San Jose, Costa Rica. I walk and walk and walk around in circles, trying to know this place. Sometimes I get it – a park, a monument. I walk up a hill, wanting an experience or a glass of wine.
I enter what I now call the bad man bar. Super Bowl Sunday. I should care if the Patriots win, I suppose. Large men everywhere – I suppose I have landed. Vino blanco by the glass. Si, yes, and agua por favor.
I didn’t get it, at first. The ex-pat bar, the big men and the small women in heels like skyscrapers. I learn things – like this guy knows a guy who can drive that fucking truck to Nicaragua and then he says “Timber!” and everyone laughs.
These women are not drunk, or maybe they are. My eyes follow them to the bano, they don’t fall as easily as trees.
The next day I walk and walk and walk through parks, past monuments, and up the hill to the same bar. This time it is not intentional. Last time wasn’t either. The guidebook says a great café is located at this nexus. I duck under azaleas to find that they are closed. And so I see the bad man bar, and walk in. “Vino blanco, por favor.”
I take a seat among the men, wondering how I must seem plain and American to them. Compared to the beautiful Ticas who are not around at this moment. The men talk amongst themselves as if I am deaf. “I told you I have a guy who can drive that mother fucker up there!”
“Now, where’s my wife?”
They explode in laughter.
Later, the women walk in on shoes like the Empire State Building. They nudge me aside to sit on daddy’s lap. I refuse to move. Over. I am equally entranced by their scent and their hair and their knowledge of things both mundane and indiscreet.
When I leave I am full of tequila, shots poured for the Tica wives, who included me in the party. “Yo soy una feministe!” They laughed and winked and said uno mas for me.
At my hotel I smoke a cigarette with a German girl who has stayed at the bad man bar. She confirms my suspicions – they are Tica wives. One weekend a month, all expenses paid. She was reviled for having her friend stay with her – as if, as if…she can’t quite say it.
Of course, I return.
These are the men who left my friends crying on the side of the road. The men who laughed at those tears. The men who think their wives don’t know; the wives who are possibly thrilled to never suck that thing again. At this point the owner, a gringo, probably thinks I’m a spy.
And I am. The Tica wives come in, flashing their teeth like dollar bills. They are beautiful, they are strong, they are like architecture and venom and music.
They first say hello to me. Me. One who was left crying at the side of the road.
Our eyes meet, and we all know who really controls this world.