Tired, beat, hungry, and getting delirious I yelled to San Juan ahead, I told him this mountain is not where Sandy hides, lives, rests, or even lying dead in, she simply wasn't there. San Juan takes a deep breath through his nose and holds that for a while. Longer than expected he eventually exhales with jets of cool air turning to fog. He nods and we reach an understanding. Something tells me he knew already, that he knew even before we came to this mountain, that he agreed to help me, and that he didn't once voice his opinion about how he felt, nor what he knew about coming here when there was nothing to be found, he saw through my blind stubbornness like a hot knife through room-warm butter. When I felt like arguing I would argue for the sake of arguing, I get it from my father, my gut feeling get obscured in moments like this, and that night spent in the mountain searching for her was only just a cool off for me. San Juan knew this as he kept his cool, like he always does, and when I was down to his level, when I was chilled out, he asked me what I felt, and just before I could ask him what he meant he took another deep breath through his gapping nostrils, I knew what he was saying then. I emptied my thoughts, they would only betray my feelings, these feelings that brew deep within all of us, and when I closed my eyes I saw a swirling light, and as I approached the light I felt a direction form. The wind took up and I felt my hair being blown part and soon I heard the palm leaves rustle, I turned my head in the direction and there it was, the valley below, with the moon found perfectly between two mountains like a silver dollar necklace between two large breasts. I looked to San Juan, he smiles, I was learning, man I felt like a man.
We take off to the valley below, we gave chase to a woman we're not entirely sure will be there, the only thing we got are our guts, and perhaps that's all we ever had. The mud splashes everywhere, and I call upon another memory to give me fuel. In the valley ahead I remember one single moment best, and I use it as my guide to give my feet and endurance strength. We took this hike out there, Sandy and I, I knew the path, but it had been a while since the last time I took it. We travelled close to the river, I told her this valley is haunted to see if it gave her chill or spook. Nothing. I tell her about the hour of the wolf, the hour before dawn, and how the dogs all howl during that hour, every night. The legend goes that the spirits rise to the sky, they are being freed like they always are freed every night. The image in my head is of the original Fantasia with the Night on Bald Mountain sequence, it scared me as a kid, the combination of the Mussorgsky and the visuals demons, ghosts, and skeletons hovering in the sky, in all of that darkly-lit and eerie animation that could never be made today. The night before I had to leave the bed we shared, I wondered off to the rooftop, I rested on my back looking towards the full moon, I watched the clouds crash into the moon, saw how the light shattered across the clouds, and remembered when I used to worship the moon, it seemed to always be there for me. I was looking at the most beautiful scenes of my life, I realized there could be no words, no photograph, or video that could ever quite capture this. The dark circles that had kept me awake disappeared for that moment, I sat there for a few more minutes and made my way down the ladder and back into bed without Sandy ever realizing anything had happened. The next day we found ourselves against the rocks, her face covered in her hair, and all I could think of was one thing. My words jumbled, I didn't care for them, they were air, filling in the gaps. I parted the hair that had fallen in her oral region and fired away, and at first I hadn't felt anything, silence, no response, I fought the dark circles from living in the daylight and went again. Something caught, the wind of the valley shot by, it almost spoke, I guess this is da kine I wondered. On the corner of my eye I thought I saw ghosts rise from the white water being stirred in the river. She didn't believe me, I saw it with my own eyes, I wanted to believe and so I saw something to believe in. We walked back to the car, with little words, I felt her hand grab mine, and suddenly we both felt safe, from what, the ghosts of the valley (did she believe a lick of word I said, I wondered...).
We took off in San Juan's jeep, he hit the fog lights and the rocked our way down a path only he and few locals knew. The car made all kinds of noises as the overgrown branches and palms hit the sides of the car, and crashed into the window leaving artificial scratches on the surface. The sky was starting to grow a deep purple, the day was still a concept then but it was dawning on us. Before I realized it San Juan took us to all the way, without a peep from me and my intuition, we made it to a saloon like bar with a bed and breakfast, there were a few trucks parked outside, and some high-heeled woman in sequin dresses, their faces looking slightly distorted, I couldn't tell if they were once beautiful or just strange in that strange way that attracted strange men to them, they were made for each other. Inside San Juan warned me not to ask questions, it felt like one of those bars in movies where everyone looked at you, even wanted to start a fight with you, and that I should proceed to the pool table and make sure I had a pool stick just in case. We went in, it was empty, a few fat mexicans sat at the bar, never looking back, they just seemed to not care about anything. San Juan smiles to the bartender, she has jerry-curled hair and a demeanor like she had seen a lot of people go throughout her life, and in my head I pictured her seeing all the loves and cares of her life come and go, she always stayed there, working the bar, with her dreams behind the counter, hidden from the client. I was introduced, her name was Clarence, I said my name, she looked uninterested, and then realizing she was done giving me all the eye contacted needed to be introduced she looked back to tall strong San Juan and asked what he will be having.
"Dry tonight, looking for something."
"Oh yeah" (runs her long red finger nail against his manly hand resting on the counter) "What kind of something?"
"Oh!" (surprised and disappointed at the same time) "What kind of woman, there's plenty of meat hanging outside"
I come into the conversation, I put my foot down, and look straight into her eyes, she gives me her eyes, and then I tell her how it is.
"Sandy, tell me where she is"
I thought of this person I had become, I wasn't really sure what to think, all I knew was that I knew what I wanted and had no time to play games.
"Well...", she replied, "Let me see, Sandy, S-a-n-d-y, doesn't ring a bell".
Another foot gets put down, I am close to her face, with a fiery determination glowing in my eyes".
"Now I'm going to ask you once, and I'm going to ask you nice, WHERE THE FUCK IS SANDY".
My words echoed through the bar, the music must've stopped at some point because it is deadly quiet, and I start to step away from my words. The message was received, and it was received well because the three fat mexican fellas got off of their seats and slowly approached San Juan and I, one popping his knuckles and I couldn't help but want to warn him that habit will cause arthritis but I don't think it mattered anymore. San Juan whispered real close to me, telling me to follow his next move. His next move: he looked down to the stool behind him, and gave me a nod, I was ready, my adrenalin was running, all that aggression stored deep down inside me was finally being let out. The first hit was dealt by San Juan, one after another, when one of them tried to come in with a cheap shot from the side I grabbed the stool with full force and landed it on the center of his back. He shot up with pain painting his face and landed on the ground, one of them saw this and ran over to him, San Juan finished the one he was working on and pushed him down. We both realized one of them was seriously injured, and he looked to me, I gave an awkward smile before we both looked down again.
"My brother has a bad back, man, you hit him too hard."
"Well, shit man, what do you expect, coming into a fight with those conditions..."
"Hey man, that's our job, bad back you still gotta make a living, got mouths to feed."
"Listen, I didn't mean to, had I realized..."
"Shit, it don't matter now homes, we gotta get him help"
San Juan and one of the bouncers helped the fallen bouncer into the back of his jeep, and we took off to a doctor's house on the other side of the island. The two bouncers thanked us in an awkward moment where once we were in a fist-fight then suddenly helping out complete strangers. The fallen bouncer slept for most of the way, when he spoke he spoke like that of a daydreamer, not realizing he was speaking to an audience on the other side of reality, then he fell silent again. San Juan told me his name was Cesar, and he didn't know about his back problems. He told me not to feel bad for hitting him in the back with the stool, it was the right thing to do to end something that wasn't right. It was just too bad about sleeping beauty Cesar in the back knocked out.
We reached the doctor's place, an old run down school that was once painted white but was covered in volcanic red dust. I knocked on his door three times and waited, looking back at the two waiting at the jeep, headlights on me. Just as I started to knock again the doctor opens the door, San Juan waves, and the situation is realized by the half-awake and irritated doctor. The doc grabs a plank of wood, and San Juan and I lift Cesar on to the plank, and with all three of us we carry Cesar off into the schoolhouse. The doctor named Phil tells us to wait outside, and so we leave. Outside we watch the sky transform into morning. I can't remember the last time I saw this forgotten portion of the day, just like I couldn't remember looking up at the stars before I moved to this island. And even then, I often forgot them. I remember a morning once long time ago, when a stranger came into my life, and in one of those moments happen when you're tired, but stay awake with them, talking the whole night through, dozing off here and there, and then you open your eyes again and it is the beginning of the day. You have that moment shared, and because you're sharing it with someone else it becomes something that is given from the nature of things, the majestic and the wild, the happenstance and chaos of life, see through two different eyes at the same time, the same light that has travelled across the solar system hits both of you at the same time. I turned to San Juan, and ask him what will be get ourselves into today, the word, Today seemed to trail off into the landscape being painted by pinks and oranges, and a bit of yellow, in a cyan-cast, another moment impossible to capture with any camera.