Look at that!
It's the best one I've seen, ever...We're in paradise!
The dirt road weaved through farmland and green hills like a sand snake. On the back of the pickup truck, Pepe bounced with every bump. He grabbed on the metal and stood to look ahead. Dani sat on the other side, numb, his head wobbling with the car.
Pepe: At this pace, we should have traveled on foot!
Pepe: He said two hours, how long has it been?
Dani looked at his phone.
Dani: Two hours.
Dani: Where are we going?
Pepe: Kylie’s cool camp.
Pepe: It’s a guest house owned by a surfer. They do game nights and all. She has great reviews. Look!
Dani stood up. They could finally see the ocean. The dirt road bypassed a hill on the left and followed the beach. Coconuts lined up along the road. To their right, the sand was so white it hurt the eyes. Beyond was the infinite blue, with waves breaking in perfect parallel lines.
The pickup continued along the beach until a large wooden gate. A sign between two coconut trees read "Kylie’s cool camp". The "cool" was a smiling emoji. Dani looked skeptical. They carried their backpacks inside and collapsed in the lobby's deckchairs. A brunette waved at them from behind the reception desk. She wore a light top, shorts, and flip flops. She walked up to them and smiled, a gorgeous, broad, white smile.
Kylie: Welcome! I’m Kylie.
Pepe: Thank you, I’m Pepe. That’s Dani.
Dani bowed his head.
Kylie: Nice to meet you! Would you like a drink? We have Toñas, lemonade, and water. You deserve it after that dirtroad. It’s on the house!
Pepe: Oh! Yes, please. I’ll have a Toña. Thank you.
Dani gestured a second one.
Kylie: Two Toñas then. Make yourself comfortable, I’ll be right back.
Pepe and Dani remained in the deckchairs, looking around. The place was neat and tidy. Wooden furniture, rock tiles, and exotic plants gave it a Zen, classy vibe. Kylie returned with two ice cold Toñas.
Kylie: Here you go! If you need anything, just ring that bell on the counter. Maria Elisa or I will attend you. The drinks are in the fridge. Help yourselves and write down your name and consumption on the billboard. Everything costs $2, and the beer is always cold haha.
Pepe: Nice! I like it.
Kylie: Thank you. I try my best to make it feel like home. When you’re ready to check in, ring the bell. I'll see you later!
Dani bowed his head. Kylie smiled, and left. The boys sipped their beer in the lobby.
Dani: Much better than I expected. And she’s hot!
Pepe: Haha yeah. How old do you think she is?
Dani: Hard to say. Mid-forties, maybe older.
Dani: We'll find out soon enough.
The boys finished their beer and rang the bell. A minute later, an elderly Nicaraguan lady appeared from behind the counter.
Elder lady: Hello and welcome. I am Maria Elisa. How can I help you?
Pepe: We would like to check in.
Maria Elisa: Yes, of course. Your passport, please?
She took a picture of their passports, grabbed a key, and led the boys to their room. Every inch of space was optimized, from the rocky path on the ground to the mezzanine in the room. The furniture, of rustic timber and bamboo, contrasted neatly with the white bedding.
Pepe: How many rooms are there?
Maria Elisa: Four.
Pepe: Are there other guests?
Maria Elisa: Yes, they went to see the caves.
The beach in Popoyo was long, vast, and clean. On one end were the caves and natural pools, on the other was the surf. Kylie had four boards available to her guests, and others for rent. In the late afternoon, Pepe and Dani picked two surf boards and went to the water.
The waves were glassy, uncrowded, and consistent. They surfed until they could not lift their arms, drifted out, and watched the sunset from the beach. They walked back as the first stars faded in. Dani called the shower and Pepe grabbed a beer from the fridge. He saw Kylie in the lobby and approached her.
Pepe: May I?
Kylie: Of course
He sat in the deckchair next to her. Kylie was smoking a cigarette.
Pepe: You built this place?
Kylie: Yes, five years ago.
Pepe: It’s really beautiful. A paradise in paradise.
Kylie: Thank you.
She offered him a cigarette. He accepted.
Pepe: Thank you. I’m curious, how did you get the idea?
Kylie: I used to live in California. One winter, I came here with my husband and this beach stayed in my mind.
Pepe: You’re married?
Pepe: Oh! I’m sorry.
Kylie: That’s okay...Thank you
An awkward silence ensued. Pepe drank his beer and Kylie stubbed out her cigarette. She excused herself and left.
Pepe leaned back and stared at the sky. He had never seen so many stars in Madrid, or even gazed at them. In Popoyo, time distorted. He could pause and contemplate. In the past four years, Pepe never paused. He worked a lot and lived a little, until he crashed. In retrospect, his burnout was the best thing that happened to him.
Pepe had been traveling for ten months after that. He started with Eastern Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America. On the road, his only worries were the beer temperature and his daily Instagram posts. He met Dani, a Spanish nurse in Costa Rica, and convinced him to visit Nicaragua. Since he left Madrid, Pepe had been living in a cozy bubble. A bubble of no responsibilities, few obligations, and lots of Instagram filters.
Pepe and Dani enjoyed Popoyo beach for five days. They surfed, slept, and repeated. The morning of their departure, Pepe rang the bell to check out. Maria Elisa could not process his credit card, so she told him to wait for Kylie. They called her, but Kylie did not answer, or pick up.
Pepe grew impatient and went looking for her. He called out loud in the house. He knocked and opened every room. One room had its door left slighly open. He pressed on the door but it did not move. Pepe pushed harder with his shoulder and slid in. Then, he grabbed his head and froze.
Inside was Kylie, hanged to the door with a belt around her neck. Her face, blue and swollen, gawked at him. Pepe screamed,"DAAAAAANIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII, DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII, DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANIIIIIIIIIIII".
Dani rushed in. He grabbed Kylie by the shoulders as Pepe untied the belt from the top of the door. They lowered Kylie to the ground. Dani leaned in and checked her pulse.
Dani: She’s still breathing. We need an ambulance. We need to take her to the hospital. Call Maria Elisa.
Pepe: There is no ambulance, no hospital, no car, nothing! Joder! MARIAAA ELISAAAAAAAAAAAAA! MARIAAA ELISAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
Maria Elisa walked in panting. She saw Kylie's face and held her hands to her mouth. She made a cross and whispered in shock. Dani took her hand into his and squeezed, until her eyes fixed his. When she calmed down, he spoke.
Dani: She’s alive. We can still save her. Do you know anyone with a car?
Maria Elisa nodded.
Dani: Good. Where?
Maria Elisa: Ssss. Ssss...San Juan
Dani: Call them and tell them to come right now. Tell them it’s an emergency. Tell them a life is on the line. Nod if you undersand?
Maria Elisa nodded.
Dani: Maria Elena, call your friend. Pepe, find a car. Whoever gets here first will take her to the hospital. I’ll stay with her. GO!
Pepe ran to the closest restaurant, then to the grocery store; neither had a car. At last, he saw the fruit pickup truck and chased after it. Yelling and panting, Pepe caught up with the driver. He explained the crisis and together they drove to the guest house. Pepe pushed the fruits to the side and made room in the back. He told the driver to wait and ran inside. Kylie’s face was still blue.
Pepe and Dani lifted Kylie and laid her down next to the mangoes. Dani sat beside her, and he and the driver left for San Juan del Sur. A few hours later, Dani called to announce that Kylie's life was out of danger. He would stay with her until her family came.
Pepe felt neither joy nor sadness. He left the guest house on foot and extended his thumb to whoever passed by. He reached Managua’s airport at night, and Cancún the next morning. A few days later, he heard from Dani again. Kylie's sister came to the hospital and took over. It was not her first suicide attempt.
Pepe saw Kylie's blue face over and over, in his sleep and solitude. The more he thought, the worse he felt. That day, his cozy bubble shattered in a thousand sharp pieces. He landed face first, and peeked at reality again, raw, random, and repulsive.
Pepe wandered for another month, alone, and without posting.