“Where are you going?”, says the parking lot attendant. We’d just ridden down the hill to the ferry terminal, trying to beat time. The night before was a late one. After a drenching day in the mountains and rainforest, there had been many cigars, much swimming, and much rum. Much rum.
“To the Culebra ferry”
It’s a bleary, stuffy, morning and the hazy sun promises overbearing heat.
“Go! Go! Go! What are you doing standing here?!”
Stray dogs in the terminal. The sun too jarring. U.S. agents checking for who knows what. Board the boat, and push off to sea, watching Fajardo fade away.
Ten minutes on, the ferry is heaving and rolling. It’s too early to be doing this shit. The breakfast of black hotel coffee has become regrettable. Churn. Attendants walk the aisles with barf bags for the imminently ill. But the real smasher is the dramamine. It helps seasickness (much needed on this morning) surely, but the things it does to the mind are warped. Thoughts become soggy, everything is distant. You speak, but don’t connect your mind to the words. Despite your outward lucidity, you can’t seem to keep track of the present. How is this stuff legal to sell over the counter?
We arrive, and after a much needed stop at an empanada stand, we hop a colectivo and ride to Playa Flamenco. The island is barren, sun-parched – the sky is huge in the way it is always huge on small islands. The driver has a beer.
Playa Flamenco is a secluded cove. Other than a few makeshift facilities and a few food stands, the beach is wild. And stunning. Seawater cannot get any clearer than the seawater here. The smell of grilling wafts by occasionally. The food is delicious.
Some distance away are a couple of armored tanks, leftover from the days when the U.S. military used this shore as a firing range and training ground. Rusted hulks half buried in the sand, every last inch of them covered in painting.
You could disappear on this island for a longtime. To camp for a couple of months here would be a dream.
But we had to catch the last ferry back.
In the town, teenagers dive off the pier, swimming as the sunset begins. The departing ferries are a zoo. The end of the President’s Day weekend – hoards of high-schoolers singing along to Spanish rock savoring every last minute of the holiday. Loudly. One of those “Shut the hell up!” moments. But you can’t say it, because you’re kind of there too. Your insides softly lamenting the passage of time while still trying to wrench out all the last juice.
No matter. That night we ate, and swam, and smoked, and drank, and talked outside for hours. The next morning we left Puerto Rico for the barren and cold north.