Jungle Diseases

12 of December

Aidan’s Birthday

Feliz cumpleanos my brotha! You’re such an amazing, sweet guy with a big heart and crazy athletic abilities. I love you.

Guys, I’m not actually sure how to tell you what has been going on with me. I mean, it’s very easy to report that I’ve contracted an infectious skin irritation, that homeschooling looms just a month away and winter break begins after school gets out on Friday, and that my uncle, aunt, cousins, nana, and Papa are scheduled to touch down in Cancun in a little under a week. It’s simple to tell you that my conscience hasn’t been totally crystal clear since middle school hit me four years ago.

Last night I sat, legs dangling, on the tiled countertops while Mum scrubbed the dishes and we talked. “Is there anything you want to tell me?” She turned to look me in the eyes with a quizzical, knowing expression. I wish I knew what she knew about life.

On Sundays, my family and I make the routine trek to the rented room in the City Express Hotel for church, where we listen to Pastor Doug preach in words that resonate so well with me. He speaks of happiness, relationships, consciences- and although I sit with my back straight as a board and my legs crossed properly in those stiff blue chairs while my butt gets numb and I shiver lightly from the AC, I am actually screaming at the top of my lungs. “Yes, tell me more! Tell me how I can do this better.” And I’m screaming about my life, of course.

When Monday morning rushes into action, I usually find myself in a state of perpetual dreariness from the time I wake until the time my head hits the pillow that night. It passes me by, filled with art and music and socializing and talking to Justin, who wants me to go back to California with him. He offered to book two tickets for us to go, and I just thought about how he sometimes forgets how old I am.

One Tuesday, Sammy packed up his bags and walked out of Papalote with his siblings, and I never saw him again. I never got to tell him I’m sorry, and I never hugged him goodbye. He robbed me of my peace, stripped my ego, and branded my conscience with notions of amendments never fulfilled. Never, never, never. I never told him he was my best friend.

On Wednesdays I try to conjure up enough stamina to weather the school day through. This Wednesday I did something special though- a community offering, a foreshadowing omen of art- when I spent the hour drawing the things I love most about my school on the big, dusty chalkboard. The cigarette chalk dug into the creases of my palm, cracking brittlely as if it was an aging priest. However, I did not recoil. I have not ever been afraid to get dirty, to dig my boyish fingernails into the mud of labor. As I cartoonified the likenesses of my friends in Quintana Roo, a crowd gathered at my heels. I was a mile high: doing my art surrounded by people I’ve come to love and Malakai’s phone blasting dance music into the still afternoon. I swayed and skipped and jumped and quaked and soon a cacophony of chairs were drug up to my chalkboard canvas like an austere audience. I created visions of my Heaven up on that board; our serene, familial chaos marching haplessly across the wall in pastel white. Malakai crowed at my picture of him lifting his shirt and pointing to his six pack with a smirk and Heather, the English teacher, breathed that I had captured the essence of everyone in a few short strokes of chalk. I couldn’t agree more.

By the time Thursdays roll around, it’s time for artes again with the revered Carmen for two hours. I used to hold her in high esteem, but now, I don’t give one nod of a head as to whether or not she is impressed by my artwork. As I told Jim once, I’m done trying to impress people. I had the whole school in the palm of my hand for almost four months- now it’s time for me to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my social butterfly personality. Instead of constantly being on edge with a pointed, cynical remark prepared at hand and fresh breath, I just let go and am finally, totally comfortable with El Papalote. Comfortable in the way that I wear sweats to school and forget to put on makeup. It’s not a bout of laziness, it’s a homage to a close-knit family lifestyle. Home away from home.

Fridays are usually filled with some event Playa has going on: sometimes it’s a motocross race, a social luncheon type event, or other times it’s a party I’m going to. I got myself dolled up last weekend in glamorous 20’s attire to go a Gatsby Night event on the other side of the caratera. After spending the better part of the day looking for a costume at the Plaza Americanas, I hitched a ride with Alma and her mum to the venue. We were painfully early at nine o’clock, but within the hour the place was booming. I danced  in the middle of rowdy, drinking circles to the hooting of the crowd. A girl with a feather floating precariously in her curls made rounds about the multiple clusters of dancing teens with a big bottle of Captain Morgan, tipping the lip of the bottle to any obliging patrons. The people around any volunteers to chug the rum chanted and whooped and hollered. I crinkled my nose as the bar girl smiled down at me and hefted the bottle to my lips. The Project X soundtrack came on- tradition now- and the massive, three-walled hangar the DJs were set up in surged with an influx of dancers and standers and making-out-ers. A girlfriend found me through the throngs of teens and young adults and a stuffed a cigarette in my hand. She bent over, her face face illuminated slightly by the embers, and touched the tip of her cigarette to its pure, white end and lit me up before I could say anything. I dropped it on the littered concrete floor and stomped out the budding eddies of fire as she pranced away.

Saturday is usually a relief. I wake up late and stumble downstairs to make tea for myself and sit at the computer, checking the statistics for this blog and glazing over the texts on Facebook I don’t want to look at, otherwise the boys who sent the messages will know I’m ignoring them. I just want to talk to Justin anyway, the rest are all background music.

Aidan and Kalin, my brothers, usually have futbol games to rush off to on Saturdays, and I haven’t missed one of their games yet. It’s incredible, though not surprising, the speedy improvement the boys have in their playing. What about my sister and I? Well, we have been team-less since we left Tepeyak soccer. The tryout for the college in Cancun was the last organized soccer match I’ve played in, and that was over a month ago. The scout from the college was interested in both Kira and I, asking for our emails to contact us, but that contact hasn’t been made. Not that it matters too much anyway- I don’t want a sports scholarship to the University of Cancun.

Playa hasn’t seen as much rainfall as we are experiencing this year since half a century ago. In September, the heavens poured down on us every day, for 29 days. Now, we’ve had an unanticipated reappearance of overcast weather and more precipitation. Mum is going bonkers. Mum knows a lot of things: she’s street smart and book smart, and hell, my mum is beautiful. She exposed me to all the musical knowledge I now proudly put out, and she’s tough, a mystery even. She’s the farthest thing from a lightweight in my book- in fact, I’ve seen her go bottoms up, perched on the impugnable surface of Uncle Derek’s speed boat on Lake Mojave. She wasn’t fazed at all either, she stood completely balanced by the captain’s chair despite the white caps and choppy rollicking of the lake and whooped at us while we were wake boarding off the swim step. But Mum hates the rain: she likes going, going, going too much, and rain just suspends everything, especially if it’s tropical, hurricane-like rainfall. The wettest weather Playa’s had since the fifties, and we met it head on, the one year we decide to come live here.

Ever since the rains have returned for part two, I’ve had swelling, bacterial sores on my thighs and under my left arm. It sounds terribly gross, and trust me, it is. I’m not accustomed to the jungle bugs yet I suppose. We don’t know exactly what it is, but Kalin has it as well, just much worse than I do. Mum spends 1200 pesos on bandaids a week to cover our oozing pocks, and there is no foreseeable end to this infestation of itchy, red sores. Wish us luck, and thank the Lord you don’t have to deal with this. I have a jungle disease: I’m sick with love for Playa, and ill on behalf of it.

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