I had no idea what time it was but I was tired and I could not close an eye. Dark thoughts, darker than the room I was in, were swirling through my tired brain. Where is my friend? I have been twisting and turning so much in my bed it already felt like a thorough workout. After leaving Mosquito bar, the most popular in the tropical village lost in the middle of the Bolivian nowhere, I headed to the hostel. My friend promised to follow me shortly, she just wanted to chat some more with a local tour guide. I did not like tour guides in that village and neither did she. We spent hours bitching how sleazy most of them were, how they tried to hook up with naïve tourists. The doorman at our hostel opened the door with a reproachful look, then went back to sleep on the hard bench next to the door. It was way past midnight. I walked quietly on the cobblestones covered by tropical vegetation, passed by the row of empty rooms, and headed to the back of the narrow courtyard where we rented a room for a few nights. I fell asleep quickly, but my subconscious was still waiting for the noise of the door opening and my friend stepping in. A strong wind started to blow and every now and then weird banging noises came from the roof. Branches, in their nocturnal swing, were eerily scratching the tin roof. My friend was not here and it was 2 am. I was the only one in the hostel, besides the sleepy doorman. The whole scenario was getting creepy. I decided to go out and look for her in the street. As I stepped out of the hostel, a gust of wind drifted through my skirt. It brought anxiety. The streets were empty, a pale light severely limited the visibility. I was alone in a Bolivian frontier village, in the midst of the jungle. My friend had disappeared and local tour guides had a bad reputation. She must have gone to his place. Was she safe? I felt powerless. I wished I could go look for her but I did not know where to go. The streets were soaked in darkness. I was standing, confused and worried, in the stillness of the night, under a pale light bulb. My skirt, shivering occasionally in the tropical breeze, was moving way faster than my brain. I had a burning knot in my stomach. What shall I do? I had only one option, one provoking most anguish: return to the room and wait. What if something happened to her? I walked to the border of the light and peaked into the dark beyond. Defeated, I went back to my room, after enduring the reproachful looks of the sleepy doorman once again. “Disculpe”… I murmured, sinking in the darkness of the hostel garden. It’s funny how paradise-like this place looked during the day, with its white square rooms aligned along a tended green garden of tropical plants and colorful flowers, with birds chirping sweetly and a couple of hammocks dangling in one cozy corner. It all looked eerie and grotesque now, under the silver rays of a ruthless moon. Once again, I slipped under the sheets, my ears receptive to every rustle of the leaves, to every screech of the branches. I could not sleep. I started making plans in case she did not show up the next morning. I wished that night would end faster. The more tired I grew, the darker my thoughts and the more I loathed that place. Where is my friend? Is she alive? I hugged my sarong, it still smelled like home. It comforted me and brought an olfactory memory of a safe place. I wished I could teleport home somehow. I wished I could fast-forward time; the morning light would surely bring solutions. I fell asleep, exhausted. With the first rays of sun, I finally heard the sounds I so much longed for: the door opened, and familiar steps resonated in the room. I opened my eyes and stared at my friend.
“I’m sorry..." she muttered.
“We’ll talk when we wake up”, I said, and fell in a deep restful fluffy sleep.
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~St. Augustine