Hot. Humid. Thick. That's the air when, abruptly and without warning, Belize goes still. Wind gushes off of the ocean directly through the seaside village of Placencia, brushing residents and tourists with cool hands, forever ruffling hair and tossing napkins from tables and bars. But, from time to time, the wind stops, mid-blow, as if second guessing herself. "Wait. Is this too much?" she says, forcing palm trees to finally stand at attention. And, in the wake of her sudden uncertainty, your world stops. You feel every molecule of the heat, its syrupy texture as you move through it. You are suddenly aware of the stickiness on your skin about which you, just seconds ago, had forgotten. The wind, she made you feel smooth, soft. Sand, the gritty handfuls of it that cover every walked-upon surface, radiates and tosses up at you the heat it's been holding all day, as though it had been waiting for just this moment. And you cease to move, unwilling to exert yourself, holding your body still, suspended in mid-action, just waiting for the stillness to pass. And, just as quickly as she paused, the wind begins again, shaking the thick waxy leaves of tropical trees, rustling the palms, soothing away the sweat that just begun to form on your upper lip. You resume eating, talking, reaching, walking...Whatever it was you were doing before you slammed head-first into the thickness of the heat.
When you're not in the middle of the wind's gusts, when you're stuck in the awkward shift from westward to eastward, you feel grimy, oil-covered, slick. You notice the sweat that's accumulated on your glass of cococut rum and pineapple juice. Your hands, even though you only just washed them, feel dirty, as though covered with food or sand or salt; Remains of the wind. And you curse, wiping your palms on your pants. "This wind," you say, shaking your head and searching your fingers for visible dirt. "It's driving me crazy."
But she doesn't drive you crazy. She's comforting. You hear her constantly, nudging lazy waves to shore, shaking loose palm fronds, rattling a tin ashtray - She's everywhere, the subtext of every conversation, the soundtrack to your every action, in the soft cadence of the locals' accent. She slams closed the doors you carelessly left open. She plays practical jokes on you and your fellow diners, extinguishing the flame of lighters every time someone attempts to light a cigarette. Click-click-click, you hear as one smoker after another attempts to light up. They change positions, curl their fingers around their Bics. Click. They shift their shoulders to block her out. She giggles and circles them, rendering their cupped hands and hearty shoulders useless. When she's finally bored of this to and fro, she relents; lets you light.
She sings you to sleep each of the ten nights that you crawl - sunkissed and still warm - into bed, windows open to her. She greets you when you wake, pushing your skirt ahead of you as you walk across the sand courtyard from your hotel room to the restaurant to make your coffee. She turns the pages in the books you read on the porch. She tricked you into thinking you weren't getting burned by her big brother, the sun. But she kept the bugs away from your heat-rashed arms.
She was in your every step. She was with you at every dinner. She cooled your forehead and soothed your sunburn. And when it came time to board a plane and leave your boyfriend in Belize, while you flew home to America, she invited you to use her as an alibi for your watery eyes.
And you were grateful for her; For her soft caress on your moist arms, for her gentle touch, for her constant company. Just as you reach the top of the stairs that will take you into a plane and away from this country, she embraces you one last time, and howls goodbye.