We passed a hut veiled by dark forest, barely visible among stands of trees, stopped near Cerro Redondo and I hopped out of the car while Ben grabbed a Red Bull from a tiny bodega: just a glass-topped counter scarcely larger than a twenty-gallon aquarium, with sufficient room before it to shuffle a piece of cardboard over red-and-white dusty tiles, and a rack of candy. I ducked into the adjoining restaurant. Sweating porcelain coated the walls in pillowing squares. My sneakers slipped over the grimy floor to the bathroom. The waitstaff and proprietor did just that — waited for a customer — but didn’t begrudge me the use of their baño, and we left.
Then we were back into the SUV’s ensconcing grey leather — open windows — to trace our jet tires down the Pan-American blasting Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours in its entirety.
“If there were a palette for the Panamanian hillside houses, it’d have just two colors: mint green and coral red. See the rooftops and buildings. Gates. Doorways. Shutters,” said Emily sitting passenger, gesturing out the window through the stream of her golden hair. She and Ben traded ideas until the heat lulled her into a nap and silence carried by my wakefulness in the backseat built a tempo like a small, occasional bump under the whirr of the smooth road. Grass wet from a recent rain grew lush and brilliant all beside the highway. A tot wandered in the dirt near his mother’s nuguas on display from the rafters of her tarp-roofed shack. Three centuries’ custom swayed lightly in the breeze dully roaring the tarp of blue polyethylene secured over the dresses bright as the flowering trees embroidering the countryside, and with diamonds in their patterns, pyramids in their patterns. Saw-toothed edges that conjured the mountains of the landscape. It was all right there — brown palms, open, warmed by the sun, had made them.