In my soup, letters from the alphabet floated next to an iguana’s foot. I ate the prefix and the toes; flesh and noodles were soft like that of a chicken boiled to destruction. Following that first bite of blue-gray skin and foot–after I had used my tongue to segregate the little bones from the meat–I took a sip of my Amstel Bright.
This was the grill. On the island of Curaçao, grills are constant affairs, advertised around the island with the same importance that high schoolers give to promoting a house party. Just ask a local and you will be pointed to any one of a few informal gatherings happening at private residences on that day. Many are open to the public.
“I know where we can find another one,” said my grill’s host. The “one” that he was referring to was another iguana, as he had been excited to see my interest in the soup. I followed the owner of the house to a desiccated kadushi cactus. It stood tall beside a tree with barbs and a car that hadn’t run for a decade. We peered into the spaces between the cactus. The tree’s fallen spikes pierced the hard rubber of my sandals.
While we hunted, the grill bustled. The hundredth customer had just arrived, the owner told me, tallying guests in his head. Then he nodded over to guest 101: a neighbor who had brought his pet boa constrictor. The snake threw his tongue at the air, smelling perhaps the chicken and the pork over the coals. Or maybe sensing an iguana: the one in the cactus or the one floating with the letters.
Our hunt for the lizard was a failure. I returned to my alphabet iguana soup and ate what remained. After I rake a tongue through the bowl, I worked on dislodging the tree spikes from my flip flops. Then I dipped a piece of chicken into the hot sauce. The host warned me about his wife’s proclivity to overdo it with the heat. I shrugged and bit into the meat. He gave a big belly laugh and watched me with the same eager eyes he had worn during our lizard hunt. But his wife’s recipe wonderfully combined spice and flavor. Someone rang a bell and a shot glass of rum made its way around the grill. No one was permitted to refuse.