I wait a lot here in Mexico. Yesterday I was waiting at the cafe just next to my house with my neighbors, Alfonso and Charra. We had a meeting at 10:00 am on Sunday morning. It was now 11 am and a grey Ford sedan pulled up in front of the now closed beach access. I hoped it was the owner, the person we were expecting. The driver pulled in and totally occupied a space that could have accommodated 3 cars. “Must be her”, I said.
But then a young girl in a very stylish vest and bathing suit exited the car and I sighed. We were waiting for a middle aged, overweight Mayan woman. “Oh well, another poor little rich kid.” I said as I went back to my coffee. Charra laughed. I defended my statement, “I mean, look how she is parked. Like she is the only person in the world.”
Alfonso went to talk to her. One of the reasons the beach access was now closed was because of people blocking the owner’s access. He asked her to move and she did. Charra and I marveled at how inconsiderate some people were. “They really just don’t think of anyone else”, I told her, “It is not malicious”.
She practiced her parking skills farther down the road and then joined us for breakfast. Charra went to work. Alfonso introduced me to his friend, Maria. She was adorable, actually. Fair skinned, clear eyes, asking about art and documentary films, talking about travel in Mexico and how special the north, where she came from, was. We discussed the film festival Alfonso was planning. Then she ordered breakfast and Alfonso went to cook it. I had given up on the owner from across the street, and was preparing to go but Maria asked me about how I got to Tulum and we began discussing “hard times”.
I shared with her only that a difficult time in my life brought me to Tulum and that sometimes, the things that ask the most of us bring us to good places. I was talking to her as if she could hardly understand. She is probably a little over 20 years old, from a privileged background and well, look how she parked. She told me she was studying psychology and I thought she would perhaps know of Pema Chodrun, the Buddhist monk and writer.
“Have you read ‘When things fall apart’?” I asked her. She shook her head and I explained, “It is by this Buddhist monk, Pema Chodrun, and she explains how when things seem to be going very wrong in your life, it may be because they need to ‘fall apart’ before they can come together again.”
She looked at me shaking her head that she understood, and I continued, thinking I could advise her or tell her something to help her in her life, help her park more appropriately. “It is like if you are doing a sculpture or a painting that you need to re-work and you tear it all apart or mess it all up before you can make it gorgeous again”, I explained. “But without that first structure it wouldn’t be as deep, as profound”, I said referring to the person and their past experiences.
She said, “I think I know what you mean. I think I have hit that place where things fell apart for me.”
I didn’t want to minimize her traumas but really, I thought, what could she know about things falling apart. After all she was only 20 something.
“Well, things can fall apart many times in our lives. It creates the tapestry of who we are”, I said, thinking I was oh-so-wise and then I asked, “What happened?”
She looked down at her coffee and told me, “Well, last year my mother and father and brother were kidnapped and never came back”.
As if brick hit me in the face, I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say.
“I think that was when things fell apart for me”, she continued.
I thought, “Shit, park however you want sweetheart”, but said, “I am so, so sorry”. I reached out to touch her and I tried to inhale her perspective. “I am so sorry”, I repeated, “I cannot even imagine”. That violence hasn’t reached Tulum, thank God, and it always feels so far away. At least until I met Maria.
“Welcome to Mexico”, she told me as Alfonso served her breakfast.