When we smack onto the runway at the Cancun International Airport, an apocalyptic sky sags low overhead; black clouds, sun setting with a purplish gasp somewhere over the Pacific. It’s an ominous warning, a reproach from the Sun God Tonatiuh himself for leaving my our 9-month-old baby at home to hop on the earliest flight for some much-needed sun, booze and depravity. Such selfishness and vice cannot go unpunished. Not according to the Good Book and the deranged souls who follow its every word.
But I didn’t care. The Sun God couldn’t stop a bunch of scurvy infested Spaniards from wiping out his loyal subjects, he’s sure as hell not making a special trip to smite an unemployed black man with a Vitamin D deficiency. Besides, I deserved this trip dammit. I was entitled to a little vacation after the ghoulish year I’d suffered.
I had quit my job of four years after the mega-Corporation who bought us out decided they could trim a few bucks if they spat 90% of the staff to the unemployment line. I, however, was installed, along with the rest of the survivors, in the role of bill collector. I guess the irony of paying a black man to hound delinquents for not paying their bills was lost on them. I saw it clearly and felt I wouldn’t be happy sweating deadbeats like a bookie chasing down bad bets in dimly lit pool halls.
So I gave notice and made plans to jet off to Playa del Carmen babyless and without a steady stream of income. I charged the trip to a heavily burdened Visa the head office will soon dispatch a Mountie to reclaim at gunpoint and cut to ribbons if I don’t make a minimum payment ASAP. But I would deal with that when I got back. Or not.
We cleared customs without trouble, claimed our bags and as I was about to comment on the painlessness of our arrival (I have an instinctive fear that any interaction with authority, whether it be cop, EMT or customs official, will end with me face down on the linoleum, handcuffs cutting into my wrist) the Pauper Mob fell upon us, with desperate entreaties to carry our bags, drive us to our resort, hell, even their old ladies were fair game so long as the transaction ended with the Old Gringo Dollar pressed into the palm of their hands.
Our resort came to us cheaply – suspiciously so. We’d booked through one of those last minute websites who had the resort listed as a 5-star property. By Gods, there it is advertised again on the sign propped up at the resort ground’s entrance. The resorts we’d stopped at before ours were decadent and modern. How could ours be any worse? The bus ascended a paved hill, surrounded by dense foliage before coming to a stop in front of a tiny hatch that served as our resort’s lobby.
This does not portend well. There is a desk, a couple of couches where stray cats lounge luxuriously, a cramped store with a beleaguered lady manning the till and a barely operable frozen margarita machine churning a yellow sludge. Did the machine work? Was it poison? I’d never know because the owlish concierge was forced to give an orientation to nine people at once, all arriving at different times. He became flustered and stopped making sense. But by then it didn’t matter. My brain had turned to jelly somewhere over Denver.
I’d gotten moderately twisted at 8 that morning in the hotel bar but the buzz was a mere memory. Even the sedatives I’d taken mid-flight was of no help. The trip from the airport to the resort nearly killed me. We’d spent two hours on the bus, puttering past desperate roadsides – broken bottles, rocks, blood, graffiti, dilapidated shanties and stern faced Policia with automatic assault rifles slung low, their hard eyes promising extortion, vicious beatings and a good groping for any girl unlucky enough to require their assistance with an empty purse.
Our rooms came with a stocked bar and the thought of those lonely bottles sitting forlornly on a shelf had me ready to seize the concierge by his collar and threaten him with unholy violence if he didn’t hand me the key at once.