Hasta mañana, which we learn as “see you tomorrow,” and whose literal translation is “until tomorrow,” is the Panamanian way to say goodnight. It also is used in the sense that we learn it in the states. So here, instead of saying good night to someone, we say “until tomorrow.” It’s both an expectation and a goodbye, as if trusting you will all wake up to face another day.
“Hasta mañana, sweetie,” says my neighbor to her kids as I step shivering out of my cold shower behind the house. Everyone next door is getting ready for bed, as am I, since it’s just past nine o’clock and we all have school in the morning. Hasta mañana, squeaks back little Dona in her tiny voice. Hasta mañana, mamá, says seventh-grader Daniel.
I recognize their voices as if we were standing in the same room talking while I shake out my sheets for bugs, hang up clothes I’ve strewn about in my frantic rush to change into shorts and a tank top after walking home from school in long pants and a button-down shirt. We live on top of each other, practically. Their bedroom walls and mine are only a car’s width apart—I know this because Donny’s red truck fits snugly in between our two houses. Once, I sneezed while getting ready for bed and my neighbor shouted “bless you” from inside.
Hasta mañana, chimes little Dona again as I turn off my light. I hear their fans switch on, and then only distant sounds of dogs yelping and buzzing crickets, the occasional squeak from the geckos crawling up my walls, and a rooster who feels the need to make sure everyone should know he exists. I close my eyes. Hasta mañana, I think to my neighbors.
And then shuffling. And a curious murmur.
Dona, déjà eso! Leave it alone, Dona. Dona squeaks something unintelligible back. José, get in bed! José replies with something along the lines of “I’m going,” which means he’s probably messing with something in the kitchen. I open one eye.
José, I told you not to touch the fridge!
I hear the distant sounds of aaaeeeehhhhh.
No. No you’re not going to--
AAAEEEEEEEHHHHHH. It comes through the concrete walls as if they were sheets.
Dona squeaks something again. No! You don’t have to be up! Go back to bed!
I remember how I don’t want kids yet. I am so tired.
RRRRrrring. My neighbor answers. Hello? Hello? Aaaah, where were you, I was trying to call you. I need you to send me that thing you told me you would send me. And the family? Where are you? What are you doing? What do you mean they have a quiz tomorrow? Daniel! A ten minute long rebuke commences.
I am too tired to grumble. I hope for someone to call me, too, so I can say “hey, I’m really tired, in fact, too tired to talk, I really need rest. Call me tomorrow.” My friends do not sense my desperation from their cozy, noise-free homes up town.
Dona, déjà eso! Squeaks. And you, stop crying!
Duermense, carajo! I think of a semi-controversial children’s book that made the New York Times bestseller list earlier this year.
And then, somewhere between the shuffling and the whining and the rebuking and the excuse making, all I hear again is crickets, geckos, dogs, the rooster.
Whether the noise has stopped or whether my brain has hit a threshold, I don’t know. But at least it’s safe to close my eyes again…hasta mañana.