Christians are told to consider the lilies; Tibetians, the lotus. Californians have taken it upon themselves to contemplate their bellybuttons. Achieving inner peace is a personal journey and today I am centering my shanti in this one hope: get home before I run out of patience.
Parnassus was not all I had romanticized. It is large, but dinky and is suffering from an identity disorder. Beneath its Greek name lies an Egyptian lobby, a mid-evil castle water park, a French and Italian restaurant, and for no obvious reason but to disorient, a pagoda that is maybe supposed to look Japanese. Tourists are amply warned against leaving the property due to high crime levels in the spaces between other such resorts. The green band that the front desk attendant snapped on my wrist felt less like a pass to all that this all-inclusive resort entitles me and more like a wildlife tag. Should I escape and be found, the game warden will know where to return me.
After an interminable day of flight cancellations, a two hour wait in line to check in was not what I felt I needed, but the travel Gods thought otherwise. Once inside my room, I took in my panoramic view of nicer looking hotels across an expanse of brownish water and knew, in the way that you wake up beside the pool and before you move a muscle, know that you have a blistering sunburn, what purpose this unexpected leg of my journey was to provide. Cancun was a step down unit – a harsh one – intended to ease my transition from the Elysian jungle of Tulum to the real world. This is where I would have to learn how to sleep again without the Caribbean wind on my body, or the geckos screaming me lullabies. That still, gross water beneath my balcony was surely the River Styx. I saw the corpse of my last week float by, I am positive.
Physically, but not mentally exhausted, I went on a self-guided people watching tour around the Parnassus property. A day earlier, I was cautiously watching the ground so as to not step on a tarantula and last night I was just hoping to avoid anyone who might have honeymooned in Myrtle Beach – or worse, wanted to. It was then, watching fat, pink children running amok and afar from their fat, pink parents that I realized Cancun is every preconceived notion I’d ever had about Mexico. It isn’t the natives who turn me off, it’s the tourists who will go home and, with a fist full of chili flavored Fritos crumbs flying out of their mouths, brag to their jealous, homebound friends about their trip to Mexico. They will, of course, have never actually seen Mexico; their resort made sure of it. Due to work or retirement those people may have relocated to places they look down upon, like North Carolina or Tennessee, but make no mistake, they hail from Ohio and other places where snow turns black as it is falling from the sky.
I found a Mexican restaurant inside of Parnassus, but not a real one. The service was five-star, but the food itself was…well, it doesn’t matter. Their clientele liked it; that says enough. I ordered a margarita that, between the two dollar Mezcal and some weapons grade chemicalized mixer tasted an awful lot like Pine Sol. In hindsight, my ordering the shrimp ceviche could have stemmed from some deep, suicidal thoughts so early in their formation that I wouldn’t be able to identify and call out to them until hours later, when I was awakened by the travel Gods handing me over to Montezuma.
With next to no sleep, I was picked up by the complimentary shuttle at 5:30 this morning for a 9:00 am flight that, at that time, had already been delayed beyond my connector. The first class seat that I was supposed to have flying directly into Raleigh yesterday might as well have been a community college credit in ski-lift operations. That is to say, it did not transfer to Miami. Did the Gods not deem me enlightened yet? Was there more to this epic?
Yes. There was the fat, pink toddler screaming the scream of a thousand scorpion stings to the bum standing in line behind me as I waited for an available ticketing agent to fix my new problem. I suspect the child wasn’t suffering from diaper rash so much as he was protesting a Mummy who was late with his breakfast Twinkie. It could have been a conditioned response to any number of shitty parenting practices.
I believed my ticket agent was doing me a kindness when she squeezed me in on the 7am flight to Miami. What I did not know at the time was that I would be sitting six rows from the back of an airplane that smelled of piss, or that the very same toddler would find new reasons to scream all the way to Miami. That is not a happy child.
I found my window seat and evicted the interloper already in residence. Soon, I was joined by my seatmate; a dead ringer for Kyle Chandler. My brain argued with my eyes that it could not possible have been Kyle Chandler because Kyle Chandler would not be flying in the back of an airplane that smells like a nursing home. Also, there is no reason for Kyle Chandler to possess the raspberry colored passport of a citizen of Spain, either. This man was gripping his in his teeth while he stowed his carryon in the overhead bin.
The man who was not Kyle Chandler was congenial, with a faint and lovely accent. He placed a wide brimmed hat on the seat between us and with a lopsided smile said, “I hope you don’t mind. I bought a seat for my bolero.”
An intellectual and flirty conversation with a foreign man might be exactly what would turn the whole, clunky morning around. Our plane had a long taxi before lining itself up on the run way to wait. As soon as we started our run, not Kyle Chandler gave me a look I couldn’t read and said, “I’m sorry.”
“No worries.” I smiled back, but I didn’t understand why he was apologizing. Did he fart?
As soon as our wheels were off the ground, not Kyle Chandler began having a panic attack that did not end until we were back on the ground. The mother in me wanted to hold his hand and stroke the back of his neck and tell him he would be ok. Or was that the lover in me? I still have to be very careful about who I let encourage physical contact sometimes. Though I know the Spanish to be a huggy people with few boundaries and virtually no external personal space, I could not bring myself to do anything but sit quietly and pretend it was normal that a grown stranger was twitching, sobbing, and Lamaze breathing beside me. If I could not help, the least I could do would be to not make it any weirder with eye contact or platitudes that may not translate, anyway.
I am going home today to a place the citizens of Midwestern towns always viewed the way I have Cancun. On the ground, the fat, pink people dispersed and blended into the crowd of old, brown people, and I began my long walk to gate D60 to wait five hours for my final flight of this odyssey. Bienvenedos a Miami.