Little house. Big view.
It's dark by the time we arrive, so there will be no view tonight, aside from the twinkling of stars, street lights and incandescent bulbs gleaming from the kitchens and bedroom windows down the mountainside. The audio is rich - women singing in spanish, guitars being strummed, the first Star Wars movie (excuse me, fourth) wrapping up off in the distance.
It's dark, but what our ears see is vast.
Also, there is no electricity here, so we clamber around with flashlight and headlamp, putting together a dinner of what the previous guests thoughtfully left behind this morning: soft sweet rolls, peanut butter, Nutella, bottled water. It is heavenly. We sleep in the open air, under the delicate mosquito net that is tucked in around our mattress, which is thin, but comfortable. The bed platform hangs securely in the air, held by thick ropes that are attached to the ceiling by eye hooks. Sleep comes quickly.
In the morning, we awake to the most fabulous dream: roosters are crowing, sunlight is shining through the dry morning air, and green living things are everywhere, including the lizards that will share the cabin with us this week.
After another ride from Beverly, one of our new neighborhood friends, we have picked up our rented Vitrano (everyone drives a Suzuki here, or a horse). I completed the rental by handing my credit card to a man I didn't know in a small wooden building which held two printers (one on the floor), a MacBook Pro and the man. Is it a good idea? The parrots in the yard scream their objections.
We shop at the local grocer and buy mangoes at a fruit stand down the road, all the while I'm doing jiggly-armed charades in order to avoid employing my sad, donde-esta-el-bano spanish.
Vieques is a beautiful island, of course, but what is most astonishing are the number of beaches that one (with said 4X4) can access. Each beach is slightly different from the next, like a line of fraternal landscapes. One has black, magnetic sand, while another has cabanas made from enormous palm fronds, and the next has a maze-like coral reef, while the southeastern side has crashing waves and a public shower.
Our favorite spot.
We spend the next four days dreamily meandering from beach to beach, miraculously finding our way back to the Casita each night at dusk, a place that upon arrival the first night, I swore we were never, ever going to be able to find again: on a mountainside, down a Z-shaped dirt road, beyond the single lane winding stretch of patchy pavement, surrounded by defunct boats, trucks and hungry, wild dogs.
We would die before finding that cabin. I swore it.
C unfortunately dislikes sand and the sun, which could make one baffled that the trip was his idea, but let's face it - he loves me maniacally, and shows it by scratching my back most every night, planning beach vacations and watching the cat videos I find online.
(hushed) Thank You.
As it would happen, apart from the food of the gods (sugary carbohydrates and Skippy), the previous guests had left behind a beacon of hope for my fair-skinned fellow: a large beach umbrella with a youthful ocean motif.
It was a divine vacation. We drank instant Nescafe, read books (Steinbeck's East of Eden & Rushdie's The Satanic Verses), and people-watched as though we were secret agents. When we looked out on the surf and saw "that crazy european couple" crashing through waves in the nude, we just chuckled and got back to snarfing down tortilla chips and dripping salsa on our book pages. We played crazy nines, swam in turquoise waters, ate a copious amount of fruit, held staring contests with sand crabs, and counted tiny dogs.
And we swerved to miss the wild horses.
Horses on the beach; Horses in the streets; Horses on the roadsides and horses devouring every kind of living plant outside the cabin. At 3 o'clock. In the morning. One of these fellows had a little white bird who seemed to travel everywhere with him, riding bareback, just like an image from National Geographic or an Outback Steakhouse commercial.
We kept ourselves unbusy, collecting green coconuts at the beach and hacking the tops off when we came home at night, drinking the room-temperature water inside like desperate characters from Lost or brave contestants on Survivor: Dreamy Desert Island.
Mercifully, my only real bug encounter during our tropical expedition were sand midges at the beach (no-see-ums to us from the North), a large, dead cockroach at a public bathroom (a prime reason why I relieve myself in the forest in nearly all cases - living things die in public bathrooms), and a spider the side of my hand, perched perfectly above the entry to our Casita bathroom, which I found with my headlamp in the middle of our last night there. No, I did not scream. Yes, I did pee my pants, but I'll have you know that the timing and location worked miraculously in my favor. Phew.
The Casita, and for that matter, the entire trip to Vieques was special - ironically - not for what it had, but rather for what it did not have: no electricity, no phones, no Facebook, no work, no alarms, no deadlines, and no snow. Because it lacked these things, we could more easily see what we intrinsically had: peace, freedom, connection, patience, light, and something to wake up for. We possessed these things before we left home and we have them still, after our return, but there is something so refreshing when you rediscover that what you've been given is truly so deep, so overwhelmingly full, and so hilariously good.
Thank you, Vieques. Thank you, little Casita. Thank you, God.
And thank you to that questionable car rental man, who has refrained from riding off on a wild horse, with my identity in one saddlebag and my credit score in the other. Thank you.