Zyzzyva, Winter 2011, NO. 93
From the picture on this postcard you’d think the setting sun floats atop the Caribbean longer in Cozumel, Mexico than anywhere else. Me and MJ had been in the Mercado looking at traditional Mexican wares—sombreros, serapes, switchblades—when a hunched back senora in a red headwrap trespassed my personal space, crowding me against an adobe wall. She put this postcard in my face. Her fingers were gnarled twigs and she smelled like mud. Her eyes cursed me as she moaned an incantation en Espanol that ended with the words twelve dollars U.S.
“I can’t believe you paid that much for a postcard,” MJ said.
“Worth every peso,” I said. “That lady is an oracle.”
Even in the four days that we’ve been on our honeymoon my Spanish is improving. You have no choice, sometimes you just have to make a decision about what these people are saying. Today has been my best day because I’ve gotten six out of fifteen conversations right, I think. It’s obvious when you make the wrong choice. All conversation stops and the staring is longer than usual. It turns out the bus driver didn’t want me to urinate through the open window. Regrettably, my midstream pinch at the town center strafed an innocent family in a handsome cab.
I’m drinking again. It’s made the trip more fun. How can you be in Mexico on your honeymoon and not have at least a Corona? Or an El Sol or a Pacifico or a Tecate or a Dos Equis lager and amber? It wouldn’t be right. We’ve all seen the commercials, that couple lounging on the beach, sharing a lime. They have these little beer bottles down here, too. I heard another American refer to them as pony bottles which makes sense. A pony is a small horse, but a horse just the same. The pony bottles go quick. You can drink a lot of them and not feel a thing.
My sunburn is violent and bubbling. It’s because of the nap we took in those chairs on the beach the first day. I passed out with my hat over most of my face. The sun raped every other part of my body from the chin down. The reflection off the pile of pony bottles under my chair might’ve made things worse.
MJ is miffed at me. Right now she’s getting a massage from Hector Vasquez. He’s the concierge at our hotel. Also the tennis coach, the scuba instructor, the chef and pilots the para-sailing boat. His English is impeccable. There’s nothing the man can’t do. He free-dove thirty feet to the ocean floor while MJ and I stood on the pier watching through the clear Caribbean water. He looked like a lean brown merman as he glided up and broke the water’s surface, whipped his long hair back, opened his mouth and pulled out my wedding ring.
“I didn’t even know I dropped it,” I said. MJ crossed her arms and walked away. Hector pulled himself onto the pier and handed me the ring.
“Thanks,” I said. “God…you have the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen.”
A half hour later I tried to apologize to MJ. She was pouting and mad.
“I can’t believe you could be so careless,” she said.
“It’s the diarrhea,” I said. “I’ve lost five pounds since we’ve been here.”
“God, you’re disgusting.”
The travel book says to avoid the water, as well as too many fruits and vegetables. Something about bacteria that we’re not used to in America that will make you sick. One mango couldn’t hurt, right? It tasted like paradise exploded in my mouth. I imagined tiny angels having orgasms on my tongue, ate two more and had a mango salad the next morning for breakfast.
This postcard features The Temple of Kukulkan, the most famous pyramid at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. The tour guide said this temple is in the area of fourteen hundred years old. When our tour went on break, I snuck around the back of the temple to take a leak and busted the tour guide smoking a joint. He passed it to me. I took a big hit and had a monster cough.
“No fucking way these things are fourteen hundred years old,” I said.
“Si, pendejo,” he said. “They are.”
I got super high. As the tour continued, the notion that the Mayans could see us wandering around their once great empire in Velcro fastened Tevas and too tight Bermuda shorts made me laugh. A fat lady asked the tour guide a question. She pronounced Chichen Itza as Chicken-Eatya. Then she dropped her corn-on-a-stick in the red dirt and I lost all control. The tour guide started laughing, too, which made us both start to cry. We sat down on the steps of The Temple of Warriors, gasping for air, holding our sides, composing ourselves and then losing it again whenever anyone asked what was so funny.
The rest of the our group milled around on their own. MJ stood in front of us, her arms crossed.
“I can’t believe you’ve been smoking pot,” she said and walked off. When we stopped laughing he sold me a dime bag.
MJ went straight to the room for a nap. She’d given me the silent treatment the whole way back from the ruins. Hector Vasquez stood at the concierge station in a partially buttoned guayabera, reading an English language text on emergency field surgery.
“Hola, Hector,” I said. “Como estas?”
“Bueno, Senor. E tu?” he said.
“Thank you. Listen, Hector, can you get me a reservation for two at a really nice restaurant tonight? Something romantic.” He smiled at me.
“Si. I will take excellent care of you.”
“God…you’re teeth are snow white.”
Hector got us a table at Playa Azul (Blue Beach), one of the nicest restaurants in Cozumel. A Caribbean breeze circulated through open windows and gave my blisters goose-bumps. MJ looked gorgeous in the white linen dress she bought at the Mercado. When the moonlight hit her dress just right you could see the outline of her legs leading up to her ass. Everyone else could, too, which turned me on.
The maitre d’ led us to a corner spot overlooking the Parasio Reef. A white orchid hung from an urn on our table, the only one in the restaurant and a huge stroke of luck considering this is MJ’s favorite flower. She smelled the orchid and looked at the ocean.
“I can’t believe we’re married,” she said.
“You look edible,” I said.
For dinner I had the grilled swordfish with mango salsa. MJ had crab enchiladas with a verde (green) sauce and we drank two bottles of the 2004 Don Miguel Gascon Malbec.
It’s the most relaxed I’d seen MJ since the day we met at Shady Place Rest and Readjustment Center. As the facility nurse, she did my intake interview, reading questions off a page.
“Any diseases or family history of disease?” she said.
“I’m afflicted by your red hair and the freckles on your shins,” I said. “It runs in my family.”
Thirty days into my court ordered sixty day reeducation we met again for my status interview. She read questions from a different page.
“Have you or anyone else noticed an improvement in your physical well being?” she said.
“Only now that I’m sitting this close to you,” I said. “Can’t you feel this?”
She locked the door to her office and let me kiss her shins and give her an orgasm with my mouth. We’ve been together ever since.
Shady Place discharged me with honors. MJ called me three days later.
“I can’t believe you graduated,” she said. “We have to talk.”
I remember thinking she was going to breakup with me. On the drive to her apartment I came up with two speeches. One that started with, ‘Well, fuck you. I’m better than this anyway,’ and another that started, ‘Please, dear God, don’t break up with me.’ I’d gauge the mood before deciding which to use.
She sat on a green, floral print loveseat when I arrived. She touched the cushion next to her. It smelled like cat piss. I sat down and a broken piece of rattan stabbed me in the calf.
“Well, fuck you. I’m better than this anyway,” I said and grabbed my calf. It was bleeding.
“What?” she said.
“Please, dear God, don’t breakup with me.”
MJ got me a towel for the blood and applied pressure. She told me that she wanted me to marry her, that she needed me to marry her, that I had to marry her, which threw me. Sometimes I wasn’t even sure she liked me.
“Are you pregnant?” I said.
“God, no,” she said. My calf was throbbing. It hurt bad.
“Yeah, okay. Let’s do it. ” I said.
She grabbed the phone and called her mother, told her that I asked her to marry me and that she’d said yes. I went to minor emergency and got a tetanus shot and a butterfly bandage.
After that she stressed about the wedding, the reception, her dress, bride’s maids, invitations, flowers, seating arrangements, deejay’s, first dance song, catering, rings, her mother and everything else. The night I found her crying in the apartment, a swatch of lace in each hand, I suggested that we forget all this trouble and just go to the courthouse to get married. She locked herself in the bathroom.
“I can’t believe you’re trying to ruin the best day of my life,” she said.
When we were done with dinner at Playa Azul we decided to walk down the beach to get back to the hotel. Our feet sank in the soft sand at the water’s edge. As we approached the hotel, MJ was awash in moonlight and I couldn’t take it anymore. I stopped and pulled her to me. Her breasts were in my face. I cupped one with my hand and kissed her crab enchilada scented cleavage. She took a sharp breath because of her hiccups. We tumbled to the water’s edge, me on top of her, and made out. The water lapped at our legs and receded and lapped again like it wanted in on the action.
My hard-on flapped. MJ made snow angels in the sand. I walked my hands up her dress, pushed two sandy fingers inside of her and jabbed her clit with my thumb. Then the ocean thrashed behind us. I craned my neck and used MJ’s breast for support. Hector Vasquez stood ankle deep in water, wearing a Speedo, not four feet away, a scuba mask resting on his forehead. He had a spear-gun in one hand and the fingers of his other hooked through the gills of a young Blue Tip shark. The shark struggled. Hector scratched his chest with the spear-gun.
“Hola, Hector,” I said.
“Buenos Noches, Senor. Senora,” he said. MJ hiccupped.
“You fish at night, Hector?’
“Si. That is when the sharks hunt.”
Back in the room MJ and I had the hottest sex ever. It’s the first time she’d ever had multiple orgasms with me. I had a hard time coming because of all the wine. Whenever that happens I think of the person I hate the most having sex with MJ. Leo fucking Campbell, the fuckhead that always cheated when we raced BMX. It works every time.
The Punta Celerain Lighthouse, on this postcard, is located on the southernmost tip of the island. Sailors used the lighthouse to avoid running aground on the rocky shore here. What you can’t see are all the saltwater crocodiles sunning in the nearby river mouth. A local boy (nino) charged me five dollars to be my guide. He led me over some sand dunes to the river mouth where there were at least thirty crocs of all sizes lounging in and out of the water. He opened a small ice chest, took out some lunchmeat, rolled it up and stuffed it in an empty Coke can.
“What are you going to do with that?” I said.
“Mira,” he said.
He tossed the can in the middle of the crocs. Three big ones positioned for it, tails whipping and mouths snapping. They faced off and hissed. The largest croc lunged for the can and knocked it out of reach. Then a small one that wasn’t even in the fight snatched it up and swallowed the can whole. I tipped the boy five more dollars to do it again.
MJ had an hour and a half left in Hector Vasquez’s Krav Maga workshop. So me and the boy smoked a joint and ripped around the island on my rented moped. He rode bitch.
We landed at a compound off The Boulevard Aeropuerto where pens held goats, chickens, turkeys, pigs and cows. The stench kicked me in the stomach and made me feel alive.
“El Carniceria,” the boy said.
“Whatever that means,” I said and climbed the fence to have a better look.
An hombre (man) in a stained apron cornered and mounted a pig, pulled a knife from a leather sheathe and opened the pig’s neck with it. Blood pooled around his rubber boots. He flipped the pig over and turned around. He stuck the blade in the pig’s asshole and sliced all the way up it’s belly to the cut in the neck. The pig never had a chance. It deflated as the hombre hoisted it onto a hook and raked it’s guts out.
I gagged and fell into the adjoining pen.
“Hijo de puta tonto,” the boy said and disappeared.
The hombre looked at me through the railing, his arms dripping pig innards. I slid under the fence opposite and came up shit slathered in a pen full of goats. They stared at me, unconcerned.
“Don’t you get it,” I said. “He just murdered the pig.”
I grabbed the smallest goat and climbed the fence. The hombre shaded his eyes from the sun with pig liver and watched. At the top, I shot him the bird and the goat bleat. The boy had the moped waiting when we got down. I jumped on the back, goat in my arms.
“Vamanos,” I said. The boy drove with one hand and pinched his nose with the other. I named the goat Papillon.
No one chased us, which disappointed me a little since the crime had been so just. We let Papillon back into the wild at the lighthouse. It was the happiest I’d ever seen him, jumping and bucking, running circles in the boiling hot sand. Then he ran over the top of the dunes, to the river mouth where all the crocs were sunning.
“Papillon, no,” I said. The boy sat and stared. I couldn’t watch, but I couldn’t stop either. The largest croc got Papillon in his jaws and snapped his spine with one shake. Then a melee ensued as all the crocs ripped Papillon apart, pummeling each other for the chance at meat not stuffed in a can.
This morning MJ tried to hide the sound of her sobs by flushing the toilet. It’s the third morning in a row she’s done that. I’d apologize for whatever I must’ve done, but apologizing without knowing what I’ve done makes her more upset. When she came back to bed I pretended to be asleep.
We got up a half hour later so that we could make the departure of the three reef catamaran tour that MJ signed us up for. It left from Playa Uvas, took you to two reefs that you snorkeled around and broke for lunch on an island. Then they dragged a rope behind the catamaran, pulling you over the third and largest reef before sailing back in.
El Toro (The Bull), the name of our catamaran, took up two boat slips in the marina. There were about thirty people on the tour, some families with kids, a group of young guys out together and some couples like me and MJ. We stepped aboard and one of the three crew members handed us pony Coronas. MJ didn’t want hers so I took it. He smiled and nodded. I looked at MJ.
“I’m already having a good time,” I said.
“I can’t believe you’re going to drink beer at nine thirty in the morning,” she said.
They pulled the ropes and we started a slow sail through the marina. A barefoot and shirtless crew member picked up a bullhorn.
“Bienvenidos, mi amigos. Mi nombre es El Capitan and we’re going to have a great party today,” he said. “But first let me give you a quick safety demonstration.”
He bent over and opened a hatch in the deck.
“This is where the life vests are if you want one,” he said. Then he walked across the deck and opened four ice chests stacked full of pony beer bottles and one chest with bottles of tequila on ice.
“That is where the cerveza is. This is where the Cuervo is. You should drink some,” he said. Everyone applauded. I grabbed MJ’s leg.
“This is the best thing ever,” I said.
Once we were out of the marina the crew told us to hold on as they raised the main sail. The wind caught it and we cut through the water. Just fifty yards out we sailed through a school of flying fish that skipped across the top of the ocean, their silver backs reflecting the sun in every direction.
I asked El Capitan where to put my empty pony bottles. He took them, put his arm around me and raised the bullhorn to his mouth.
“Ladies y gentlemen, may I get your attention, por favor,” he said. Everyone stopped their excited vacation chats and gave us their attention.
“Mi amigo has volunteered for the first tequila bomb of the day. Give him a round of claps,” he said. Everyone but MJ laughed or clapped. I bowed.
“Muchas gracias,” I said.
“Ah. Hablas espanol?” he said.
“Un poco,” I said.
El Capitan put a two holster belt around his waist. Then he put a bottle of tequila in one of the holsters and a seltzer bottle in the other and pressed play on a boom box. Queen’s We Will Rock You blared. He put me on my knees, tilted my head back and opened my mouth.
“Don’t swallow until you hear everyone scream tequila bomb,” he said. MJ buried her face in her arms as if there might be an actual explosion.
I gave El Capitan the thumbs up. He poured tequila in my mouth and when I thought he’d finished, he poured a little more. Then he sprayed seltzer all over my face and a little in my mouth while everyone cheered me on. He closed my mouth, shook my head and at the count of three everyone screamed tequila bomb. It tasted like Sprite and tequila. Not great, but not bad either.
El Capitan toweled my face off, handed me two more pony Corona’s and began administering a tequila bomb to some douche that did the robot dance and mimed his head blowing up. No one clapped for him.
The first reef that we anchored over hummed with swaying green fronds and schools of black fish with yellow stripes moving through the coral. Who knew so much went on down there? MJ and I both touched a sea turtle as it swam by. I also touched the reef even though they told us not to. Something about disturbing the sensitive eco-system. It looked pretty solid to me.
The second reef was even bigger, but I had a huge beer belch underwater which caused me to suck seawater through my snorkel and into my lungs. I got back aboard and had another pony or two to quit coughing. El Capitan offered me another tequila bomb without all the pomp and circumstance. They were starting to taste better.
The sun blazed by noon. El Toro anchored off a tiny island and we swam like drunken manatees, flailing for the shore and the all-you-could eat buffet. I filled up on chicken and pasta in a creamy orange sauce. They had carnitas tacos, four of which I could fit in my mouth at a time. One table had slices of fresh fruit. I ate two fistfuls of mango while MJ took pictures of sand crabs.
The swim back to El Toro took longer, fighting the tide with all-you-can-eat buffet bricks in my stomach. I fantasized about the cool relief of drowning, but just as I’d made peace with leaving this life and maybe getting laid by a mermaid in another the catamaran ladder hit me in the head.
We found an empty spot at the rear of the deck. I laid down, rubbed the bump on my head and closed my eyes. The only people aboard when I woke up were the crew and a pregnant woman who rubbed baby oil on her stomach in slow, careful circles.
Everyone else gripped a rope in the catamaran’s wake, one person positioned behind another going fifty feet back. As we sailed they gazed at the reef, ooh’ing and ahh’ing in their snorkel mouthpieces at the same kind of shit we saw before.
The boat swayed more than it had before. That and the sun’s glare off the water had me dizzy and nauseous. Then the Robot Douche climbed aboard and said they’d swam into a school of jellyfish, that people were getting stung. El Capitan used the bullhorn, which felt like hooks pulling my brain apart, to get everyone out of the water.
MJ pulled herself onto the deck, hurried to the fresh water bucket in the middle of catamaran and got in line behind the others rinsing their stinging skin. A man with a white goatee passed MJ the ladle. She dipped it in the water and dowsed herself, top to bottom. Everyone stood near the bucket comparing swollen welts on their bodies, waiting their turn to rinse off the poison. The sun, right behind MJ’s head, gave her a halo and made her look like a patron saint of sex. She dipped the ladle again and poured water over herself in what felt like slow motion.
The shoulder of her suit slipped down revealing the edge of her left areola. I thought of our night on the beach and forgot myself. Mr. Goatee steadied me as I pushed through the crowd.
“Nobody clapped for you,” I said, pointing at Robot Douche.
A few more weaving steps and I stood in front of MJ at the bucket. Everyone stared. I cupped her exposed breast and kissed her neck. She shoved me back and hit me with a right cross to the temple. I turned and showered the carefully oiled pregnant woman in mango, carnitas tacos, and chicken and pasta mixed with an orange beer sauce.
The child on this postcard is selling Mexican gum, called Chiclets, outside The Mission at Punta Molas. The plaque says that Spanish monks founded this mission in the late 1700’s and were responsible for bringing Christianity into this area of Mexico. They did a good job. There’s a Catholic church on damn near every corner.
MJ’s been gone for three weeks now. She left the day after the catamaran tour even though we still had four days left in Mexico. She didn’t say goodbye, but she called me at the hotel a few days after her return to the states.
“I can’t believe you got me pregnant,” she said.
Hector Vasquez got me a job at the hotel, washing dishes in the kitchen. It doesn’t pay that much, the peso being what it is, but he also rented me a cheap room in one of the six bungalows he owns near Punta Norte. He’s been teaching me Spanish, the best way to splint a broken bone if you’re in the jungle, and how to hunt shark at night in a Zen state.
That same day MJ called, I saw Hector sitting on the pier. He wore loose cotton drawstring pants, frozen in full lotus position. I sat next to him and dangled my feet over the water. I could smell the salt air as the onshore wind blew fine strands of Hector’s hair across his face and cheeks. It made my face itch. He stretched for the sky and exhaled for a long time.
“Buenos tardes, mi amigo,” he said.
“Good afternoon to you, my friend. God … you have zero body fat.”
“Esta noche de luna llena,” he said, looking at the sky. “Vamos a cazar tiburones.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I don’t know what that means.”
“Full moon tonight. We will hunt shark.”
The Speedos Hector gave me were too tight and made me feel vulnerable. I shifted my weight and tugged at the suit to keep it from sliding up. It crawled right back. Hector handed me a scuba mask and cocked the spear-gun. I stared at the water. Waist high breakers glowed green in the moonlight and slapped my stomach.
“I’m scared. What if a shark comes at me?”
“Smack it on the nose, push it away,” he said and made a flat handed slap at the air with a sweep to the side. I did the same.
“Bueno,” he said, walked farther into the water, the spear-gun secured across his back as he pulled the mask over his face. I took a breath, followed him out.
We swam through darkness and ran into a sandbar. Hector and I stood in the calm, shallow Caribbean, the moon sitting above our heads like a bright stadium light. He handed me the spear-gun, pointed at the shadows swimming beneath us.
“Be still. Breathe slow,” he said.
I pushed my mask up, let my eyes adjust and did the opposite. I jumped and took rapid fire gulps of air as a small shark passed. Then there were more of them, not circling like you see in the movies, but curling and weaving near my submerged legs. I backed in to deeper water, made a flat handed slap at the air with a sweep to the side. They didn’t notice. What felt like sandpaper scraped my calf. I dropped the spear-gun, started to hyperventilate and fell off the sandbar into blackness.
I came back to consciousness, my Speedos trying to split me up the middle. Hector had gripped them with strong hands, returned me to the shallows and got me to my feet. He smiled and then laughed. I pulled the trunks out of my ass and vomited.
I said, “I can do better than that.”