Sunday, June 30, 2013

To Tulum (α, β, ω...)

We're sitting in the bed of an old pickup, en route to MTY, lungs full of grippy, steely smog (with notes of something montane), half an hour away from a two-hour flight and then a four-hour bus ride. To Tulum.

The driver, the lone female in la banda that ran the hostel where we stayed last night—one of these brassy and prurient north Mexican chicks who, by my calculations, had beat me to my aspirational self by about ten years—she's sizing up the traffic, glancing at the vehicles on the road as they darted in and out of in her mirrors. She has the radio turned up real loud.

There's this girl with us, sort of, a friend of a friend of the driver. Back at the hostel, she had thrown her person-sized pack into the back of the truck and hopped into the passenger seat without a word, leaving me and Emi to join the canvas dummy and our own tattered bags there. And, without a word, we did.

Leaning against the cab, Emi is staring back at the cars inching forward. She's uncomfortable, unable to find the silver lining, but won't complain. She will not complain. And so the distillation begins, and later, after this half-hour ride and the two-hour flight and the four-hour bus drive is over, we'll be left with something much worse than a complaint.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Summer (Talking About the Old Times)

It's summer. Nighttime has descended, the air heavy with moisture and heat, and if you're the indulgent sort, it's oppressive. However, if you have it in you to see it all, because it's here and never was before or because it's here and always has been, it's another character in this story, just like the sweet-pungent aroma of the wet grass, like the wispy threads of smoke that encircle our heads before slinking off into the night, like the buzzing and the humming and the thud, thud, thud of the bugs in their frenzied pilgrimage to the security light behind us, for when this night of talking shit under the mesquite becomes a story about the old times itself. 

Help yourself to a cold one, we scraped enough together, after all, for the doce (and a pack of ciggies) and know that what's said tonight, exaggerations or outright lies though they might be, are honest expressions: the world, according to us, in our own words, for the first time and, the way things are going, perhaps the last. On our lips, a smile that is pleading and earnest: there's something I have to tell you, there's something I have to tell you, there's something I have to say.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


"I bet you have nice things at home," she said, "so you can make yourself up and look real pretty."

I muttered a rebuttal, but she wasn't listening. Instead, she fumbled with her haphazardly painted toenails, which squeezed out of her tattered leather sandals.

"Today's my daughter's birthday party. Everybody's going. But not me."

Now she was crying, right in the middle of the park where the only other sounds were that of a few chavalos kicking around a soccer ball noncommittally and the periodic thump of the heavy avocados crashing down from the trees.

After a few moments, I finally asked, "Why?"

"It's at my sister's house. She said I can only go if I show up looking nice...not like this. And..." she wiped her face, looked up from her toes for the first time, and said (in a tone that clearly indicated that this next part was not an explanation at all), "...and I need to bring her a gift."

Sunday, June 20, 2010


After a few false starts, we took the cab to the main bus station in Mérida, took the bus to Chetumal, transferred to Belize City, then caught the next coach to San Ignacio. Total travel time was about 12 hours, the cost was about $30 bucks.

San Ignacio was not like Belize City at all, and I was grateful for that. Perhaps on a sunny day, Belize City is a nice place. But when we arrived, the skies were gray, the taxis unmarked, and the buildings and streets bearing still the wounds inflicted by Hattie nearly half a century before.

If Belize City was necrotic, San Ignacio was cancerous; in that damp stink of the jungle, the plants sprouted and blossomed in an almost exhibitionistic manner. They grew from the ground, from tiny cracks in the walls, and, in the case of the epiphytic black orchid, (the national flower of Belize, pictured at left), from pits in trees, deviating in the most peculiar way towards the ground instead of reaching for the sun as a common flower would.