Burn you ungrateful bitch. After all I did for you...
The engine shut down which locked the steering wheel, angling right toward the rocky wall. I pulled the wheel hard to the left then slammed on the brakes. The tail of the van drifted on the dirt. RRRRRRRRRRRRR! We stopped on side of the road, a meter from the wall, safe.
We stepped out and saw a huge puddle under the car. Diesel was pouring down, dozen of litres going back where they belonged. The shock shifted to an unbearable feeling of betrayal, to anger, to hate. In that state of mind, the best move was to do nothing. We stopped a cab and headed for El Tunco. I needed to cool off. needed a beer.
Jackie learnt what happened, she was cool about it. Sandra was happy I was staying longer, I was not. I had spent a fortune caring for la Chichona and three days hustling in a garage, only to have her betray me like that, Brutus' style. It felt so harsh the sleep was restless. I dreamt somebody threw a cigarette butt and blew the whole thing up. She burnt while I watched from the side of the road, not even attempting to save her.
Reality caught up with me the next morning. Another day at the mechanic, another unplanned expense, another hustle. La Chichona was toying with my nerves. I tried to be stoic about it. To accept that it was part of the experience. To accept that I had control over nothing but my attitude. Acceptance without cynicism, that was the challenge.
The alarm rang on Tuesday at 5:00 am. Jackie was excited despite the early hour. Sandra woke up to have a last breakfast together. She had made us a delicious chocolate cake to start our trip on a sweet note. We finished our coffee, I turned on the engine and Sandra opened the gate for us. We exchanged a long and heartfelt hug, no words came. After all we had been through, the moment had come, at last. I was sad, but also grateful to have met such a wonderful friend. Goodbye mamacita, I'm gonna miss you.
The drive to the Guatemalan border was smooth. The customs agents didn't mind that I had stayed longer than 120 days in Central America. We got our passport stamps, cleared la Chichona's paperwork and entered Guatemala after lunch. Jackie blasted her karaoke playlist and we sang our heads off, loud and off-key. It was a sweet day to travel.
The road to Antigua was a mess. Patches of concrete had melted like hot chocolate down the hills. Five months after the deadly eruption, the damages caused by El Fuego were still crippling the country. We followed the post-apocalyptic, traffic-jammed stretch to enter Antigua.
I went to a café while Jackie explored the city, then we met back in the van for diner. I was chopping onions when a sharp gut feeling made me dizzy. I sat down and looked at Jackie with a dead serious face: “Something bad is about to happen. I can feel it”. She started to reason with me but I couldn't listen, the feeling was too strong. Then she left.
I stayed inside, worried, trying to figure out where that came from when Jackie opened the door. She was giggling, hiding something behind her back. “SURPRIIIIISE !!!” She held up four Leffe, waiving them overhead like the ultimate trophy. Her excitement for Belgian beer cracked me up, it also drowned my worries. Good gal.
The road from Antigua to the border of la Mesía was worthy of the Avatar movie. Steep green hills popped out of the mist like floating sky islands. We winded around hills and down canyons all the way to the Mexican border. Jackie went for food while I walked into the white building to settle the car permit. An officer was napping on his chair, another pointed at a glass wall. I knocked on the glass.
A small fat officer came out, took my papers and started typing. When he was done, he handed me my registration certificate and said I couldn't enter. I argued that I had crossed two borders without any issue but that was Central America, he said. In Mexico, I couldn't enter with expired plates.
I took a deep exhale, gathered my papers and left, too blasé to argue. We found a secure parking, I packed a bag and we jumped on the first bus going to San Cristobal, leaving the van at the border. Jackie was astounded. “I don't understand how you can be so calm. If it was me I would still be there, crying”.
I was far beyond hate, sadness or worry. Somehow I knew shit would happen, and my intuition proved right. It was what it was, no need to fuss about it. Not reacting was liberating, even satisfying, like a fresh breeze on a hot day.
Acceptance or apathy, I ran out of fucks to give.