Saturday, June 2, 2012
The last time I was in Mexico I went to Merida, Cancun and Isla Mujeres with my friend Karen. We didn't know each other that well, but share a hotel room for two weeks, and you might get to know each other too well, as I was to discover.
We flew down from Vancouver and changed planes in Mexico City, but our flight to Merida was suddenly delayed due to 'mechanical difficulties.' Greasy-looking fellows wearing overalls and carrying duffle bags and toolboxes walked on and off the plane while a terrifying thunderstorm raged outside. During the flight the lights flickered on and off I thought, ok that's it! We're going down! I said a prayer and held my throbbing ears, thanking God again when we finally landed at the airport.
Merida is the largest city in the Yucatan and evidently the safest because when we visited, there had only been one murder committed in the city over the previous 41 years. We did the tourist thing - Chicken Itza and Merida Cathedral - then headed for Cancun.
It was packed out; once a simple fishing village, now five-star hotels are carved into the sand right down to the water's edge with all the flashy trappings of club med - sailboats, jet-skis, para-gliding, para-sailing and paralyzation - drunks passed out on the beach after an all-night tequila binge. We stayed one night in a cheap hotel in the barrio and the next day escaped on the ferry to Isla Mujeres.
'Who are you writing to?' I asked Karen the next morning as she lay naked on her bed.
'I'm not writing anyone. I'm making a list.’
'A list? What for? We’re on vacation, for Christ’s sake.'
'I'm making a list for the next time I come to Mexico.'
'Oh, yeah. When's that?’
‘Maybe next year, with the boys.’
‘And you’re making a list? Now?’
Okay, so she needed a new shrink. My mother always told me that if everyone in the world were like me, the world would be a boring place. She also told me I had the luck of the Irish. I think she was right on both counts.
That night, Karen and I went for dinner at a seaside restaurant. Dimly lit colored bulbs were strung in between a white-washed balustrade that fronted the ocean. Vibrant tablecloths and long-stemmed candles created a warm, cozy glow, while moustachioed musicians wearing traditional gear strummed guitars and glided between the tables, serenading couples with dark tans and gleaming teeth. It was all very pounding surf and drifting sea salt.
After a few glasses of wine Karen was restless and started table-hopping, introducing herself to other travelers and engaging them in long conversation, but her main goal was an introduction to a young busboy whom she’d commented on earlier. She was all very much into the young men of Mexico. In fact, only one Spanish word had stuck in her head – guapo. She came back to where I sat drinking my wine.
‘Why don’t you move around, ya know, get to know some of these guys,’ she said.
‘Because I wait for them to come to me.’
‘You’re so arrogant,’ she said, laughing.
‘How old is he do you think?’ I asked, nodding in the direction of the lad.
‘I don’t know. Sixteen maybe.’
‘Don’t you think he’s a little young?’
‘He could do with the experience,’ she said, narrowing her eyes. ‘Isn’t he gorgeous?’
I was going to reply when a tall man with long, frizzy hair wearing round vintage glasses appeared beside us, put his elbows on the balustrade and leaned back. He reminded me of John Lennon.
‘Is your name Suzanne?’ he asked, looking down at me.
‘Because you look just like this woman I met in Puerto Vallarta. It’s amazing. I thought you were her.’
Karen whispered in my ear. ‘He’s just putting the make on you. That’s about the oldest line in the book.’
I looked up at him and smiled.
He was Steve, an American vet from the Vietnam War who told so many hilarious stories that after a while my sides ached. We drank and talked for a couple of hours, until the restaurant started to close. I had forgotten about Karen and now that we were leaving, she was nowhere to be found, so Steve and I headed down to the beach where others from the restaurant had gathered to party.
The moon lit up the beach and the surf and people were running in and out of the ocean and swimming while others sat around drinking beer. The wind had picked up and blown away the humidity that had hung over the island all day. Steve and I were talking amongst a group of others when my eyes spotted someone familiar coming down the beach. I peered into the distance as the figure drew closer and closer. It looked like Karen. Was it Karen? Yes, it was Karen! But it couldn’t be Karen! My mouth fell open and I almost dropped my beer because it was Karen sauntering down the beach all right. However, she wasn’t just walking along the edge of the surf kicking up the sand and wetting her toes or digging for shells like a normal person. No, she was walking along the edge of the tide without a stitch of clothing on. Nothing. Not even a fig leaf. Where are her clothes! What the fuck is she doing! I couldn’t believe it as she strolled towards us without a care in the world. She searched the people sitting in the sand and I knew she was looking for me. Everybody stopped and stared as I tucked my head between my knees, wrapped my arms around my head and leaned into Steve, praying she wouldn’t notice me. She loved being naked, but naked on the beach? At night? In Mexico?
When Steve told me she was gone, I raised my head and watched as she faded into the distance. I shook my head and I couldn't stop laughing about the whole thing, nor get her image out of my mind. I heard a lot of laughter then 'That's the woman that was in the restaurant tonight!' and 'I wonder what she's on.'
Soon after, a young Mexican boy sat down and starting talking to me at the same time the crowd started thinning out and people were making their way back to their lodging. I didn’t think anything of him and we were talking when Steve suddenly got up and left and didn’t even say good-bye. I turned around to find him wandering off down the beach, his arms flailing about, talking to himself. Hey! I yelled, but he never looked back. When I finally looked around and down the beach, I saw that everybody had gone except for this Mexican dude I’d been talking with, so I got up, put on my shoes, said goodbye and walked past him.
My hotel wasn’t far, but by this time no one was around. It’s amazing how quickly everything shuts down and everybody disappears, I thought, but then, it was probably one in the morning. The lights to the restaurant were off and there were no streetlights, and most of the lights in the small houses behind the restaurant were out, too. Except for the light of the moon, it was very dark. Only a few barking dogs looking for scraps were left to take up the slack.
As I neared the top of the dunes I looked up to see a Mexican of about twenty. Was he the same kid I was talking with? Jesus, they all look the same. Where did he come from? I hadn’t noticed him in the dark. He seemed friendly enough, but maybe a little too friendly because when I got a better look at him I saw he was standing there with his sparkler in his hand, stroking it and looking at me with a glint in his eye. I stopped and took a gander. Surprised but not shocked, a little frightened but not horror-struck, I put my hand up and waved him away.
‘Oh, for God’s sake. Put it away and go home.’
And I walked past him and didn’t look back.
Upon returning to my room, I was relieved to see Karen sprawled naked on her bed.
Two great talkers will not travel far together - Spanish Proverb
Posted by Nancy O.