That One Time . . . In Mexico

October 11th, 2012
Time: 10:10 pm
Location: The House

Above my desk, tilted precariously to the right and sagging away from its frame, hangs a cork-board weighted down with snapshots of places I’ve been and people I love. And every time I sit down to try to do some work I’m transported back to “that one time” – which ever memory my eye happens to settle on. 

There was that one time I traveled to Mazatlan, Mexico with my best friend the summer after we graduated from high school.  Most evenings we would perch ourselves on the bar to enjoy happy hour and our newly discovered taste for Sex On the Beach and Miami Vice. We would read, listen to music, and mourn the fact there were no young men at our hotel to spy on. But there was this one late afternoon where we decided to leave the safety of our resort to venture into town to see what local color would offer.

Along with other hotel guests, we boarded a crowded bus into town, exchanging our pesos for paper tickets and pretending to ignore the intoxicated middle-aged men who chose to sit near us, but whom we surreptitiously glanced at and judged with slight shakes of our heads.

We disembarked near a Senor Frogs, but we didn’t go in.  I imagine we were escaping from the sunburned, cervaza flushed crowd back on the bus. I don’t recall much of what we did in town – although another round of Happy Hour did occur at some point, but I do remember when we decided to go to Wal-Mart.  This might seem strange to you, but for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, Wal-Mart was kind-of a thing we did on weekends. And so it seemed like a thing we should do in Mexico.

Erin, with her high school Spanish, deciphered the bus and I was left with the job of hailing it down.  After settling into the cracked plastic chairs, we chatted until the Wal-Mart came in sight.  Except that the Wal-Mart never did come in sight.  As the bus chugged along, it slowly emptied itself of tourists and refilled it with locals. And still we sat, each silently willing the courage to speak our fears, but deflecting to topics worthy of 18-year-old interests. With each passing mile we would receive questioning looks from fellow passengers and finally, amidst ramshackle huts with corrugated metal siding, we pulled ourselves from our seats and alighted in the middle of nowhere. 

There was a wide lane running between what seemed like fields of houses. Dusk was quickly becoming night and the only light was the occasional passing bus.  The plan had originally been to take a bus returning in the opposite direction but all were headed farther into the hinterlands and away from our desired goal.

Despite the fading horizon and our diminishing hope, we never acknowledged our fears to one another – as though cheerful smiles and strained laughter would somehow bind us to a solution.  Surveying the road for a bus I shot up quick, desperate prayers. And lo and behold, like an angel emerging in the dusky twilight, an off-duty taxi rumbled up. 
While I waited anxiously behind Erin, she ducked her head in the passenger window and stumbled and tripped her way over her Spanish and managed to maneuver us into the backseat of the cab for a mere 50 pesos. We held our breath for the next 30 minutes until the main drag was in sight, and only then did we unclench our fists and heave sighs of relief.  We tumbled out of the taxi with a million “¡Muchas Gracias, SeƱors!pouring from our lips, and whoops of exaltation as we finally admitted to each other that we had been scared witless.

We celebrated our survival with fruity ice-cream treats and a promise not to tell Erin’s parents the full tale of our supreme idiocy lest they trap us within the walls of the compound for the rest of the trip.

I don’t think we ever rode a bus together again.

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