20 of December
Three days ago I woke up in a bright room, the linen curtains drawn and the walls bathed in pale stillness, like the white of an eye, tinged with muted splashes of jaundice and veins. I felt the giddy excitement of a nun, no longer sexually dormant, rising in a bed so familiar, yet still not native to her. I think the story goes that the nun touched herself in the night and cursed into her pillow vehemently; toes pointed rigidly and her hair a piled jumble about her neck.
There is a story I heard, long ago, when I used to eavesdrop on dining room table conversations between my parents and their company. For some reason, the world of taxes and jobs and traveling and oh-my-gosh-did-you-hear-what-Sandra-said was much more intriguing to me than kids my age, the sons and daughters of my parents friends that ran amuck and screamed readyornothereIcome. Instead, I’d peer around molding and crunch my legs under the big wooden table to listen to the animated stories and voluminous laughter over glasses of wine and balsamic vinegar and a loaf of French bread. Mum would howl and clap her hands at a punch line, adding witty sentiments to the story in a high-pitched, between-breaths sort of voice. I’d find the corners of my mouth reluctantly turning upward, as if some unseen force was tugging at my lips. Or sometimes, the condensed oral narratives would have a moral to them and leave me deep inside of myself. Mum wouldn’t hoot to those stories almost a loud as cousin Kristine, and there would be no dry, peanut gallery comments following the tipping and clinking of glasses.
One serious, morally evaluating storyI was always fond of hearing was about a girl. She was very stubborn and strong-willed and she was in a pickle because she was forced into an arranged marriage with a man much older than her. The young girl refused to marry the older man, whom her father had picked out for her. One night the father ran the taps on the bathtub and held his daughter under the water until no more bubbles escaped from her still warm lips. I always imagined her black hair, like the nun, dramatically slow dancing in an eternal, angelic halo about her head.
Two days ago Papa, Nana, Uncle Derek, Aunt Maria, and my cousins: Derek, Patrick, and Paulina, showed up in Playa. I was busy at an art seminar from 4-8:30, so I wasn’t able to pick up my family at the Cancun airport, but I met up with them later that night and gave hugs and kisses all around. My family is extremely close with each other, so not seeing my cousins for over five months and Pop for over a month lent itself to an enthusiastic welcome.
All week I’ve been occupied in the evenings: fashioning pottery, polishing, painting, and downing coffee to stay alert. The workshop was publicized to be hosted by Professor Julian Chavez, a world renowned ceramics artist, which is major bonus points for my cv. I’m the only person in the small night class who only speaks one language, which makes things a little more complicated, and makes me feel inexplicably inadequate. I hung out with the young Swiss woman who speaks five tongues and Maryam, the beautiful, feisty coordinator of the workshop. Today was the last day of the class, and we met down at the dirt track by the caratera to fire the pieces. I spent four and a half hours at the dusty race track under the oppressive sun, hacking at wood with a big orange ax next to the bon fire. It was the sort of hot that gives you chills- the hot when one turns around to a mirage of Lucifer smirking at them. Six metal folding chairs were resting in a cluster, and alternately, free-spirited faces on thin stalks squinted and stretched and positioned their butts on the chairs so they wouldn’t be so numb. The woman who looks an awful lot like a tourist/archeologist from Jurassic Park smoked two cigarettes. Then she lit up another one. The man who looks just like Gene Wilder, if Gene Wilder spoke Spanish, chatted with the doe-eyed woman, and after all the pottery was put away to cook, they got in a car and drove away. The Swiss woman and her two small girls caught a ride with them, as well as the rat-faced guapismia who talked loudly on her iPhone, and the obnoxious late-forties chatterbox lady with her equally obnoxious daughter. The 38-and-still-a-bachelor man who will be forever stuck as a seventh grade boy in my mind chopped some wood and sweated for a hour and a half before taking his red bicycle to his fraternity house. Ok, I don’t think he lives at a fraternity- but still, it’s very plausible. The artistic- looking woman with big Ray Bans and a knobby brown bun sticking out on top of her head squatted by the dying flames of the bonfire and lit her cigarette with a scrap of wood, embers floating carelessly about. I imagine she goes home to an apartment high up somewhere, with lots of half-completed art projects laying on colorful coffee tables and modular arm chairs; home to a kitchen with solitary leftovers in a single, styrofoam container.
Yesterday, we took our family to Cenote Cristalino and Paamul. Cristalino’s security is hyped up now- if I think it’s mostly because it’s high season right now. Coconut stands are mysteriously appearing on our streets and houses are repainted. The big mall is almost finished. Tourism brings the laborers out of hibernation here so they can rake in the money from unsuspecting Americans. I only say American tourists because everywhere else in the world, it’s common culture to travel and speak three languages and wear bathing suits without tops- so they’re too smart to get pulled into the tourist traps locals set up. I’ve been having a blast sharing my home with our family, and it better not end too soon.