Here's a little story I wrote long ago. It's just a fun piece that really never found a home. So it's now yours to enjoy!
By Cathy Clamp
Barbara stepped off the bus and stood, immobile, in the searing Mexican sunshine. “So, here I am,” she said to herself, and then shook her head in frustration, “Am I a complete idiot?”
The other passengers pushed and jostled their way past her, cursing and muttering with impatience. She ignored them as she tried to combat her apprehension. She finally came to her senses as the driver set her bags next to her on the hot sidewalk.
“Señora,” he said, “You should go inside. The sun, it is very . . .. what is the word?” He struggled internally for a moment, as she stared at him blankly. “Ah, yes!” he exclaimed, “Dangerous. It is not safe for you to be out for too long. Your skin is too pale. You will burn.”
Barbara looked at her bare arm. Her skin was indeed pale. Pale and lifeless. Without looking up, she said, “Señorita.”
“Que?” asked the driver quizzically.
“I’m not married. I am a señorita.”
He shrugged and returned to the bus. She picked up her luggage and checked in, her thoughts occupied by friends left behind. She was annoyed with herself for missing them. They had thought her foolish for scheduling this trip. Single, almost forty-five years old, and newly wealthy. They said she would be a sitting duck for con artists. She was too naive. Barbara had felt insulted. She wasn’t stupid, and she didn’t consider herself naive. She understood darkness; but it baffled her. Then again, sometimes pure motives puzzled her, as well.
Sweet old Mrs. Pederson, her next door neighbor for the last ten years, was filthy rich?? Barbara never knew, certainly. It wasn’t why she’d kept Mrs. Pederson company on the weekends, listening to the old lady’s stories and helping her with yard work. Nobody had been as surprised as Barbara when Elizabeth left her entire sizable fortune to Barbara. Overnight, she had the freedom to never work again; to do whatever she wanted.
Sadly, Barbara didn’t know what she wanted.
She’d always yearned to travel; to see things, do things, be something other than what she was--a dowdy, slightly overweight, stick-in-the-mud.
“So,” she said again, under her breath, as a dense curtain of melancholy fell over her, “Here I am. Now what?”
She dejectedly boarded the bus with the others in the morning, barely hearing the energetic ramblings of the guide. They saw statutes, buildings, art. At some point she realized that she didn’t want to see things. The monuments were dead. They had no spirit left. It had all been sucked out by the mindless hoards that visited. She wanted to see people; see life, energy.
After the tour ended, they were returned to the hotel. Barbara retired early, ignoring her companions in the group. Like the monuments, they were all old; lifeless, struggling to feel vital and needed again. Perhaps, she thought, she’d left it too long. She might be too old for real adventure. Dejected, she went to bed.
Barbara woke in the middle of the night to the sound of firecrackers and loud voices outside. As she stepped onto the balcony, her senses were engulfed in marvelous sights, intense sounds, and exotic scents. She vaguely remembered the guide mentioning that today was a Mayan festival of some sort. Below her, dark skinned bodies flowed and writhed to pulsing music. Colors and light exploded in the sky, illuminating the costumes of the dancers. Her mind awoke as though it had been sleeping. Here, here was life! Barbara quickly dressed and bounded into the throng. Energy moved through the crowd like lightning, making her head reel. When she was handed a drink, she took it, never asking what was in the cup, and never caring. The drink was sweet and thick, like honey, but the alcohol content was strong.
Barbara was soon having the time of her life. She laughed and danced with strangers. She felt the weight of years lift from her shoulders. Everything dazzled her. One man in front of her with skin the color of polished wood was covered with the most beautiful tatoos she had ever seen. A dragon curled around his bare shoulder and spit fire at an eagle with bared talons. Birds rose from blue barked trees, and lazy sapphire clouds drifted over an indigo stream. She was entranced, staring at the beauty of the pictures, more fine art than simple designs.
“A tattoo!” she thought to herself suddenly. “I’ve always wanted one.” She moved away from the crowd, intent on finding a tattoo parlor before the inspiration passed her by. Her vision was blurry, her movements sloppy, but she moved from street to street, searching...
(to be continued)