Costa Rica :: Part 8

This story is being told as a series. Here’s a link to Part 1

Part 8

Having successfully completed the jungle trek — such as it was — I gratefully joined a group of my fellow travelers sitting in the small open-air gift shop and beverage stand. We waited there for our tour guide to gather us up. Just out front, a group of people were taking photos and peering excitedly into a small bush. We asked if it was a bird they were trying to see; someone responded that it was a vine snake. I thanked them for the information. “You should see it,” they told me, but I assured them that it was better that I didn’t. They laughed.

It was fine that it was there, in theory. I just preferred to avoid the reality of it. The wonderful thing about knowing I have this particular fear is that I know enough to avoid unnecessary exposure.

At last Ciro starting herding us up. I stood to the far side, away from the offending bush. “Did you see it?” he asked me. “There’s a vine snake there, you should see it.” I tried to wave him off, but he insisted. “Come on Susan,” he said, smiling, putting his arm lightly around me, leading me back where I least wanted to go. “It’s just there.” In the bush I could see what looked exactly like a solitary vivid green vine stretching lonely through the branches of the bush. “That’s the snake, laying across there?” It was a question, but my tone was dismissive — not because I wasn’t impressed, but because I had seen enough.

I was fine, so long as the snake and I went on with its pretense of being a vine.

I suppose he misunderstood my tone, wanted me to be more excited about it. “Yes that’s it. But you really have to see the head,” he said, and I began to say that no, I didn’t really, and he let go of me, began to hunker down and swivel to find the right angle where I might be able to see more fully.

At that moment, the vine moved, writhing in a distinctly snake-like manner. So much for illusions.

Ciro was still talking but I could no longer hear. I began to tremble, to step slowly back … but not too far or too fast, because even as my fight-or-flight response tried to kick in, I remembered that an unknown distance behind me was a tree that was the home of vipers. I froze in place. Unaware of my panic, Ciro only slowly realized I was no longer beside him. He turned to see what had become of me. I stood there shaking, my hands flailing uselessly in fear. I could see his dismay — this was not the kind of excitement he had hoped to inspire — as my face began to crumple into silent tears of panic.

He turned to me, intending to comfort me, but some combination of seeing his reaction, and his movement between me and it, helped me rein it in. I pulled myself together, shook my head quickly, blinked away the tears. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I said, not entirely sure what I was sorry for, other than my own weakness and the fact that he’d witnessed it.

I turned away, in the direction of the exit, and he gathered the rest of us to lead us back up to the bus that would take us to our next destination. He came up to me a few minutes later, to make sure I was OK. I was. I apologized again: I had known that I wasn’t in any danger, really; my reaction had been totally irrational. He said not to worry, he should have known better when I said I didn’t want to see it; his sister was the same way.

I was fine, or so I told myself. But the possible horror of snake remained with me for the rest of the journey.

It is an important thing for me to know about myself: that when faced with an object of terror, I may not do anything as wise as flee from danger or even useful like scream for help. No, no. In the face of this particular fear, my instincts for self-preservation will fail me, and I will do something completely useless, like cry about it.

Copyright © 2010

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~ by lorakceel on May 5, 2010.

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