I'm in La Paloma, a town on the coast of Uruguay, and I am the only guest in my hostel. It's the off-season, and things here are re tranquilo. I've been hanging out with the owner of the hostel, his brother-in-law, and their dog, Mandela, who follows me when I bike to the beach. I'm staying here so I have space and time to work on my article pitch, but I'll admit that I think it would be more fun to be somewhere with a few more people my age. That said - it's kind of amazing to have my days be such a blank slate. I'm going to write on that slate, literally. For the next few days I'll post only 20 lines on big topics. I hope that constraint will help me write with as little recycled language as possible.
No hay nadie, the taxi driver had said, there is no one in this town, when Lucy and I arrived in La Paloma on Sunday. Indeed, we arrived at our hostel to find we were the only guests - the rag-tag collection of chairs around the fire pit empty, the fire pit dark.
Lucy left on Tuesday and I am here indefinitely. it’s a beach town, in the off season. I am still the only guest in our hostel.
People come here from Christmas to Carnaval and then they evaporate back to their cities. It’s like they ran to their cars when the last parade ended, driving home tan and singing along to the songs that will remind them of vacation when they’re back at work. They didn’t even have time to erase the chalkboard signs for caipiroskas on that beachside hut that’s now boarded up.
I think the La Paloma of those caipiroskas was what I was looking for, but I want to enjoy the La Paloma of open beaches. I realize with some surprise that people might come here to be alone - that they find that restful. Near the dunes, I passed a nude sunbather who probably did not expect company. That, I suppose, is the sort of solitude that makes you feel free. But there’s also the sort of solitude that makes you watch people in the grocery store and feel that nothing could be more fun than what they’re doing - trying to decide if they’ve bought enough pasta for five people, who will eat it together on their terrace that evening.
This afternoon, I went for a run on the beach. The waves pulled with such strength at the sand that they put the beach at a 45 degree angle. I felt like the world had tilted and I was falling in, or maybe on top.