Puesta del Sol
Funny place to end up. But good as any other, I reckon. Look at that ol' sun— well you can't really look for long, but enough to see how it looks like a red-hot ball about to drop smack in the Pacific.
Drink on the right, and on the left, a woman's warm hand. Her name is Belén, that's how they say Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. We met a couple hours ago.
Took the bus six hours to get here and it broke down once. Then it stopped, where a backhoe was digging a big ditch across the road. Let us out, turned around and drove away. Damn hot, no shade. We walked over a plank bridge, carrying our bags. It was quite a ways to town, and nothing open. The bar was farther out, on a sand road through a thick stand of palms, looking over the beach. End of the road, for sure.
There's a west-facing bay and low ground, like the ocean took a big bite out of the land, with a ring of mountains a couple miles back. There's boat traffic in season, but not many people around now that it's getting hot. So it was just me at the bar, with a wallet full of pesos, and her pouring the drinks.
Belén. Pretty eyes, maybe a little on the heavy side. Her Inglés beat hell out of my Spanish, so I quit trying. There was a radio on above the bar, with that crazy music they play. I was on my fourth G & T— best drink for a really hot day. We were just talking, the way you do. For comfort.
I was telling her about my ex, and the trouble. The music quit in the middle of a song— I guess it was news. He was talking fast, like he was out of breath. She turned up the volume and held out a hand, so I shut up.
"¡Díos Mio!" she said. Then she crossed herself.
"What's up, darlin'?"
"Es un terramoto más grande— earthquake. In the sea. He say they los' contac' con Honolulu." She shut up and kept listening. "Quatros horas pasado. Qué mal!"
"¡Es necesario evacuar la costa, mas rapidamente!"
The man's words didn't make sense at first. Then they did.
She picked up the phone— I could hear the brrp-brrp
of the busy signal. She ran out and I followed her. I could hear yelling and engines starting, beyond the palms. A siren yowled, went silent, and yowled again.
"I don' think they come for me," she said, looking down at her feet. "No importa— they can no' drive pas' the acequia."
"That big ditch they're digging?"
She nodded. She looked sad. I remembered how long it had taken to walk here from the bus, and how far it was to the mountains— I couldn't run fast enough.
"¿You wan' some tamales?"
"I jus' make tamales— you wan' some?"
"Go out to the palapa. I come wit' tamales— and a drink."
The palm thatch rustled in the sea breeze, but the low sun had chased the shade away. When she set the tamales on the table I could see a gold cross stick to the beads of sweat between her breasts, then swing free.
She set down a G & T in a frosted goblet and a glass of ice water with a slice of lime for herself. That tamale was the best damn thing I ever ate. We were leaning toward each other as we drank. I set down my drink and looked at her and pursed my lips, asking.
She shook her head. But she took my hand.
I looked at the sun, a quarter gone into a sea that looked black at first. Then the deepest blue. Then the sun dropped halfway in, just like that.
"¡Mira tú!" she said.
And then we could hear the roar.
7. John Smith
I sometimes wonder how sunset might have been seen in the days before we had electricity, or before we had lanterns. Maginificant and some sunsets are to view, they preceeded the darkness. I sometimes think about how dark it really was back then if the sky was clouding and no moon or stars were visible to provide any light source. How dark and frightening might that night that followed the sunset be? Of course, back then it also signaled the end of the work day.
Then there's another downside to the the upside. Like spring is lovely with all the blooming that takes place, it also brings with it those allergies so many suffer so severely with. As the sun sets, out come the mosquitoes and other creatures of the night, not all of which are cute and cuddly.
As sailors we are all aware of the ability prescribed to sunsets to predict the coming weather. Having anchored on night to a beautiful read sunset and awakening to a nasty storm, the reliability of the sunset for this purpose must be seriously questioned. Driving into the setting, or the rising, sun can be difficult, especially if one is trying to read the street signs or highways signs that are hidden by the sun behind them. This was the point of an old song about Bill Thaxton, a gunfighter. A younger gunfighter, nicknamed "Sunset" (because he never fought till the sun's going down and his back is facing the west) challenged the old guy at sunset. Everything was perfectly positioned, but Sunset had neglected on factor that cost him his life. Bill Thaxton was blind, so the setting sun didn't bother him at all.