Last night, I built a fort in my hostel dorm room out of a scarf and curtains. I built it because I was feeling weirdly afraid of how loud the waves were, touching an otherwise too-quiet night.
Besides, I'd been in La Paloma six nights with that four-bunk room to myself and it felt like time to make it feel cozy. I had already, my first night, unpacked my books and hung some of my clothes on a plywood shelf. On another shelf, I had started accumulating things that the ocean brought to me - small striped shells with holes, a dried-out seahorse, a bone that I imagined was a piece of a whale skull but was probably just the eye socket of a large fish. Building myself a structure in that room just felt like the next step in moving in, or regressing to childhood, your pick.
When I woke up this morning, the waves moved into the beach quietly and red with seaweed. I sat for an hour in the hostel kitchen, emailing. I biked to the gas station and sat for an hour there, writing. I sat in the hostel kitchen again and interviewed a guy about wool supply chains. I ate lunch. And then, around 2, I started moving. Called the park ranger in Santa Teresa about a visit. Called the hostel in Punta del Diablo. Told Sergio I needed to leave tonight. At 3:30, I biked to the bus station in my bathing suit, leaning into corners like a motocross racer. I bought a bus ticket for 5:30 PM and biked back thrilled with speed.
I went back to the beach one more time to remember where I was and where I'd been for six days. I was feeling a little guilty for staying less than a week. I had wanted to train my mind to patience and presence. But I wanted to acknowledge, too, that in sitting in a place that didn't push me to talk to people, I was forgetting how to see where I was.
I parked my bike against the telephone pole by the boardwalk and walked down to the sand. Right where the boardwalk met the sand, there was a little beach shack. In the high season, it must have been a bar or a cafe, selling panchos and grilled corn and beer. It had a chalkboard with a half-erased drink menu and a slightly precarious wooden deck, and all week I had been sitting on that deck for a few minutes in the morning. Today, I found the deck disassembled. The shack itself still stood, but without one of its walls, so the dirty kitchen inside stood open and illuminated.