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Pronounced I-know-ah


The blaze of the sun heated the faded dashboard, making a stuffy convection oven out of the Chevy Astro van. The windows were rolled up to stop the chalky yellow dust from invading. Rick and Manny couldn’t do much about except to take their t-shirts off and sweat profusely from their brows.

The air conditioning hadn’t been working in Rick’s van for over a year, and they hadn’t gotten around to fixing it before starting their road trip. Rick could tell Manny was starting to get frustrated because he had gone silent.

“Keep with me, Manny, only a mile on this road, and we’re golden,” Rick said.

The Chevy squeaked on its rusting suspensions on the sandy washboard road. At the end of the straight and narrow dirt road, which stretched out in front of them like a yellow ribbon, the Sea of Cortez loomed in shimmering blue and turquoise, beckoning like a cool oasis. Spider-leg ocotillo cactus, and tall saguaros, and countless creosote bushes surrounded them in a strangely verdant frame, creating a charming, rustic landscape like something out of an Eagle’s song.

Manny grunted when the van hit a deep pothole. Rick reassured him, “Heard only good things about this place from my dad.”

As the road widened out, they encountered sand- and sun- faded rainbow beach houses and rows of palm tree palapa umbrella shades along a white sand bar that jutted lazily into a vermilion lagoon. A crooked sign nailed to a stump of a former palm tree read in ocean blue painted font: Lupita’s Resort & Bar 100 Meters.

“That’s the place!” Rick said as he turned the van onto the narrow side road.

Manny had binoculars out. He was studying the beach with a grim look. “No babes, bro. And no surf,” he said.

Rick shrugged. Given that he had been driving since Los Angeles, he wasn’t in the mood to humor Manny’s complaint. He just wanted a place to kick back in the shade and drink an ice-cold Corona.

The little beach encampment appeared mostly deserted. Only two or three vehicles were pulled up next to the palapas. Some families were out on the beach and in the tidepools. Kids turning over rocks. Family dog chasing seagulls. But per Manny’s observation, no girls were laying out. And no one tossed frisbees or played loud music. It was hardly Panama City or Miami. Besides all of that, the water was calm and cool as glass. No surfing. Their Astro van with the surfboards tied to the roof looked odd in this entirely too quiet place.

They passed through the encampment with growing regret and trepidation, squinting in the bright sun as they kept their eyes open for the resort. The ramshackle and cheerful houses became sparser as they drove through, until they reached the end of the road and found their spot of respite. The entrance was guarded by two gutted old trucks, or tractors, that were copper red with rust and missing headlights. A bleached cattle skull sat smiling at them from the hood of one of the vehicular corpses and a huge blue and white arch hung above in the same quaint painted font as the sign they spotted earlier, saying “Lupita’s”.

“You think Lupita’s sexy, bro?” Manny asked.

“Probably a lil’ ol’ lady,” Rick said.

“Could be a damn sexy lil’ ol’ lady. Mmm, I can’t wait to meet Señora Lupita.”

“You’re gonna let your dick do all the thinking for you on this trip, huh, bro?”

Manny laughed. “Summer break, my dude. My main brain is just gonna chill in autopilot.”

He turned to Rick with a stern look on his face, “And believe you me, I’m gonna get you laid on this trip, one way or another.”

Rick grimaced and shoved Manny back into his seat. Rick was twenty, and he had managed to get most of the way through college while maintaining his virginal purity. It wasn’t that he was too socially awkward or that he was bad looking. Quite the opposite – he had a pleasant, low-key personality and was a strikingly good-looking guy, with wavy golden hair, friendly eyes, and a lean swimmer’s body (He and Manny were teammates on the UCLA varsity swim team). But he was introverted. To a fault, according to his best friend Manny. Rick preferred the solitude of a surfboard in a curl of a Santa Barbara wave to a frat party and was shy with the girls. So, despite Manny’s best efforts, and despite many close calls, he had never actually had sex.

Past the entrance to the resort, they found three round brick-built bungalows with thatched palm leaf roofs like on the palapas facing the sea. A short and broad old man sat in a shaded veranda in the closer, and larger bungalow, surrounded by an oasis of flowering bougainvillea bushes that webbed up its walls in sprouting green and red cascades. He wore a linen shirt, grease-spotted jeans and a straw panama hat. A wineglass with a cool gold-colored liquid sat on a table by his side, and he had his bare feet up as he read a yellowed book.

They polatlı escort pulled the van up to the veranda and stepped out. The man slowly put his book down and rose, clutching at the small of his back as he did so. He grabbed a cane and leaned on it to receive his expected guests.

“Bienvenidos caballeros!” the old man shouted in a strong whiskey voice. He scratched his chin and grinned widely at them.

“Hola! Buenos Tardes,” Manny said in a poorly conceived Spanish. “We are, er, buscando… Para Lupita’s! Donde esta Lupita?”

Embarrassed by Manny’s awkwardly shameless initiative, Rick elbowed him hard. “Ow!” Manny yelped.

The old man laughed a strong laugh with his gut in response.

“Lupita is my wife,” the old man said in a comfortable English. He offered his hand. “You found it.”

Manny stepped forward and shook the man’s hand. “Ok, gotcha. I’m Manuel… or Manny. And this is my friend Rick. We rented a bungalow for the night, señor.”

“And here you are. Welcome amigos,” the old man said cheerily. He seemed imperviously amiable, like he had been that way his whole life and encountered no good reason to change.

“My name is Enrique Villa-Lobos. But you can call me Kiké.” He grabbed his glass from the table and took a sip.

“Let me show you boys where you’re staying, eh?”

He shuffled slowly across the veranda towards one of the other bungalows with Rick and Manny in tow. Kiké showed them around. It was a simple circular brick hut, with a central large ceiling fan that didn’t appear to work, a two-range gas stove and a small white, paint-chipped refrigerator nestled in the back beneath a tiled countertop. The bungalow looked out on the sea through small barred windows. Two cots topped with folded white sheets and colorful serape patterned blankets sat against the brick wall. It was a simple, but lovingly cared for guestroom.

“Awesome,” Rick commented. Kiké handed them a key to the door and advised them to take a shower during the day when the sun still warmed the water tank that sat on the roof of the hut. He walked them outside and showed them the big rusted propane tank that sat glumly on the side of the bungalow. He gave it a hard kick and it gonged deeply.

“Outta propane,” Kiké explained. “The gas man stopped coming out here from town. Got too expensive for him. If my son Guillermo was still around, I’d have him help me take the tank to town for refills. But’s he’s out in Ciudad de México. He studies at university there. Very proud of my boy. I’ve been meaning to get smaller tanks but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Shouldn’t be a problem these days, but let me know if you need more blankets, eh?”

He sipped from the glass and asked, “any questions caballeros?”

Rick and Manny looked at each other and shrugged. Rick replied, “Not at the moment. I think we’ll just go grab our luggage for now. This place is beautiful, Kiké.”

Kiké nodded with a grin. “Ok guys, you know where to find me.”

He raised his glass at them and shuffled away, back towards his veranda.

Manny shouted out after him, “Oh, Kiké. Any surfing around here?”

Kiké turned and laughed and said, “Naw man. No surfing. But plenty of good fishing on the other side of the laguna. I got poles if you wanna borrow them.”

Manny shook his head, “‘salright Kiké. We’re good.”

Kiké raised his glass the same way he did before and took a sip before he shuffled off again.

Before grabbing their luggage from the van, Manny and Rick took in the beautiful view. The beach was white and pristine, and the calm breeze pleasant. A long train of pelicans skimmed the surface of the calm sea in undulating flight, heading south along the coastline.

Having recovered and lightened up from the rough ride, Manny slapped Rick’s back triumphantly. “My man, the summer of Baja will be a memorable one.”

Rick agreed heartily and wondered loudly where to find their first Baja beer. They went back to the van and picked out their backpacks from the disorganized pile of stuff for the road trip from the back of the van and lugged them back towards the bungalow. Kiké sat quietly on the veranda sipping more of the yellow liquid, transfixed by his book.

As Rick hoisted his backpack onto his back, anxious fluttering and staccato chirps brought Rick’s attention to a large brass birdcage that hung by the door to Kike’s home. The cage swung and bounced as the source of the chaos, a small white and blue bird, clasped onto the bars of the cage with its feet and beat its wing in rapid succession. Rick smiled as he studied the markedly beautiful little creature. It looked back at him with a cocked head then fluttered back to the swing in the center of the cage.

Then Manny brought his attention elsewhere. Rick felt a sharp elbow and heard Manny whisper, “pssst! Check your two-o clock!”

Rick looked to his right and up towards the balcony covered by the overgrown bougainvillea. A slender, amber-skinned girl stood pursaklar escort there, resting her arms against the stucco balcony ledge, observing them as they toiled with their bags. Her centered youthful elegance in the hanging red and green appeared like a subject of a painted mission fresco. Her hair was straight and shimmering Spanish black, splaying across her face in thin strands in the wind and she wore a cotton white tank-top and a long flowing skirt the vibrant color of red carnations. She observed them lazily.

“Ainhoa! Come introduce yourself,” Kiké said.

Kiké looked at Rick and Manny with a tickled grin, noticing how their jaws on the floor at the young lady amongst the bougainvillea.

“That’s my daughter, Ainhoa. She was accepted to study at university in Mexico City as well. She’s smart, like her brother.” Kiké spoke with pride.

She emerged onto the veranda shortly after disappearing from the balcony, with her hips swaying elegantly like a charming seductress through the lush flowering arches. Kiké rose and kissed her on a cheek and presented her like a debutante to the boys.

She smiled charmingly at them and shook their hands, and said, in a bright Mexican voice, “Encantado.”

Kiké said, “my girl Ainhoa runs the bar. Talk to her if you want some cervezas. Or,” he raised his glass, “…something stronger.”

Ainhoa nodded, and brushed hair from her face, remaining coyly silent.

With his eyes still glued to her, Rick asked Kiké, “What’s that you’re drinking?”

Kiké giggled, pleased that the question was asked. He reached between his ankles and picked up a bottle that the boys hadn’t notice before. It was a clear round label-less bottle filled half-full of the same golden liquid that sat in Kiké’s wine glass.

“Tequila,” Kiké stated.

He uncorked the bottle with his teeth and poured tequila into his already half-full glass and handed it to Rick. “Give it a try.”

Rick took a timid sip. He had taken shots of tequila, but never had anything as smooth and warm, and seductively fragrant as what had just touched his tongue and trickle in a slow simmer down his throat and prickle the inside of his nose with its intoxicating vapors. Kiké grinned at Rick’s surprised expression and motioned him to hand the glass to Manny. Manny took a sip and shouted, “Dayum that’s good!”

Kiké slapped his knee, chortling at the reaction. Ainhoa giggled sharply and took the glass from Manny, taking a shot of the rest of the tequila and wiping her lips with her forearm.

“Very smooth,” she said after gulping the liquid down with an unwavering expression.

“Claro,” her dad said and filled the glass again. “An Añejo straight from the city of Tequila. A gift from a friend who owns a plantation out there. He ages it in bourbon barrels. Makes it smooth. But this is my tequila. You boys can get your own at the bar. Help my Ainhoa pay for university, eh?”

Rick and Manny nodded. Manny replied, “you got it jefe. We’ll toss our bags into the bungalow. Where’s the bar at?”

Kiké pointed to the large palapa down on the beach in front of the bungalows.

“Awesome,” Manny said. “We’ll be there,” he said, winking at Ainhoa.

Ainhoa nodded with her hands clasped in front of her politely.

“She don’t get too much opportunity to practice her English, so you boys can help her with that,” Kiké said.

“You got it, Kiké,” Rick said.

With that, Rick and Manny took their luggage to their bungalow and made their way down to the palapa bar. On the way over, Manny pulled Rick aside and whispered, “bro… That chica is muy, muy caliente. I don’t know how I’m going to contain myself.”

Rick whispered back, “Don’t let Kiké see you make a move on his daughter though.”

Manny put a hand around him and said, “bro…you need to make a move on her. I’ll keep an eye out for Kiké”

Ainhoa waited for them there, scrubbing the salt-worn wooden bar counter with a wetted cloth towel.

When she saw the pair strut into the empty bar, she smiled warmly at them. “Qué les gustaría, chicos?” she said.

Rick was stumped by what she said. “Um…”

“She asking what you want bro,” Manny said with a laugh. “Come on man, didn’t you just finish Spanish 201?”

Rick’s face went red. Ainhoa and laughed along amiably. Rick quickly glanced at her body and noticed her high perky breasts pressed against her tight tank top, and the delicate curves of her tanned, skinny shoulders. Her body was as pleasant and pure as her laugh, Rick thought.

“What do you want Rick?” Manny asked.

“I’ll take a Corona.”

“Dos de Corona, por favor, bella,” Manny said to Ainhoa with a Rico Suave grin, leaning against the bar counter.

“Bueno,” she laughed, shaking her head at his flirty approach, and reached into an ice chest to pull out two frigid drinks. She uncapped them expertly and shoved a fresh cut slice of lime into each.

They grabbed their drinks and clinked their rus escort bottles.

“Here’s to a good summer,” Rick said.

“Cheers to that brother. Here’s to a week of good surfing, hopefully. Actually…,” he turned his attention to Ainhoa, “Donde podemos surfing?” Manny asked, imitating the motion of riding a wave.

Ainhoa frowned in thought, shooting her eyes pensively to the thatched ceiling.

“No se puede hacer surf por acá,” she said in her soft accent. She pointed out past them towards the mountains in the desert inland. “Surfing al oeste. Al lado Pacifico. Ensenada, Rosarito, y a lo largo de toda la costa allá. Pero, acá… no hay olas suficientes.”

Rick and Manny stared at her in stupefied silence as they attempted to understand her rapid Spanish. Rick turned to Manny for the translation. Manny nodded uncertainly and said to Rick, “um, she said… no surfing here…”

“I know genius. And?” Rick beckoned.

“And… some other stuff. Something about Ensenada.”

“Yeah, I heard that too. Now you’re not allowed to make fun of my Spanish bro,” Rick laughed. Manny laughed along.

“I said no surfing here. Surfing over on the Pacific side like in Ensenada or Rosarito. But here there are no surfing waves.” Ainhoa said. She noticed Rick staring at her intently and smiled. He smiled back. He was enamored by her beautiful accent, which matched her kind, curving face and her sunny smile.

“Where are you from, chicos?” she said, addressing them both.

Rick answered, “we’re both studying at UCLA. Los Angeles.”

“Órale! …so cool.”

She leaned over to Manny, resting her chins in a hand as she leaned into the bar counter. “And you are Hispanic?”

Rick felt a tiny pang of jealousy at the show of attention to his friend. Manny gulped his Corona and leaned in towards her with dreamy eyes. “I’m half-Filipino. But born and raised in LA. Well, Orange County to be precise. Like my boy Ricky-bobby over here. We’re both from Orange County.” He hugged Rick with one arm. “Unlike me, he’s one hundred percent gringo. But don’t hold that against him. He’s a super cool dude.”

“I can see,” Ainhoa said, looking Ricky up and down with her face turned into her shoulder.

“So we’re on a surf trip, but since there doesn’t seem to be any surfing, what else is there to do for fun?”

Ainhoa grabbed a beer for herself. “…drinking,” she said, opening her bottle and taking a sip. “Mucho drinking.”

“and fishing,” she added. “And… fiestas. Especialmente fiestas. Very busy during the races.” “Pero, it is very calm now,” she said.

“Cheers to that!” Manny exclaimed holding up his beer in salute. Ainhoa clinked her bottle to his, then making sure not to forget Rick, clinked his.

Rick asked, “What do you mean by races?”

“Baja One Thousand for example. But there are no races right now. So, no people. Only you guys. This I prefer more,” she said as she took a sip of her beer. “The racing people are loud.”

Above the bar, there was a peeling poster of a mad-max looking truck-buggy hybrid adorned with sponsorship decals flying high in the air above a cactus while spectators in the background cheered. In sharp, flashy font below the flying racer, the poster read: BAJA 1000 – San Felipe, B.C., Mexico.

“Looks fun,” Rick commented.

“Too loud,” Ainhoa reiterated.

The three of them drank and chatted until the sun touched the peaks of the western mountains and until the tide came in to fill the lagoon so that the sand bar appeared only as a thin goldenrod crescent in the shimmering water. The sunlight cast the desert beach in a cool glow.

After some time, the pelicans, ospreys, and terns gathered above the mouth of the lagoon and dove in one after the other. Ainhoa responded to this by exclaiming, “Mira! Sardines,” in an excited murmur, pointing with her nose to the lagoon.

Rick and Manny turned around in their bar stools and watched the birds dive. The brown pelicans lounged in the water after their graceful dive-bomb and snapped their beaks high into the air to get their prey to slide down their rubbery gullets. The ospreys would hover above and, to signal their excited intention, their feather tips would shudder as they floated down rapidly to the calm water surface to pluck out thin silver fish of their choosing and fly off to perch on a cactus, palm tree or flag pole to consume their catch.

A voluminous shadow floated beneath the surface of the water where the birds were picking out the fish, like a shadow of a cloud, but there were no clouds in the blue-white sky.

“It’s a big school,” Ainhoa said. She reached into the back of the bar and pulled out a meshed cast-net decorated with small lead weights.

“Les gustaría ir a pescar?”

Rick and Manny looked at her with blank stares.

She hoisted the cast-net up towards them. “You want to fish?”

They nodded in unison.

On the beach, Ainhoa removed her tank top and her skirt to reveal a thin black bikini. Rick noticed a thin arc of sand and small broken shells crusted against her upper thighs and her calves. She wore the beach sand like jeweled accessories. Manny shot Rick a secret grin as Ainhoa waded shin deep into the calm lagoon water with the lead weights weaved between her fingers.

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