Some years back I took a Mexican vacation with my old boyfriend. We booked a one-week stay at an amazing resort in La Cruz de Loreto…a city named after a famous bullfighter in the 50’s. I think Jack read about the place in some travel magazine – a 400-acre turtle reserve along the Pacific coast and the Sierra Madre Mountains, some 60 miles south of Puerto Vallarta. At the time, the resort was owned by an Italian investor, who we learned upon arrival, didn’t have much to do with the day-to-day operations. Instead, he had entrusted his employees with the whole enchilada. A little like Lord of the Flies…after they broke Piggy’s glasses.
The place was exquisite. Beautifully manicured grounds tended by men swinging machetes, white sand paths that looked like they had been raked into intricate patterns by Zen masters…or maybe just a large band of chambermaids with vacuum attachments. Dotting the coastline were incredible huts that extended over the water on stilts with thatched roofs, swinging hammocks, and large canopy beds.
Everyone should have to take a trip with their partner before getting serious. All I can say is you learn a lot about people when you travel. It’s wild how personality traits appear out of thin air.
The trouble started when we got to the airport. The check-in attendant grabbed our tickets and asked for proof of citizenship. I handed over my passport…Jack dropped his driver’s license on the counter. (As he explained later, “We’re going to F-ing Mexico for God sakes, not Indonesia.”) Needless to say, boarding passes were not issued and we missed the flight.
We were instructed by our airline agent (under his breath), to visit “Ken” in baggage claim, a man capable of forging identification. We spotted Ken, skulking in a booth, apparently lying in wait for fools like us who needed an official looking visa. Twelve dollars and two hours later, Jack signed a paper (I wouldn’t be so bold as to call it a document), with an embossed `American’ stamped in red.
We ran back up to the airline counter, where a large woman with heaving breasts, booked us on another flight, but not before we received a tongue lashing. “I’m curious why you thought that you could travel to a foreign country without a passport. If you were going to Italy, would you show me your driver’s license?”
“We’re not traveling to Europe. It’s MEXICO,” Jack said.
“Same thing,” she said, and went back to her computer screen in search of replacement flights.
That’s when Jack lost it. “Have you heard of the Free Trade Agreement?” he yelled.
“Yes”, she had, while slowing her accommodating search for our flight.
We eventually got on a plane, and upon touching down in Puerto Vallarta, the Mexican officials waved us straight through. No bag check, no demands to see my passport or Jack’s `official’ paper.
Out of baggage claim, we grabbed a taxi. The driver immediately drove us a few blocks and stopped in front of a strip mall liquor store. He turned and smiled.
“Tequila, amigos?” he asked.
We must have looked parched…or three shots behind. A can of coke for the driver, and two bottles of tequila for us, we were off again.
The trip roughly took two hours, in which we wound around one car-sick hairpin turn after the next…starting out along the coast, but eventually winding through forests, then mountains, mosquito infested swamps, and back to the coastline. If there was a pothole, our driver hit it. A road kill, he nailed it again. Mile after mile of unpaved roads full of stray things—dogs, chickens, strange rodents, women sitting in doorways fanning themselves, their legs spread, and old mumbling men. The last thirty-three miles we rattled along dirt-bike paths until we arrived at a gate where a man in army fatigues with a machine gun slung over his shoulder stood at his post. He pulled out a walkie-talkie and discussed our entrance with a man in the watchtower. We later learned that guards are on 24-hour duty to ensure locals don’t jump the fence and steal from the tourists.
They must have fired the receptionist because no one ever did appear from behind the counter. Eventually, a machete man from the garden opened a drawer and threw us a key. We found our bungalow…unpacked, and headed for the restaurant. This is where things picked up. We soon learned that there were only five of us staying at the resort that week. Since two of the guests had not arrived, we had the place to ourselves, save a lone woman who seemed to be wrecking herself on Tecate. As the week progressed, we realized she must have had a hollow leg. Each morning she embraced the day with a Bloody Mary…followed by a Tequila Sunrise…then a Sunset…a few more beers and shots of tequila during lunch…and then a generous helping of Mescal at night.
What we came to find out, was that `Tecate Mary’ was celebrating a milestone birthday. She had planned the trip long ago, made all the subtle hints for her boyfriend to join her, but as drunken days dragged on and her birthday hours ticked by, it was becoming painstakingly clear he was a no-show.
Then came the tears. Over-weight, in a string bikini bottom, exploding out of a preteen tube top, she cried like every tear the world has ever known was pushing free from a duct. “It’s my fortieth birthday, damnit,” she wailed, and then she drank….seriously. And Jack drank. We all drank. As the sun moved across the sky, we dropped our empties like tossed lovers.
About the time we should have stepped off the booze train and found the agua hose, Beth and Robert entered… the last of the hotel guests to check-in. Beth was in the skimpiest bathing suit I’d ever seen…one of those `why bother’ swim wear brands, with an amazing body to match. Robert walked over and said, “You guys look like sinners. Can we join you?”
Robert was a real estate guy in New York. As he regaled us with his business acumen, Beth seemed to quickly tire of his rendition, and jumped into the pool. She paddled around for a moment and then made a grand exit where she was quickly met by Robert, holding a hotel towel. Beth seemed disappointed that he’d covered her, as did the bartender, a passing fisherman in a row boat…as well as the suddenly wild-eyed Jack, and his increasing inability to focus on a moving target.
To make a long story short…the five of us ended up rowing a boat to the restaurant for dinner. It was late…candles were lit, and the staff had been watching and waiting in the kitchen until we arrived.
Before long, our two Tequila bottles were empty, Tecate Mary was crying and cursing men, Beth had left in a huff, Robert had swung a few punches at Jack for some reason, and I was left trying to figure out how to navigate a drunken man back to our hut in the fading light.
With much weaving and stumbling, we eventually made our way back to the bungalow. I went directly to bed. Didn’t say a word, which probably suited him fine, because I doubt he would have heard it, let alone understood anything.
Around two in the morning, I woke to gunfire. I looked over at the adjacent pillow and found Jack gone. I panicked. Where would a tequila-drenched man go in the middle of the night?” I went searching, but was immediately stopped by two guards who were tracking a naked man and woman, last seen running through the garden.
“Don’t shoot!” I said. “That’s my…my…boyfriend.” With those words, a cold reality burrowed inside me like a wood tick with lyme disease.
When I did find him, he proceeded to recap his night. He explained that when he heard gunfire, he ran zigzag toward the water like he’d seen in the movie `Platoon.’. With bullets kicking up dirt in small dust clouds, he made a beeline for the river and dove in. Damn idiot could have drowned.
I spotted him on our friends’ deck…barking at the moon. He claimed it was an incredible imitation of James Brown singing `Cold Sweat.’ The next morning, I packed my bag and took a taxi back to the airport. Jack was with me…but in body only. The rest of him didn’t have a clue we’d broken up.