I take a bottle of water from the refrigerator. It begins to drip before I get it to the patio, instantly sheathed in condensation as if it had been dipped in wax. It is eighty-eight degrees and the humidity is more than that. A storm is coming to Puerto Vallarta.
In the kitchen, Louise is preparing paella, boiling water for rice, frying things in a pan. She has the air conditioner on. Without it, she would wither in the kitchen like a stick of melted butter. We try not to use the air conditioner, preferring to acclimate to the tropical weather. But in the kitchen with a hot stove, acclimating is no more practical than breathing fire.
I prepare our drinks: a Margarita for me, a Cape Codder for her. The glasses instantly sweat in the humid air. We take them to the beach, recline under a palapa. Severo, the basket vendor, comes by. Louise bought a basket from him yesterday (“My family make them here in Puerto Vallarta”) but she didn’t have enough cash to pay for it in full. Severo gave her the basket anyway and said he’d catch up with her later for the remainder. We talk for half an hour. Laugh a lot. The people here are like that: industrious, friendly, trusting, cheerful.
It is time for another spectacular Puerto Vallarta sunset. We sit on the beach with our drinks nearly every night to watch the sunset, but tonight — given the density of the sky — it is not to be. The sky and the sea, both as gray and dense as used motor oil, confuse the horizon. Rather than a sunset, we go simply from light to dark in that unfamiliar way of the tropics, as suddenly as if we blew a fuse.
Lightning, out at sea. I count the seconds, awaiting thunder. In air, sound travels about a mile every five seconds. It is eighteen seconds before we hear thunder. The storm is about three miles away.
It’s the Fourth of July out there, with lightning striking as often as fireworks. Thunder rumbles like severe indigestion. I count five seconds now. The storm is near, and drawing nearer. Quickly.
Lightning and thunder surround us. We are living inside a Leyden jar. Until a moment ago, the air — enveloping us like a warm blanket — was as still as a corpse. Suddenly the wind has picked up, whipping rain under the palapa. Palapas’ roofs are made of tightly woven palm fronds and they’re remarkably waterproof. We’ve been sitting beneath ours, ogling the storm, wide-eyed, whispering “Wow!” and “Lookitthat!” like children at a circus. But palapas have no walls and now the wind has found us, and brought along its friend the rain. The rain has an attitude. We grab our glasses and sprint for home.
Our patio is less than a hundred feet from the palapa but by the time we’re under cover we might as well have been swimming. My hair and my clothes are soaked but I don’t care: the rain is as warm (and welcome) as a mother’s hug.
The wind, the thunder and the lightning stop abruptly, but the rain is here for an extended engagement. Louise serves paella on the patio. We light a candle, pour a bottle of wine, and eat while the rain cascades in sheets off the patio roof.
It has been dry in Puerto Vallarta. People are worried about having enough water to last the winter. After tonight, perhaps, not so much.