Ducha Gratis


By Henry Baer-Benson

Every day at 1, we go home for a 2 hour lunch break. Yesterday was my laundry day and as I walked the block back from the lavandería with my bag of clean clothes I noticed it was sprinkling. I wasn’t too worried. They don’t have real rain here, I thought to myself. All of the rain I’d experienced in Cuenca had amounted to no more than a drizzle. My host mom had even told me that it rained durísimo during the parade, which I had comfortably endured without a rain jacket. I wasn’t worried.

When I got back to the house I threw my bag of clothes on the floor and decided I had time to watch one YouTube video before leaving for work. About halfway through the video, however, Neil deGrasse Tyson was interrupted by a deafening crack of thunder. I pulled my earbuds out of my ears and immediately noticed that the drizzle from earlier was now roaring against the sides of our house. That’s odd, I thought as I popped my earbuds back in and finished the video. Then I threw on my rain jacket, switched my suede for my tennis shoes and made my way to the front door.

On the way to the door I passed my host brother in the hallway. “¡¿Vas al trabajo?!” I didn’t know why Josue seemed so concerned. I assured him that it was no big deal and that I loved walking in the rain. I pet my host dog goodbye and I was on my way. I stepped onto the sidewalk in front of our house. Sheets of water pounded off the concrete and waterfalls poured from every rooftop. The sides of the road had become swift, muddy streams. I carefully maneuvered down my block, darting from cover to cover and doing my best to avoid the splash of the roof water. As I reached the end of my block, I considered that I might have underestimated the temper of Cuencan rainstorms. Even so I decided to test it. Bad idea. As I leapt across the street’s northern stream I heard another crack of thunder which was quickly drowned out as the rain’s intensity spiked. I had angered the storm. I was sure that my confidence in crossing the street had provoked it. I bounded over the southern stream and onto the safety of the sidewalk.

I didn’t want to go all the way to RAFALEX by darting under balconies. Besides, my pants were already full of raindrops and my socks felt like sponges in my shoes. I decided to enjoy the rain. “Free shower,” I said to myself as I stepped out from under the canopy of a tienda. I progressed more quickly now, gleefully hopping from curb to planter to cinder block as I crossed the streets. From time to time I was followed by the amused gaze of Ecuadorians who had taken shelter in doorways and under balconies. By the time I got down to the river, the streams on either side of the road were almost touching. I dodged the tidal waves from passing cars as I waited for my chance to cross. When I saw an opening I gathered up all of my strength and barely managed to launch myself over the northern stream. Then, in the middle of the street, I realized that there was no way I would be able to clear the southern stream and reach the raised sidewalk on the other side. Unfortunately, my deliberation was cut short by a bus which had just turned onto the road and was accelerating towards me. I decided to cut my losses. My right ankle plunged into the current as I bounded, once again, to the safety of the sidewalk.

By the time I arrived at RAFALEX my blue pants were black with rainwater and my shoes squelched as I walked. When I entered Teresita’s office she was speechless. “Ducha gratis,” I explained.

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