I pack my candy-striped beach bag: rolled up towel, journal, pen and pencil, Nalgene, phone, a couple of wadded pesos, floppy hat. I spray sunscreen from my ears to my pedicured toes, and set out down the back stairs to the beach. I forget to invite the sun, but decide to stick it out for the pelicans.
The wind blows sand into my mango-and-lime that I buy from the bearded man I think is one of my students’ uncles. I don’t even try to bargain with him; I’ll pay full price today.
I scribble a bit in my journal and laugh at the little naked girl jumping in the waves. Her parents go farther into the waves, drifting towards the muelle and splashing each other. Cautiously, the little girl stays back. First, she shouts into the wind, but only the pelicans hear her. Then, she resorts to every kid’s hidden tool: wailing and beating her tiny hands against the packed, wet sand. Her parents splash farther away. Finally, the little naked girl retreats to her unamused brother’s side to pout until they un-abandon her.
I pack up and head to say hi to my artisan friends who work at the muelle, their hanging beads and woven bracelets a tranquil contrast to the beating salsa music. Eme says she’s fine; she’s been watching the clouds today. They’re dark over the hill, painting the trees a brighter green.
“It might rain,” she says.
“In my country, we dance in the first rain,” I say. She smiles at me like one might smile at a kid who still believes in the Easter Bunny.
And maybe it is childish, and maybe not all Americans dance in the rain. Probably a minority do, and it’s probably silly and unsanitary. But I still like the idea.
Then suddenly, after six months, I feel a drop! And another! Then the dark clouds open up, fast waterfalls spilling off the roofs and turning the street into an oily river. Water falling from the sky; water flowing over the sidewalk; water swirling where the heavy drops hit the waves below the pier.
I giggle like a little girl. The other rain-watchers smile at me. But no one is dancing. I hesitate.
Then, I leave my bag with my friend and jump into the street, splashing dirty water with my flip flops. “Hey teacher, what are you doing?” someone yells from the safety of the shops.
“In my country, we dance!” I shout, flapping my arms like those pelicans.
I run to the sea and keep going, gulping the fresh rain smell and the grey sea smell and waving up at the clouds. I’ve been holding in my highs and lows the past few weeks, mingling into a muddy mess. Now, it all comes out, and I throw off the uncertainties, dance a salsa step for all the blessings, and laugh. I am joyful.
I’d been saving it for a rainy day.