Last night I dreamt that I was in the belly of a whale. I entered through its mouth and rode deep into the back of its throat. Its tongue was pink. I rode by its tonsils. They looked like party balloons. When I was deep inside its stomach, it was salty and I was not afraid.
Yesterday I broke some basic rules of traveling. I went into a new country by myself with no map, no guidebook, not even the name of a hostel where I could stay. I had the stupid idea of getting to "a beach," but I didn´t know which one. I found myself after dark on a bus leaving San Salvador towards a city that I knew nothing about, hoping to find a hotel where I could at least have access to the internet and find out where I was. I could not have told you what direction I was going in. It was stupid, and even though I kept telling myself that this was one of the stupidest things I had ever done and that I would never ever do it again, some little dark corner of my mind knew that I was full of shit, that I would absolutely do it again because I secretly liked it, that whatever was going to happen was going to be something that had never happened before.
On the bus, I sat next to a girl my age and we talked about what you´re supposed to talk about: I am from California, but I was born in Georgia. I am 29. I do not have children. I am not married. I have a boyfriend. I am traveling for 6 weeks. My boyfriend is working. I started my trip in Guatemala. I am leaving in a week a half. I do not know how long I will be in El Salvador. (I never get tired of asking or being asked these questions). But then the conversation changed into "Where are you going to stay?" and "Aren´t you scared?" and I told her that yes, I was scared, but that it wasn´t usually like this. When I asked her if she knew of any hotels in Son Sonate, where she was from, she told me "the only hotels I know of are hourly hotels." Then she offered to let me stay with her family. I hesitated and she said "if you trust me, then you can stay with me, but if you don´t, you don´t have to." In Spanish, to say you trust someone you say "Tengo confianza en ella" or "I have trust in her." Except "confianza" can mean three things: confidence, trust, or familiarity. I said yes, not because I was scared to look for my own hotel or because I was afraid of hurting her feelings, but because I knew it would be something I might not have the chance to do again.
So I went home with the girl on the bus. She was short and had red hair, pale skin, and freckles. She wore dark eyeliner and tight jeans like any run-of-the-mill Indie hipster in Oakland. One of the first questions she asked me was whether or not I used bronzing powder. The bus ride took about an hour, and while I was staring out the window, Rosalba was staring at me. We walked through dark streets to her mother´s house and we ate tamales that tasted like hot dogs and had bones in them. Her dog´s name was Beethoven, after the movie. She brought over friends and family and they laughed at my broken Spanish and were rightfully concerned by my stupidity at traveling alone after dark in a country that I knew nothing about. After they left, she and I talked about our novios and how handsome Leonardo Di Caprio is (she had a small picture of him hanging over her bed). We slept in twin beds in a pink room like she and her sisters had done when she was a kid. My bed had clean, thick white sheets, and I slept through the roosters and the dogs barking and the little kid with the air horn walking up and down the street all morning. Each was just the beginning of another dream.