There were eight of us in the paila, the truck bed, on the way back from La Paz, all of us sleepy and full of tajadas and banana-flavored pop. Marleni was sick off the side of the truck.
I had joined the trip spontaneously—a visit to someone else’s cousin—in part because I had little else to do, but in part because I love riding pailando, the wind in my face.
The country rolled past us—lush forests of palms, rolling hills, buildings toppled in an earthquake and never rebuilt, men and women bent cutting grass with machetes.
Hector saw the storm coming before we did and he pulled the truck over and handed us a tarp. And suddenly it was raining in the way it does here: buckets of rain, sheets of rain, rain that paints your clothes to your body and makes rivers out of streets. We started yelling all at once as we rigged the tarp over our heads.
“Grab the corner!” Marta shouted at Paolo, her son, who was trying to keep his head outside so he could continue the road game of counting cows. His corner slipped from his hand and slapped in the wind. I lunged to grab it and wrestled it back to the edge, gripping it till my knuckles whitened.
We all knelt beneath the tarp, clutching its edges, and Denise started laughing because of the way my hair was plastered to my face. The wind smacked the tarp up and down against our heads, and it was dark inside though it was only afternoon.
“Kati will never come on visits with us again!” wailed Josue, and I had to tell him many times that yes I would, of course I would, this was an adventure.
The rain on the tarp was like the sound of surf, the kind of sound that rings in your ears hours later. We laughed to hear it—laughed to see each other’s faces—laughed to hear the sound of the tires spinning through an inch and a half of water. We were soaked now, to our skins, but we clung tightly to the tarp and huddled close beneath damp blankets and stayed warm.
We could hear the rain stop, slowly, though the tarp still whipped and slapped us. I poked my head out to see that it was already dusk. Semi trucks whizzed by us, but the stars were coming out and one by one our heads came out to look up at the sky.
It was full dark when we drove up the hill, home. I knew the night would unfold quietly.
We would peel off our wet clothes and hang them the clothesline. Dressed in something warm, we would eat reheated beans and avocados and tortillas and it would be perfect, exactly enough. Paolo would fall asleep mid-bite and this time Marta wouldn’t wake him, but would carry him, still sleeping, up to bed.
That night the rain would beat down on the fiberglass roof, drowning out the cock’s crow and fighting cats next door. It would be cool all night until morning.