And The Band Played On
By Devorah Klein
I awake startled. I try to focus
my eyes, but lines of wet clothing criss-cross the
room and obscure my vision. There is a banging noise
in my ears and I can’t decipher what it is or where
it’s coming from. My roommates awaken, bleary-eyed
as well, and from beyond the wall of clothes, someone
shouts, “What the hell is that?”
I stumble to the window and peer
out. Slowly I begin to recognize the noise as a rendition
of “The Saints Go Marching In.” I look down and see
a ragtag group of boys with all different types of
instruments, including several horns and a set of
cymbals, marching down the streets.
“It’s a marching band.”
“But why? It’s 4:30 in the morning!”
“I don’t know. Maybe they’ll stop,”
I say, as I stagger back to bed, entangling myself
in the wet web of a hanging shirts and skirts on the
way. I wipe my face on my bed sheet and attempt to
shut out the clamoring noise.
“Shut up!” My roommate yells out
the window. They start to play louder.
I re-awaken just before 6 a.m. I
don’t know when I fell asleep again, but I know that
I am very tired. My roommates and I are supposed to
meet Horacio downstairs in a few minutes. Horacio
is a middle-aged man, roughly five-foot five, with
weathered skin and short black hair. He has lived
on the island of Ometepe all his life. We met him
yesterday at a restaurant, and he said he could show
us the ancient stone petroglyphs that are scattered
throughout the island.
Horacio is waiting in the lobby and informs us we
have a bus to catch. We walk outside and chase after
a yellow school bus, circa 1970. I sit, plastered
to the sticky vinyl seat and stare out the familiar
rectangular windows, I feel an odd sense of displacement;
instead of seeing smooth asphalt, concrete sidewalks,
and strip-malls, I see a long, dirt road, full of
potholes and littered with rocks. Tall, lush trees
arch over the road, and a few pigs and cows roam alongside
In the background stands Mt. Conception,
the massive volcano. Ahead of us is the smaller Mt.
Maderas, which together formed the island. The bus
stops sporadically, taking on passengers huddled aside
the road. We are tossed around like loose apples as
we traverse the bumpy road. There are some stretches
of road where there are stacks of flat stones piled
waist high for what appears to be the construction
of a modern road, but the work is long abandoned.
Suddenly, Horacio motions to us
and tells the driver to stop. The bus driver yells
something in Spanish as we scurry off the bus amongst
a sea of blank stares.
Still standing in the cloud of dust and exhaust Horacio
points toward a pick-up truck emerging from a curve.
“They will drive us. It will be
faster because they can cut across instead of going
around the perimeter of the island, like the bus does.”
We give the driver a few coins,
jump onto the back of the truck and are soon negotiating
our way through the forest. The path is tumultuous,
and after a few minutes the rattling is overwhelming.
Finally, the truck stops and we get off and wander
through the thick vegetation. Horacio points out several
rocks with the ancient petroglyphs etched into them.
Some are hidden behind trees; some are out in the
Horacio tries to explain what the
different etchings mean, but his answers are spotty
and speculative. The 3500-year-old stones contain
mysterious lines and curves; theories as to their
meaning range from usage as maps to being a form of
written language. No one really knows their meanings
Horatio admits, but the stones have remained unprotected
for so long that they are at risk of being lost forever
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