The night of summer solstice was one to remember. My new friend and I were swimming in the sea off the west coast of Mexico in the state of Nayarit watching the sun set when lightning struck. I felt chills like an electrical current run through my body. I looked over at Antonio who shot up from the surf twenty feet into the sky like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. I swam over to where his body landed; he was hot to the touch, but he was gone. I tried to drag his corpse back to shore, but between the crashing waves and the thunderous storm, it was too much for me.
Back on the sand, I wrapped myself in Antonio’s semi-wet towel, grabbed my bag and Antonio’s backpack, and in the pouring rain, I walked home to the studio apartment that I had rented for the month, and draped Antonio's towel over the balcony on my veranda to dry. Once inside the apartment, I peeled off my bathing suit and took a warm shower. Afterwards, I dumped the contents of Antonio’s backpack on the small kitchen table.
Anxious to roll a joint with the weed Antonio had shared with me earlier that day, I quickly found the container I was seeking. Luckily, the stash and rolling papers had remained dry in the leather pouch. I took a couple of hits to steady myself. What a crazy day. I had only met Antonio that morning at the coffee spot I discovered the week before. He had been to my hometown in Southern California a few years back when he was visiting a cousin. His English was solid, and we immediately bonded over a shared love for papaya.
With a bit of hesitation, I jumped on the back of his motorcycle to drive to a nearby orchard where we loaded up on mangoes, bananas, and, of course, papayas. We stopped off at a scenic vista to smoke a joint, and I invited him to my place for a fruit salad. We talked for hours, and ended up in bed. Afterward, Antonio took me to his favorite place for the best scallop meal I ever tasted. We smoked another joint, and Antonio suggested a sunset swim. It had been a perfect day, up until the point when the lightning struck.
I started sorting through Antonio’s belongings: a wallet with 420,000 pesos, a set of keys, a clean t-shirt, and a journal. Although my Spanish was poor, it was clear that the journal was more like a ledger with financial accounts of some sort. I was not sure what to do with it. I took the cash and stashed it in my tampon box. I threw the wallet, keys, t-shirt, and ledger back into the backpack. In the morning, I would leave it near where we had parked the motorcycle.
Bam. Bam. Bam. Two gangster-type men in their late 20s burst through my door. I backed up until I was sitting on the disheveled bed. In poor English, one of the men with a Pancho Villa-style mustache asked me where Antonio was hiding. The other guy had already grabbed the backpack and was riffling through it. I did my best to explain the whole lighting disaster. They spoke to each other briefly, but the words came out faster than I could comprehend. The guy with the mustache and poor English asked if there was anything else, and I handed over the container of weed and zigzags. “Keep it,” he said.
“How did you find me?” I asked.
He pointed to the beach towel draped over the railing outside my door. “You should leave town,” he advised, as they quickly descended the stairs.
I didn’t hesitate. I could see a few neighbors peeking out from behind their window blinds. I threw my belongings into my suitcase, abandoned the beach towel on the railing, and walked a few blocks to a popular hotel, where I paid for the night in cash. The next morning, I was on a plane to San Jose. It was a shame about Antonio. He was handsome and charming. We could have had some serious fun together. Still, the cash I had lifted from his backpack bought me a few years in Costa Rica.
About the Creator
After retiring from teaching world history for over 20 years, I am living every day on holiday: enjoying life with my family, traveling, gardening, engaging with my community in Las Vegas, and reflecting on the current state of the world.