Drink me

Chapter 6: El Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama, Summer, 2013

They parked their van, decorated with a hissing dragon, outside the Red Queen’s shrinking palace. In customary fashion, they passed their yerba mate to one another until the cup reached me. ‘Drink’ they said coaxingly and with that I was gone for a time, outgrown and oversized.

We shared everything; laughter, yerba mate, stories that would weave between both our languages of Spanish and English. The battered yellow VW rattled along the stony paths that littered the national park, eventually crossing the border, weaving along smoother and more reliable highways until we reached a small candy-coloured town in the mountain highlands.

I played with the notion I could become a travelling artisan like them, seeking out the elusive quetzal deep in the forest rather than forever chasing rainbows to no apparent end. I discarded my queen´s clothes and dressed myself in theirs, a more modest offering of layers to shelter me from the cool breeze of the higher climates. They renamed me Chica Naranja as the sun had burnt my skin the shade of my reddish-brown hair.

We rented a small cottage that had a ceramic butterfly above the front door. The artisans set about their work, selling their crafts and I began making pastries to sell on the streets. At the end of the day, we’d pool our earnings together and have a scrumptious feast. After dinner, I´d clumsily twist colourful yarns between my fingers whilst the Artisans worked their knots so perfectly. I admired their woven jewelry and the way they decorated their dreadlocks with macramé.

One day I noticed there was a lime tree outback. The neighbouring children, who were from an indigenous tribe, rushed over in their pretty brightly coloured dresses and dangled from the tree, dropping fruit into my palms. In return for helping me, I made them marmalade and added some to my jam tarts. It was there in our butterfly cottage; I began to illustrate everything I´d seen and felt so far but there were still so many more blank pages to fill.  I hoped we would travel beyond this place and I once again started to feel a little stuck.

After finding a quetzal, which happened sooner than expected, it was felt best by all, that we would share our last mate and part ways. I yearned to venture on to Panama City and they preferred to stay on and work. I was reluctant to say a final goodbye as they felt like family by then. I stared out of the back window of the bus until I saw the little doll-like houses disappear under the thick of the forest, then turned back to face the direction I was going, resigning myself yet again to chasing rainbows, but this time I wasn’t alone, I had a songbird with me who would at least keep me company until I arrived at the big city.  

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