It is Sunday. It is the Twelfth of June. Last night a storm came. It teased twice during the day, once at breakfast and again at noon, one quadrant of the sky turning over to darkness; but never yielding.
Did a raindance. Rene’, the strange friendly hairdresser downstairs neighbor, the manager, she came in the morning banging on the glass while I was still waking up, standing and staring into space naked in the kitchen, when she came banging on the glass and waving like a psycho. “Fifteen gallons of water,” she told me. “We’ve got fifteen gallons of water left in the cistern for the whole house. If you don’t have to flush it, don’t.” Then she left. It was eleven in the am and cooking humid. Dirty dishes. Salty sandy sheen. We begin to dance.
Darkness fell on a parched Carenero. Houses all over the island down to little reserve. We made a collective decision to turn on the cold tap of the shower. For twenty seconds. A line of five forms in the small bathroom, a ‘Ready, Set..” is said, then kshhk—water on and first one splashing fast as can move in the jet. Second, eight seconds, third, fourth, fifteen seconds; Fifth person jumps out of the stream and pulls the handle to. Nineteen seconds. Never a greater wave of comfort from a the whole household, never a stronger shared experience in days. Standing, blinking and smiling toe to toe on the wet tile, dripping wet. Darkness has full fallen, and suddenly a flash of light in the ceiling, bouncing up through the windows and getting caught in the curtains. Lightning. No sound follows, but we’re out on the long thin wooden pier in less than a minute. The wind is up. Standing, still dripping but now being blown cool by the strong wind. To be chilly, a novelty. A foreign feeling. We wait.
Bats carve parabola and only flit into sight inside of ten feet, a little light bouncing off the green water at the next dock over, where the man that sells petrol lives. The house built over the water, the one with the small cactus garden nestled into a precarious nook on the outside of the house wall, suspended over the splashing waves, all spines and prickles. Same house whose chickens are kept in an elevated coop. They, too, actually the whole family and structure, live in suspension over the sea and crabs, the sergent majors and yellow tangs. Chickens cock-stepping around in a meter squared cage built out from the railing on the sideporch. Ingenious, really. Safe, clean and easy to reach from the kitchen window. Some mornings mama of the house will be spotted opening the cage door, taking each bird out to give it a hug and to whisper it some sweet nothing, one by one.
Lightning fills the sky and strobes the bats at a stutter: here, a foot on, another, dark. Fragments of a moment, the full bay and Islands of Solarte and Bastimentos further on, lit up. Clouds filled like bulbs for series of seconds, stutter stutter stutter pop// and the bottom falls out.
Stand, shouting and hands raised, palms up, mouths open and laughing! A real deluge, water falling hard enough to douse and deafen. Scatter and run for our porch, to watch and feel from the swinging hammocks strung high, but J and I sprinting for the tarp and jars.
Water sees scarcity on Carenero. Buying it daily for weeks, there’s a door in the kitchen that, if opened, will release a trap of falling plastic jugs. Some three liters, some five, all out on the floor and decapped, sprinted back into the storm. We’d built a star from cane earlier in the day, a triangle five feet each side to angle the tarp on. Toyed with it for a minute, then just threw it into a small inflatable dingy on the wide dock and watched it begin to fill. Quickly. Lightning flashes and I see a milky pool of mercury sloshing around on the flat canvas roof of a docked boat. Run for a bowl. Spooning it up, a puddle neverending. Agua dulce, water potable, falling through the atmosphere and filtered by the sky.
It rained for a hard twenty minutes. All splashing and spooning, soaking to the skin, then it died down. We’d collected a dozen jugs, something over thirty-five liters. Water for a week. Rich like kings.