The Breakdown and The Beach

by Ekua on September 30, 2010 in Cuba

Later on, we’d start piecing together the signs, but foreseeing what would happen that day would not have been logical. When you’re thrown together with a new travel group, polite layers are shed quickly as you spend a ridiculous amount of time with people and places you’ve just met. When a fellow traveler’s quirkiness begins to show, it might annoy you or make you laugh but you don’t really think anything of it.

Because you’re all a little crazy to be doing what you’re doing. It’s all self-imposed: carrying what you need in a heavy backpack for an extended period of time, culture clashing, shabby accommodations, mysterious food you eat because it’s all that’s available, long butt numbing bus rides, and so on. You take the bad with the good, because after all, you’ve made the decision to seek out both vivacity and the people who are mad enough to join you along the way.

But sometimes what appear to be strange characteristics turn out to be a lot more. We discovered this the day we left Vinales to head to the coast. She showed strange behavior in the middle of the night and extremely strange behavior in the morning. As we set out on our bus ride and the behavior intensified, we began to realize the seriousness of it. The four hour journey was characterized by it—her distrust, fear, and confusion as well as our own that had developed, albeit, on a much less severe level.

As we neared the end of our drive and reached the edge of the country, perfection appeared through our windows. Untouched white sand and translucent turquoise water perfection. Empty beach perfection. Cost Plus poster perfection.

These views emerged suddenly and magnificently and the beauty of it all seemed to the have the potential to bring relief. I wanted to believe in the healing power of the sea. But that day, the sea chose to cultivate tempestuousness. Her sight of it provoked the beginning of a prolonged climax.

After hours of phone calls and rising and falling, an ambulance finally arrived. We knew that it would not be easy. The sunset accentuated a stormy concoction of thick clouds and lighting that was brewing over the sea. It was moving towards us. Wails pierced through dusk. I was standing at the edge of the water watching the sea storm when I suddenly decided to head towards the storm on land. I had been avoiding it.

She saw me approaching. “EKUA! Come here!” Her previously quiet demeanor had been swallowed by whatever was consuming her mind. “Tell me the TRUTH!” The way she looked at me challenged the strength of my core.

In that moment, a part of me I’d been trying to tuck away for the summer came out of its resting spot. After a difficult school year, I’d been trying to take a break from the side of myself that absorbs the brokenness of others. But that didn’t matter when I knew I had the capacity to help and probably could’ve done more. I felt the need to stay. For some reason, she trusted me. I tried to find a balance between honestly answering her questions and saying what needed to be said.

People were hesitant to have her leave before she reached a calmer state. But it became clear that there was not going to be a moment where she willingly went off in an ambulance to a hospital she didn’t know in a confusing country when she suddenly didn’t trust almost everyone. It just needed to happen, and collectively, we were able to get her to stay in the ambulance. Our guide went with her.

The wailing drove off into darkness and the unknown and the day came crashing down into silence and waves. The storm over the sea never reached the shore.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Fida September 30, 2010 at 9:26 am

Your writing glued me to the screen – so beautiful that I almost forgot it wasn’t a novel but about a real and personal disaster! Hope things got better for her once in care.

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Ekua September 30, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Yes, we saw her briefly on our last day and she was a lot better. And she appears to be doing well now.

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Hal Amen October 2, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Craziness. I understand that you left this vague on purpose out of considerateness, but I want to know more!

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Ekua October 3, 2010 at 11:29 am

That would’ve been a looong post. And you’re right, I didn’t want to go there!

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Abi October 3, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Hm…this post stopped me in my tracks today. Thank you for tackling this so sensitively – and thank goodness that there was someone there who spoke her language and cared enough to get her help.

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Ekua October 4, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by my blog.

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Lola October 4, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Wow. Well done! Was sucked in till the very last line. Glad she’s feeling so much better now.

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Ekua October 5, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Thanks, Lola.

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Lauren Quinn October 4, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Holy crap, this is an intense story.

Love the use of the “pathetic fallacy.” Isn’t it funny when those cliches actually happen in real life?

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Ekua October 5, 2010 at 11:12 pm

What was crazy about the part I where I was describing the sea as “cultivating tempestuousness” was that it wasn’t even stormy yet, it was perfectly sunny and gorgeous when we first saw the ocean. But she broke down even more at that exact point when we saw it and that was when we knew for sure the situation wasn’t going to improve on it’s own. That moment was one of the most prominent memories of my trip.

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