Seven Weeks

20160327_135647Forty-nine days from now, right now, at exactly this time, Central European Time, I will be referring to my exhaustion as jet lag.  I will be completely moved in to my new apartment, the first place I will ever live without my parents, my spouses, or my children.  I will have unpacked my two sundresses, one pair of shorts, a tee shirt, and eight sets of underwear into my dresser.  My Italian dresser.  I will have stroked my Italian kitchen counter, bounced from my Italian couch, to my Italian chair, and decided which corner will become my Italian writing corner, where I will plug my American laptop into an electricity converter.

I will not have eaten lunch, unless it is served in the air between Frankfurt and Rome.  My body will say it is just after 2pm, but my Italian wall clock will say it is a quarter past 8.  I won’t grocery shop until the next morning, so I will leave my apartment, walk across the street, through Vatican City, using the whole of the tiny, holy country as my short cut to my favorite trattoria, Perdincibacco for a light dinner of Caprese salad and a bottle of their house red.  If I’m lucky, Massimillano’s dog, the adorable chocolate lab puppy that stole my heart last year, will have grown into his host job and greet me as if I never left.

Or maybe he won’t.  I don’t yet know the temperament of Italian labs, but American ones tend to greet people with the same excitement, no matter how long they’ve been gone.

I will cork what’s left of my wine and carry it with me.  The tunnel on Via di Porta Cavallegri is always dark, but since the sun will be set by then, I won’t have to squint when I pop out the other side.  A couple of blocks ahead, I will descend the steep, piss-smelling steps to the Tiber River and in a most American fashion, I will lift my wine in a toast to Summer, 2017, and drink straight from the bottle.

I can’t wait to find out what comes next.

Toby Tuesday

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Behind every good dog, there is a larger, quirky, more photogenic dog, and for years I’ve been using cheese to bribe Good Dog to get out of the frame so I can take my Woody Wednesday shots.

I’ve not been a good mama to Good Dog.  I could have pet him more.  He would have liked that; he isn’t touch averse like Woody is.  But he is smaller and it’s a further reach to pat his head or tickle his chin.  What’s two more feet?  I wish I’d made the effort.  I know he does, too.

He was a replacement for something we never should have let go.  We lost Mushroom, TallGirl’s Siamese cat, to mental illness – the collective mental illness that was my marriage.  That year, it was the mere existence of the cat that made Him unhappy, and I believed it was possible to fix someone else’s unhappiness.  I wasn’t a very good mama to TallGirl, either.  The cat – her cat – found a new home.  Oh God, she was so sad.  This fluffy, white puppy would surely stem the flow of sadness bleeding out of my eleven year old.  He didn’t.  He couldn’t.  How could he?  Especially from the laundry room, where he lived his first two years because he might pee on a carpet and there would be unhappiness again.  Or still.  Best not to find out.  She still bleeds for Mushroom, and I am bleeding for her.  And now for Toby.

I did not want a dog named Toby.  Eleven and a half years ago, we drove home from the puppy mill that wanted to put him down because of his defect – the one blue eye – trying to guess what he wanted to be called.  In hindsight, I don’t think he cared.  We rejected names like Rex, Jared, Fluffy, DogDog, and Snowball.  We couldn’t use Snowball because that’s what TallGirl wanted to name her little brother before he was born, and she might someday decide to use that name for her own child.  I won’t stop her.  TallGirl and her dad decided they were going to turn on the radio and name him after the next song we heard.  Please don’t judge me for where the radio was tuned.

How Do You Like Me Now by Toby Keith sealed his fate.  I was limited in how much I could protest.  Toby was my shortest boyfriend, ever.  He didn’t want me to wear heels to prom.  In our photos, what you can’t see under my full length dress is that even in flats, I still had to bend my knees just a little so that the difference was not obvious.  Embarrassingly, he was also my cousin.  Somebody could have mentioned that sooner, and I feel they should have.  Articulating my objection would not be worth the embarrassment.  My suggestion that we name him Keith instead was voted down, and that was that.

Is that why we never bonded, Toby and I?  He sure liked me.  Have I subconsciously neglected the four legged one because of the shortcomings of the two legged one?   It was benign neglect, I assure you.  He had food and shelter and veterinary care.  I gave him other people that would adore him.  Mike thinks he’s the bee’s knees.  But while I never wished him gone, I did sometimes wish he wasn’t here.

He likes wearing stinky things, noisily licking himself while we eat dinner, and snoring against my bedroom door late at night.  He licks walls and appliances and scoots his butt on the hardwood floors.  But he is a Good Dog.  And he has been Woody’s companion animal for the last decade.  They are the odd couple.

He’s not been feeling very good lately; vet trips, a couple of routine surgeries, and four different antibiotics.  Last night I climbed into the bathtub with him.  Did he trust me, or was he just too tired to fight?  As the warm water enveloped him, he stopped shivering and relaxed into me.  I rolled him onto his back, cradled in my lap.  He looked me right in the eye and spoke to me in a language I know well.

Wheeze.  I can’t breathe

Cough.  I can’t breathe.

Whimper.  Help me.

The vet – our kind, caring vet, says there is no amount of money we can spend to change what is now inevitable.  There is also no end to the amount we could spend to delay it by a day – maybe two.  Many times over the years, we have been prepared to lose Woody, but Toby?  I can tell you we never imagined he would go first.  Or at all.  Toby was forever.  There is a twenty-five year old notebook that says so in a box somewhere in our basement.

I made the appointment for seven o’clock tonight so that family can say goodbye.  There will never be enough time for me to tell you how badly I wish I had been a better mama.  There should have been Toby Tuesdays.

Michael Must Love Me

On my first full day home from Mexico, Michael slid a folded piece of paper across the lunch table to me.

“What’s this?”

“You are leaving for Rome in about sixty days,” he said.

Sixty days. Porca puttana!  My sabbatical just became a little more real to me.  I opened the paper he gave me.  “What is this?” I ask him again.

“Well, I was thinking,” his own excitement was mostly contained, but a little bit was leaking around the edges.  “You might want to see a show while you’re in Italy.”

“I am seeing a show.  Unless I sell my U2 ticket…” I trail off.

“Don’t sell it.  You should stay and see it.”

“But if I sell it, I can leave Rome earlier, and have more days to do something else before I go to Budapest.”  Who is the person sitting inside my body, saying these things?  I don’t go to Budapest.  I don’t go to Rome.  don’t leave home for two months to go be alone in a foreign land.  This isn’t me.  

But I know that isn’t true.  This is me.  For the first time.  Out loud.  This is me.

I think you should stay and see them.”  He’s been nothing but encouraging.  “But I thought you could see another show, so I looked something up.”

He took the paper from my hand and explained it to me.  It was a list of dates in July and August, each beside a venue and city in Italy.  On the bottom half of the page was a printed map labeled with each city from the list.

Again, I asked, “What is this?”

“Francesco Renga.  It looks like his shows peaked about three years ago, but he’s starting a new tour this summer.  This is a list and map of his shows.”

My heart skipped and my lips cracked from smiling.  “You found my boyfriend?”

I was delighted!

francesco renga
I want to pet his beard and get my fingers stuck in his curls.

I discovered Renga last spring.  His song, Guardami Amore, was the only Italian song mixed in with the American pop hits from the 80’s and 90’s playing in every restaurant or store we visited.  The melody and the voice became recognizable to me and soon I was madly in love with the Stranger With The Voice, as I began calling him.

On our last morning, we stopped into a cafe for our last good cup of coffee, and they were using YouTube for their music services.  For the first time, I got to lay my eyes on the handsome face that had been singing to me our whole trip.  For Christmas, Michael bought me two of his CD’s.  My infatuation with Francesco Renga clearly inspires him, too.

I’m having so much fun getting to know this person who jumps on airplanes and flings herself far and wide.  I could not do it without such a supportive partner.  For that, I am forever thankful.

 

 

 

 

 

Fat, Pink People

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.

I Might Be a Ruin of Tulum

 

It is my last day in Tulum and between the chef, the view, the quiet, and great company, I have been spoiled.  Though I’m not ready to go home, I am bringing these lessons back with me:

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– Tequila has neither preventative nor curative properties against amoebic dysentery.  I did the research so you don’t have to.  Thank me later.

– If you hold a seashell up to your ear, it can hear your thoughts.  Think it some good ones, and put it back in the surf.  Customs is already suspicious enough of women traveling into the U.S. alone from Mexico.  Conch smuggling is a pretty messed up thing to go to federal prison for.  Especially in this day and age with so many nobler crimes to choose from.

– Cats meow the same in Mexico as they do in the United States, which is to say that if you meow at them, they ignore you in the same,’I heard you, but we could never be friends’ kind of way as American cats – unlike the Cats in Italy that ignore you in the,’I don’t recognize that sound as representative of my species’ kind of way.

– If you arrived with anything more than a tooth brush, you over packed.  Scratch that.  Those wash up on shore.

– Time is a constant, but not constantly.  The week before you go to Tulum will take eons to pass, but the week you are there will fly by in seconds.  In the end, you will still have only ticked off two weeks until your next trip.

 

Steve

I reached a milestone with my writing yesterday.  I had to kill off a character.

He made me so happy when I invented him and every time I proofread, I loved seeing his little face.  Regrettably, he not only failed to advance the story, but he complicated it needlessly.

I didn’t kill him so much as I just wiped him out of existence.  He was never here, as far as you would ever know.  But I know better, and last night at dinner, I was feeling a little guilty about that.  This is what Mexico has done to me; I’m the kind of person now who yells at dogs and kills Steve.

snakeKitty suggested that maybe Steve will crawl off and grow a new tale.  This is where I have to tell you, so that you can laugh at that last line, that Steve was a snake with a complex back story.  He was kidnaped from his home in Greece by Roman mercenaries and taken to a foreign land where an awful lot of responsibility was placed upon his shoulders.  Steve handled his predicament with grace and style, but dammit, none of that is what I’m writing about.  At least, not now.

So maybe by telling you about Steve, he isn’t dead.  He really does exist – somewhere – and, as is the habit of snakes, will pop up again where we least expect it.

Until then, so long, Steve.

Failure of Imagination

spider monkey
Me, like every second I am here.

I didn’t even know to imagine that a thatched roof has a scent, but it does.  And for a North Carolina native, it’s distinct and familiar.  The moment I entered this tropical cabana my nose dragged me three thousand miles and thirty years backwards to the tobacco barns that dotted my Appalachian childhood.  An air-cured leaf smells like an air-cured leaf, no matter your latitude, apparently.  It smells like September.

There have been few other surprises.  Learning that the mosquito netting on my canopy bed isn’t purely decorative shouldn’t have been one of them – what, given that I am basically sleeping in a tree house that is only sealed against primates without prehensile tails, ladders, or sufficient motivation.  Any living thing that is not lazy but is smaller than a Saint Bernard may come and go as he wishes.  So far, this has limited my visitors to reptiles and winged creatures, but Cheryl saw a mouse.  A mouse means there are no cats on the property.  I was told there were cats so I would not need to worry about snakes.  Of course, if there were snakes, there would also be no mouse, so I’m not sure where my sensibilities fall concerning the rodent sighting.  I’m inclined to suspect she was pulling my leg – or maybe just herself mistaken, but I won’t outright accuse her of that; that would be rude, and I’m still hurt that nobody believed Laura and I saw a donkey on the ride in.

I’d like to say I figured it out on my own, but it was Cheryl who told me the mosquito netting is functional, though I think hers is serving a dual purpose and acting as a mouse barrier as well.

The first night I slept with only the screen door to my balcony closed.  I thought I imagined things touching my face all night, but after sleeping with my netting closed, I realize that wasn’t my imagination.  Those face creepies were real. Currently I’m weighting the benefit of bug protection against the blockage of Caribbean wind on my sleeping body.  I’m not sure at this time which is going to win.  More research is needed.

Also on the first night, I thought I imagined the squeal of the lonely ceiling monkey jolting me out of my almost-sleep.  It turns out that was real, too, but it was a gecko in my rafters, not a monkey.  By the time I hit the sack again last night, that was just one of the many ambient sounds of the jungle that I don’t even notice now.

There are monkeys in Mexico, as it turns out.  It’s very unlikely I will see one.  Spider monkeys, long time victims of the illegal pet trade industry, have become something resembling refugees in their own land.  In the early 2000’s, a monkey sanctuary was opened by a retired native of Chicago.  A couple of years ago, though, he was killed when a camel he kept on site escaped from his pen and sat on him; probably not how he ever imagined he would die.  That sanctuary closed, and there is another in its place.  Probably the same one, under new name and management, but either way, I’m not going to make it there on this trip, so my chances of monkey spotting are very low.  In all likelihood, the squeals and squawks that I mistook for monkeys are reptilian or avian in nature.

Yesterday morning, I took my coffee on a short walk down into the Sian Ka’an, on the beach side.  I didn’t see another human being, but could not shake the feeling that I was being watched.  What is the Sian Ka’an anyway?  Why is there a fence, especially one that looks electrified, keeping me from wandering into its jungle?  Surely it isn’t the secret hide out of drug lords; too conspicuous.  It could house a secret laboratory where scientists from all over the world are either creating biological weapons, or cures for them, but again, the placement is suspect.  Why would you put one of those in a tourist town?  That makes it ever more likely that it’s just a posh vacation destination for the über wealthy.

As it turns out, it is rumored to be all of those things, and it is guarded heavily by an armed militia.  That feeling I had that I was being watched?  It wasn’t imagined.  I couldn’t see them, but they most assuredly saw me.  God, I hope I didn’t pick my nose.

By dusk, we were all ready for a walk into town – such as it is – for dinner.  We stumbled upon Nomade, a hotel / restaurant / purveyor of health service oddities.  The staff was clad in peasant attire made from sheets of gauze; the women in white, and the men in shades of grey.  Things were more complicated than necessary.  There were at least two different menus handed out to our party, and judging from the fare we saw delivered to other tables, there was at least one other different menu floating around this establishment as well.  After forty minutes and our third request to please take our order, we were obliged.  Poached spider monkey wasn’t on any of the menus we were given, so I asked for the lamb, but they were out.  I ordered the Sea Bass and they were out of that, too, so I pointed to Kitty and said, “Just bring me what she’s having.”

That turned out to be a smathering of fungi and the steamed roots of the roadside vegetation served on a bed of risotto made from local sand.  The sandwich board out front did not display a daily food special, and after that meal, I can’t really blame them.  Instead, it informed us of the activities going on inside of their gratitude tent this week.  Because of course they have a gratitude tent.  Don’t you?

Monday is essential oils.  I don’t know if it’s a lecture, or a baptism.  Tuesday there is a talk titled, “Intro to Energetic Lovemaking.”  And as tempting as that is, we aren’t going back until Wednesday.

Wednesday is Sound Healing.  There was some excitement among those in the know in our group about this.  I didn’t understand, but Anne described it this way:  You know what a hummer is, right?  It’s just like that, but you’re the dick.

But I already knew I was a dick, so I kind of feel like my imagination failed me yet again.

Cloud cover moved in, but I suspect the palm canopy over the road would have blocked any celestial light, anyway.  The first quarter of our walk back home was lit, albeit dimly, by the candles and low-voltage bulbs at the entrance to other boutique properties and I wondered if any one of them might serve a decent taco or a margarita made with plain old lime juice, not the pulp of some exotic, furry fruit and simply rimmed with salt, not chipotle seasoning.  Probably, I’ll never know.  But once we passed those other establishments, it was the darkest of dark and in no time at all, I felt again like I was being watched.  I frequently turned around to try and catch what I could feel stalking us and wouldn’t you know it?  I found it.

A four legged beast was sneaking up behind Key, so I shrieked an obscenity.  In the time it took her to throw her cigarette at it and run, my brain registered that it was canine, probably el chupacabra, or it’s mother was, that I frightened it and it had a collar with tags that made a tinkling sound as it slinked off.  Immediate guilt rushed over me “I’m sorry, baby.  I didn’t know you weren’t going to eat us.”

But he’d had enough of our shit and left us to walk the rest of the way home, alone and unprounprotected against the jaguars, panthers, and crocodiles.  I lost the chance to make a new four legged buddy and I chalk that up to another failure of my imagination.

This morning, right outside of my bedroom, there is a man with a wheelbarrow on the beach, picking up seaweed with his hands.  Where’s he going to dump it?  His efforts are futile; the ocean is depositing more of it with every wave.  I can’t imagine why he’d even bother, but I do wonder what he lists under ‘job’ on his tax returns.  Does Mexico have tax returns?

Tulum is definitely a place of wonder and awe, but it is impossible to let my imagination run wild here.  Nature and culture is always several steps ahead of me.  Every bizarre or unlikely thing that my brain can conceive is just everyday life.

 

The End of The Land

20170402_110210[1].jpgAt the end of the land and beginning of the day, there is a peace, a zen, when the sun just barely peeks over the sea.  It starts in your toes, your salty, salty toes that have returned to their amniotic balance.  Fronds at your back bid you farewell and the rhythm of the ceaseless waves beckon you forward.  On purpose, your ankles, then your knees, and then your hips find their way into the tide.  Just when you stop caring about the seaweed and all of its passengers taking long, passing licks at your flesh, the sandy shelf you didn’t know you were standing on gives way and you are, quite literally, in over your head.  Eyes burning, you emerge and exhale salt, returning it to where it belongs.  Probably, you are saving the lives of countless saline-dwelling creatures that would shrivel up from the lack of what you were selfishly holding in your sinus cavities.  You tread water and maintain the eco-balance between yourself and the ocean.  And just when you start to think that maybe there is no in between, that you are the ocean and it is you and everything else on this big blue ball, and your muscles relax and you are more floating than flailing, something bumps your leg in a decidedly ungentle way.  It is nature and it is neither good nor bad and there is no such thing as co-existing because it is all just existing.  Not beside each other, but as one with each other.  It both doesn’t matter at all who is president, and it matters immensely.  And it doesn’t matter if we help each other, or hurt each other because the tide will always come in and it will always go out and no matter what we do, one day our bloated, then bleached pieces will roll right in time with what it already does.  The only difference is that we won’t think about it.  We won’t have to fight it, we won’t decide to join it.  We’ll just be it.  That heavy, mean thing can bump you again for all you care.

There is that peace, that zen.
I didn’t achieve it this morning, but I hope to someday.  I’ll try again this afternoon.

Just Another Brick

imagesWhat if I told you that every ideology that your favorite politician wants to sell you as the key to making America great again has an actual body count, a human story behind it?

American Airlines flight 605 was fully boarded this morning, as far as I knew.  Any minute, a flight attendant was going to walk up the aisle, shutting the doors to the overhead storage, and it wasn’t going to matter one bit that I didn’t get my customary, complimentary bump to first class; one row behind was just fine because my seat in row 5 was the only one that had a butt in it.  I had the whole port side of the plane to myself for my flight to Cancun, Mexico, where I still had a two hour drive ahead of me. Until.

Instead of readying the plane for takeoff, the flight attendant backed herself down the aisle and motioned to someone I could not see yet.  What does one call an airport candy-striper?  A porter?  A people transporter?  Whatever his job title, a strong man dressed in an ambiguous uniform that was part pilot and part maître de wheeled a feeble Latina woman to my aisle and stopped.  They were followed by a señorita with a wavy black mane and dressed in a Marine Corps tee shirt.  My seat mates had arrived.

And you know what?   It didn’t suck, not having a whole row to myself.  I had the window seat and it was barely even a three hour flight.  It would have been hard to find something to complain about, even if I’d really been in a mood to.  Not that I’m in the habit of quoting Kanye, but how you gon’ be mad on vacation?

I struck up a conversation because going to Mexico to hang out with authors and screen writers can really only change a girl so much.  Or so little, truth be told.

My very up close neighbor asked if I had gum.  She hit the jackpot because I had a bag of 180 pieces of Trident White in my laptop case.  Realizing this, she asked for two.  She wanted one for her grandmother, too.  I know the trick; that’s why I was prepared.  Chewing helps keep the ears clear during ascent and descent.

I wish I asked her name.  She was from Detroit, but we ended up on the same flight out of Raleigh this morning on account of her family moving south a couple of years ago.  She lives down near Fayetteville now.  The Marine Corps tee shirt, she told me, was something she picked up when she went to her cousins graduation from boot camp at Lejeune.  He, like she and her sister, were born here.  In the US, I mean.  Not here.  That was hours ago and I’m in Tulum now.  She was definitely not born here.  This was her first trip to Mexico.  She was a little cagier about her parents’ origin, but it didn’t need to be said.  While she filled out the customs declaration forms for the two of them, I noticed that Grandma was traveling on a Mexican passport.

Grandma, coughed and her granddaughter doted.  Grandma drifted off to sleep and she resumed our conversation.  She told me about oversleeping and how rushed that made everything because she lives about seventy five minutes from the airport.  It was hard, she told me.  They were already running late but they had to hurry through security and it fell to her to break up the final hug between her mother and her mother’s mother.  “I’m sorry that I had to tell them to stop, but we had to go!”  She was still justifying, but she didn’t need to.

I asked, but I don’t know why.  “Can your parents maybe go to Mexico to visit her?”
My God I’ve never seen so much sadness on such a young face – and I have daughters.

They can’t, she told me, because they wouldn’t be allowed back into the US.  They’ve lived here twenty five years, guys.  That’s longer than my own three children.

My seatmate told me she’s turning nineteen on April 15th.  Tax day.

Today, a woman who’s probably about my very age just had to hug her own mother goodbye.  She won’t be there to hold her hand or hear her last words.  She won’t be at the funeral.

There’s already a wall, and there are a million other families just like this one who have been making payments like this for a hundred years.

God, help them.