The stench of rotten cabbage boiling in renk fish water and dead-body fluids rise up around me, Thursday morning in town. The only words I could find to describe it was the words of a six-year-old Panamanian boy I never meet.
The li'l boy did tell my Panamanian-Jamaican friend, "Teacher, my father farts so stink, it can kill a nation."
"Puede matar una nacion." It can kill a nation.
The child Spanish words come to me as I cross the road from Guyana Stores, go towards the pavement by the museum.
"Ewwww," I exclaim to a woman who bounce by with high heel shoes and black office skirt, screwing-up she face. "You can say that again," she say.
A vendor call out to me, "It come from the canal."
I dare to look over the faded ol' white bridge.
Behind the museum, a wet black sludge rise like a monster-creature in the canal. Plastic bottles and Styrofoam food-boxes lay like dead swamp-things in watery parts o' the sludge.
I move away before I faint.
"That mud is my height," the vendor say. I guess that must be over five feet.
The vendor dark eyes turn light-brown with fire. "That canal is a main conduct, it should run clean-clean to the river. Every day, hundreds o' people pass here, foreigners too, if you see how they react to that smell. And we have to be in it whole day."
It baffle me, how they can bear that smell from morning 'til afternoon. Ribbon and hair-accessories ladies; chaps with mosquito-net in vivid lingerie-colours; perfume ladies; men hawking souvenir tee-shirts, cow-and-goat-skin wallets and belts; newspaper people; alphabet-charts and bootleg-DVD men. They do what they got to do 'cause they got lives to care for, while all around them, the city is rapidly fulling-up with humonguous concrete-coffins that some call modern structures.
The vendor say, "We did form a delegation and go to City Hall, and they say is not their responsibility, it is Water and Sewerage people who must clean it. Nobody don't want to do nothing. They just want to kill people. All o' them driving in their air-condition Prado, window up. They don't walk so they don't know, they don't care about what people need."
Why don't they care, how can they not care? I worry while the vendor rant, he eyes on fire. Oh, I know, farts don't have feelings.
I drive home in this ol' car that don't have a/c, windows down. Bits and pieces o' conversation on the street flutter in, and fried-chicken, burger, pastry and curry smells waft in, then the sea.