Paint Me the Places You’ve Seen

CARRIE, April 2000


The boys were playing outside the small hotel, one of them sporting a Godzilla-cartoon t-shirt which he constantly pointed to as if he was directing his friend to do the things in the pictures.

Afraid of thinking too much about the monsters in my own life, I had spent most of my time on the road to Tegucigalpa brushing up on Spanish verbs, putting that quasi-autistic mind of mine to better use. So I picked up enough fragments to understand that they played out a story of Godzilla thrashing a city of cardboard boxes and cans. They had even made an intricate network of ‘streets’ drawing lines in the gravel with a stick.

Lovely. Just what I needed to focus on when I had been tempted to buy something stronger to drink than cola this morning.

It even made a gruesome kind of sense because it was less than two years ago that Hurricane Mitch had leveled the city and all of the country more than any imaginary skyscraper-sized lizard could. I wonder what those boys had seen then? Did their house get wiped off the map? Was someone they knew killed? Did they go hungry for a long time?

Then the Godzilla-kid noticed that I was watching them from the hotel’s porch and came over.

“¿Puedo tenerlo?”

I nodded and gave him my empty Coke-bottle figuring he’d probably trade it for a deposit if they had such a thing here.

But the boy ran back to his friend and put the Coke bottle on top of a jerry can, which was supposed to be a high tower soon to be in the monster’s path. And seconds afterward, his friend kicked the whole construction so the can and the bottle made a racket and the receptionist came out and yelled at them. But they just laughed and retreated into the alley on the other side.

Passing me, the kid with the t-shirt grinned. “Muchas gracias, gringa.”

I waved at him and wondered if I shouldn’t try drawing up my own toy city.

Photo by bill wegener on Unsplash