[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Ad Absurdium

I should have known what kind of a day was shaping up when Shane and I
emmerged from our stroll along the beach behind the gates of the only
abandoned hotel in all of Cancun.  Should have known, looking around at
the refuse of empty coconut husks, chipped, sad statues, and empty
fountains, that something unusual was setting itself up.  Should have
known, jumping the tall, cement wall under the very nose of the policeman
sleeping in his cruiser, that this would be a day filled with absurdity,
unlike any other day in my entire life.  The rest should not have
surprised me.  Should not have made my head spin frantically round like
the earth itself had fallen off its axis and was now plunging out of
control through a bizarre space devoid of any connection to my sane and
rational world of comfort.  Should have, but didn't.  Welcome to the
twilight zone, baby.
Shane and I are quite late returning to our hotel, after our escapade
along the beach, leaving just enough time for a hurried shower before
tossing all our things roughly into our packs and hailing the nearest cab
for the trip to the airport.  Elaine is ready and waiting.  We say
good-bye to the nice staff, pile in, and throw Shane out at a bus stop
down the road where he can make his own way to the main bus station and
on to a mystery destination without us.  It is time to part ways, rushed
and surreal.  I look out the back window of the speeding car to watch his
figure shrink into the distance, feeling as if we are abandoning him. 
Little do I know that in just a few hours, this feeling will return, in
reverse.  For now, we are leaving Mexico behind us.  I have said my
good-byes, am ready to go.
The pleasant, chatty driver lets us out at the second terminal, very near
where we had disembarked only a week before.  In the way of memory, it
feels like much more time has passed right under my nose, that lifetimes
had been lived under the hot, tropical sun.  Lifetimes more will pass
again before this airport gets us anywhere useful.  But this too is
unknown to me as I thank the man, accept his wellwishes, step inside the
heavily air conditioned hall.
It does not take Elaine and I long to note the absence of a flight gate
marker for Canada 3000.  Much longer to accept the small, neatly posted
sign in the window, pointed out to us by a helpful but sympathetically
puzzled security guard in the terminal:
"We regret to inform you that as of November 9, 2001, Canada 3000 has
ceased all operations. Please contact your travel agent to make alternate
arrangements to your destination."        
We try the emergency embassy telephone number listed below the words, and
are stunned to hear the recording, announcing that they are closed for
the long weekend and will re-open on Tuesday.  We count our combined
money forlornly, 52 pesos (about $8 between us), not even enough to catch
a cab back to town.  With no money and no prospects we each give in to
that universal rescue instinct, calling our mothers - mine in Canada and
hers in Brazil - for help.  Which of course is disappointingly limited at
best from this great distance.  We are on our own, with a hurried and
ill-considered plan taking shape.  Following the same instinct for
comfort, we set off at a frantic pace to the bus station, promising
the taxi driver that we will pay him when we get there and find our
friend.  I pray fervently, hastily, desperately, the whole way, "please
God, if you never ever answer another one of my prayers again ever in my
whole life, please, please, please let Shane still be at that bus
station..." over and over and over again.  Well over an hour has ellapsed
since we let him off at that lonely corner.  It feels like days.
We come barrelling up to the station, grab our bags and tear inside.  I
am certain he will be there.  1, 2, 3 passes through the narrow terminal
confirm the unbelievable - that he is not.  We ask each of the ticket
agents if they have seen him, describing the sun-kissed gringo that will
be easy to pick out of this darkly featured crowd, but none recall him. 
Our plan comes to a breathtakingly abrubt, skidding halt.  We are on our
own.  Penniless.  Uncertain.  And then reality kicks in and we gather our
nerves and wits about us and begin preparations for a solution.  We are
adults.  Capable.  Confident (isn't it apparent?).  I take a deep,
steadying breath, turn around.  The ticket agents let out a collective
whoop as I shriek and race across the floor to engulf Shane in a relieved
bearhug, babbling out the whole confused story in one breathless, speedy
jumble.  He expertly manouevers his messy paper plate of taquitos out of
reach of my twisted braids and frantic features, but otherwise makes no
indication of the absurdity of it all.  He seems remarkably unsurprised
to see me again, saying only "this'll be a great chapter in that book of
7 minutes later he is boarding his bus to Chetumal, having given us a
fistfull of cash and another good-bye hug.  His ticket is
non-transferable.  Non-refundable.  He asks casually if we want to go
with him.  Wishes us luck from the guarded gate, an amused smirk playing
across his tanned features.  The bus shrinks into the distance and we are
alone again. 
Reason and rationality start to seep in and wrestle control from the
panic and disbelief.  It begins to dawn on me that there are many worse
places to be stranded than Cancun, Mexico.  Most people are dying to get
in here, not begging to leave.  I wish I were on my way home, but I am
not.  So we head for the next best thing - back to our quiet hotel on the
lagoon.  When they check us back into the same room, it has not even been
cleaned yet - it is our sand on the shower floor, our roses in a chipped
glass next to the mirror, our empty sun-block bottle in the sink.  It is
so familiar that I want to cry.  Instead I re-open my pack and slip into
something more suitable for a tropical afternoon than wool socks and
heavy jeans.  We have called the bank, re-evaluated our money
situation, and decide to enjoy some good food and a nice afternoon.  We
are supposed to keep calling the airline for more information - they
think they may be able to fly us out the next afternoon.  Keep calling. 
We go out for food.
I take my journal out, 4 hours after I should have been in the air, to
sit beside the pool.  The lights of the hoteleria glow and reach across
the lagoon, and there is a fine, sharp wind blowing gently across the
bay.  If there are any stars at all, then they are muted by the
brilliance around me.  It's barely early evening, yet I feel like this
day has gone on forever.  Elaine is already sound asleep in our room
above, and I am on my own to confirm our return travel.  And suddenly
there is a sleek and sexy Londoner sitting beside me, Richard,
complimenting me on my exquisitely calm karma, which he says surprises
him since he also has the sense that things have not gone well for me
today.  If the universe were not already compeletely mad, this would seem
a whole lot more strange than it does.  Instead, we pass the hours in
quiet conversation together, Richard and I.  About cosmic energies and
our lives in the real world.  He stands to go, tears glistening in his
rich, brown eyes, and tells me that what I see is just a small part of a
much bigger book of life.  "You have the rest," he says, "you have the
Perplexed and amused and strangely comforted, I return to the payphones
to check on the arrangements I have set into place a million miles away. 
Although there are phones every ten feet, most of them do not work, and I
am soon far from the hotel.  Impatient.  I am elated to finally find one
that works, then outraged when it cuts out half way through the automated
messages.  I groan and shake the receiver in frustration, only to startle
a narrow lizard out of his hiding place in the handset.  He glares
balefully at me over his lime shoulder as he slither down the cord and
into a hidden nest in the main box.  There is nothing to do but laugh at
the continuing absurdity of it all.  And make my way back onto the hotel
bar, perched outdoors beside the lagoon, for an icy fanta and a deep
sigh.  By this point I should definitely know better than to be so
And yet the smallish crocodile waddling up the boardwalk beside us for a
dip in the frigid but clean waters of the hotel pool surprises me very
much.  The bartender laughs and says I must have had quite a day indeed
to pay so little attention to something so strange.  Then he laughs again
when I respond to him in halting but accurate Spanish, to discover that I
am not as he and the rest of the hotel staff have suspected, dumb.  We
spend almost an hour there, crocodile swimming merrily alongside us,
talking only in his language.  It is not rocket science that we are
discussing, and yet it is deeply satisfying to know that I can
communicate on my own with people.  Tonight is the night that I am
reminded how good it sometimes feels to be on your own.  How strong and
capable and basically independent I (usually) am.  How lucky I am to be
here.  Tonight is a whole different kind of experience (one which I
secretly suspect confirms that God is playing a gigantic prank on me,
which Elaine is conveniently sleeping through and therefore no witness
of), and perhaps exactly the kind of experience I need before going