as they are elegant in their perception, perfectly lit at his persnickety gala. It’s funny how everyone tries to be correct about art, he thought.
Children scurried in his wake, the knowledge of his arrival preceded him. In the fields he began to play with them, eager as the most loyal golden retriever seeing his master return after all hope of his accompaniment had been lost. They just wanted to play. Their mothers worked in the fields around the clock, only having time to cook what little they had. The fathers; what a lackluster vicious cycle they were. Hope without direction, escapist desires without a vessel, and easily accessible alcohol without a price tag. He wondered where in the woodworks they made their vagabond lifestyles. Do they miss their young? Do their children yearn for them? They just wanted to play. To play and not think. To let the sweat run where it may. To laugh and have it trickle down their noses. They didn’t have birthday parties. Ne’er a clown for entertainment or cakes for decorating or candles for ambiance. They would never sing happy birthday and stumble over which name to say first or extend the chorus into colloquial comedy. They just wanted to play and be played with.
He wondered if he was making a difference. His thoughts weren’t pure because he felt sorry for them. He felt uncomfortable that his presence, that of a sinner – lost and reaching, could alone be a godsend. Assume your role, he thought. A girl approached suddenly and wrapped her arms around his midsection with enough force to force him to stabilize them both. She wouldn’t have cared if they had tumbled into the grass, it couldn’t possibly hurt. She grabbed his hand and tried to impress with her bilingual talents. When he thought he heard her speak of love, she turned and waved at one of the angular lean-tos. Her mother looked on from beneath the shadows with a look of peculiar pride, encouragement even. An enlightening bead of sweat trickled down his neck and released a sinuous shiver. “I can’t take you away from here,” he thought. He stared at her blankly, not knowing how to exist in this moment. An ambiguous smile and a less forceful hug were all he could muster. He felt the delicacy of her back and wished he could do something. He wondered yet again if he was making a difference.
Maybe it was manifested in understanding. The people here were passed over, relegated to live life on a treadmill. And although their fault was that of nature, there was an innate beauty to it all. They would never try to be anything but what they are, never lie to get ahead, never entrench themselves amongst societal barriers, and never destroy. In that moment, he realized that the truth had revealed itself. The spectrum had been narrowed to what was possible, what was visible. All that matters is what we can see and how we interpret it, he thought. Truth. As this cleansing wave of dawning washed through him, the rain began to fall. He turned for cover, but dug his heels in the red dirt at the sight of the villagers running out to the field. A child grabbed his hand and they joined the crowds, hands raised in worship-like content.
He looked around him. He felt around him. The rain squirmed between the hairs on his forearms, his shirt tightened around his chest, the field of sugarcane welcomed the precipitation with open arms like those of its inhabitants. The sun beat down from an open sky, reflecting off raindrops that were pelting the happy children and filling newly formed puddles in the lumpy terrain. Plip plop, drip drop. The sweat continued, but this was of a puzzling sort. He couldn’t tell whether the beads of sweat or precipitation were more prevalent at the moment. And he didn’t care. All that mattered was the cleansing. He was no longer weary of his thoughts. He had only one persistent stream of consciousness:
Maybe this is heaven.