If I WERE psychic, I think I'd be at the nearest shop buying Powerball tickets this very second. I suppose these sort of resonant coincidences happen more frequently during certain times than not. I'd asked the Lovely Libran sister to descend upon me in the last two weeks of November, and together we decided to conquer the so-called jungle.
We'd been on trips before, some we started together, others we just arranged to coincide at certain points, easily going our separate ways when the trip ended. But this was northeastern Mexico, the farthest flung one could get in that country before you had to say you were in Guatemala. And it was only for six days.
In truth, a secret sentiment had crept its way into crafting these travel plans. Our mother had been part Mexican, part Portuguese and part Spanish. A smattering of all sorts of Latin really. Her family had scattered, but the most memorable connections had stayed within remnants of the things she'd said, dishes she'd cook, habits that even to our young minds hinted at a culture different from the country we lived in. That and how doses of nostalgia are much better shared than taken alone.
In fact, I had no real idea how this trip would play out. Most people who get to Cancun never seem to go beyond it, and return mostly with tales of drinking, fishing, diving and sailing. We would do none of those, focusing instead on going as deep as two girls safely could into the Yucatan. I couldn't even picture how this would relate to hazy memories of the Spanish my mother would speak to her family, only that somehow it did. It was because of this that I was a touch obtuse in my descriptions to the Lovely Libran, and she had noticed that I was far from doing a hard sell on the destination like I normally would.
She'd arrived there before me and was happily installed at the hotel while I saw to the rental car after my flight. My shuttle driver Jose Fernando, and his mate appreciatively laughed as I wondered out loud if this were a kidnap for ransom situation, nodding to how the badly misshapen corrugated metal gates creaked open revealing the car lot to be a rocky and unpaved
"Si, claro que si!" Jose Fernando happily replied then frowned worriedly to ask if I'd rather have a Johnny Black instead. He pointed to a liquor shelf so well stocked it was clear that beer was probably one of the milder choices. Eyes wide I refused, while a couple waiting for their own rental chuckled and toasted cheers with their half-empty bottles. There was a lot of socializing, which would've been fine had the office not reeked of cheap cologne. Once outside, I sniffed aggressively to clear my sinuses, patiently listening to Jose Fernando give his spiel as he produced a black Nissan of some unheard of model with proud flourish. He guided me to the car so we could do the inspection.
The car was riddled with damage. When I say "riddled", I mean that in the most literal sense. In fact, the panel just above the driver's front wheel looked like an abandoned metal stamping project. "Mijo, where'd you get this car? Juarez?," I teasingly asked Jose Fernando. "It looks a bit war torn."
It was cavernous and relievedly empty. For a second there, I thought there'd be a to-go bag of something. Was this in aid of my potentially stashing a cargo of drugs or dead bodies? I wasn't quite sure, but I nodded enthusiastically to satisfy him. Yes, a big, empty trunk does make a difference in one's life. "Oh, and it has no radio," he explained, "but ju have air conditioning. If that breaks, ju roll down the windows." How retro. By the time we were done, the rental car agreement he handed me resembled a game of tic-tac-toe. I waved happily as I drove the car off to the hotel, wondering if it was normal for a car to feel so plasticky and light.
We promptly closed the door, wondering if on the second try we'd be proven wrong. Nope. We tried to call the front desk, the phones were dead. We tried to wash our hands, apparently so was the water. "What you think?," I raised a brow at the Lovely Libran. "Tropical storm, coup d' etat or it's now being managed by Mordor." We had to get out somehow.
We started by groping our way blindly through the pitch black corridors and into the stairwells - something we weren't entirely inexperienced with having grown up in a country significantly power-challenged for years. Except now we got to use our mobile phones for light, while nervously giggling through hearing the ocean wind howl through openings we couldn't see. The hotel had pyramid like architectural elements, which at that moment wasn't at all encouraging. It felt tomb-like in the stair wells, much too quiet and seemingly endless. We saw a sliver of light and followed it to the opposite end of the property where we had to work our way back into the hotel lobby.
The concierge was standing idly by and the Lovely Libran pointedly informed them that even the phones were dead. "Si, we know," she answered shrugging. "Like we could hardly find our way," the Lovely Libran elucidated. Another shrug. We looked at each other and realized that Mexico was going to be an adventure in every sense of the word.