Chapter 8: Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica, 2013

“You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “Or you wouldn’t have come here.”

(Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll)

I returned to Puerto, affectionately called by its gringo community ‘Little town – Big hell’ on account of all the village gossip. Paper Boats was basking in the sun, in the middle of the Gulf. El Gato Negro had painted his house a spectacular shade of papaya and was writing his memoirs. The White Queen was at the vets attending to some poor creature. The Red Queen was fixing hearts and learning french(the language of love), and the White Rabbit was long gone and now working as a raw food chef in the North.

The seasons were changing and the White Queen was migrating to North America for the winter. I was living with El Gato Negro at the time. She asked me to look after her property and her animals until she returned. Her house was bright green and nestled in a small street of little houses, surrounded by parrots and monkeys. All went well until a disgruntled neighbour maimed her beloved cat friend with a pellet gun after it intruded on their property. Racked with guilt I recruited the help of The Librarian, a kindly, young German woman who volunteered locally. She and her lover, The Storyteller, flew to San Jose where the cat had reconstructive surgery on its front leg. On their return, he recounted their heroic tale. Back at the greenhouse, I began to feel disillusioned with myself and the town. Shooting the cat felt like a primitive act to me. Although the incident had brought out the best in others, I took it as a bad omen and loneliness set in. The clock flowers began to appear again, and the howlers were hysterical.

El Gato Negro threw a party, and everyone came. We sipped Cuba Libres made with limes from his garden and the house hummed with chatter, like the hummingbirds that danced outside. Paper Boats had me in stitches. He lifted my spirits and we were picture postcard happy for a while. We sailed across the gulf many times in search of dolphins and whales, he even began to teach me his trade; tour guiding.

A few months passed and while out of town, trying to clear my head, he proposed. I repelled him like the whale shark I once tried to touch in the Golfo Dulce. I never intended to hurt him, however, I couldn’t commit to him and his way of life. As beautiful as it was, I felt isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. I yearned for more than the little town could ever give me. Work had dried up and my money was running out. I really had no other place to go but I would find it, eventually.

Written and illustrated by Lucy Lilley. All rights reserved

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