These days, I walk the beach in the late afternoon. People are generally leaving. The light is soft and the sunset reflects in the clouds that float over the horizon and the waves breaking on the reef about 800 meters off shore. I often get nostalgic, missing my dogs, missing my beach life and sometimes feeling alone. Not lonely. The beach is still crowded. By 6 pm, stragglers are turning their happy hour into a happy night. They are listening to music and partying. Some are so absorbed in their cameras, I swear they don’t even see the magic Caribbean in front of them or the pinkish white sand with bits of coral and seashells under their feet.
But I do.
After all, that is why I am at the beach: to visit the sea, push my toes into that pinky sand and to remind myself why I live in Tulum.
Yesterday, walking past “Playa Pescadores”, I heard someone call my name, “Johanna”. I looked back and saw a round, brown, mayanish face smiling at me. I couldn’t recognize him, didn’t want to but politely waved back and continued walking. I sat for a moment, inhaled the sea air and the solitude before starting back. As I turned, he came jogging up and smiled a big toothless smile. Well, almost toothless. He had one front tooth hanging in that dark chasm of a smile. It didn’t seem to bother him. I don’t remember his name. But I knew him from the gang of tour and drug salesmen on the beach in my early Tulum days. Could I have crossed the street to avoid him, I would have. However, without that option, I politely said hello, pretended to be happy to see him and actually gave him a hug when he made the overture.
Uncannily, he knew a lot about me and asked about my Jungle Beach Houses. When I told him I had sold he laughed and reminded me how I had been a boss. Then he scoffed, “Now look at you”. He mentioned how I had a lot of money before, saying it like that, “mucho dinero.” I bristled, remembering how my stalker had told everyone I was rich when in reality, I was just a very middle class, subtly privileged US citizen. I looked down, embarrassed and told him I was only generous. He remembered how I used to sail. When I asked him how he knew that, he mentioned that I had shown him things on his boat. I didn’t recall anything about him or his boat and told him I doubted I had shown him anything. He laughed and said, “You are old now but you were quite pretty.” At that point, I wanted to rip his tongue out, toss it to the fish and walk out of what seemed to be a bad dream that wouldn’t stop. He repeated how I used to be the boss and laughed crazily. I interrupted him, told him I was still the boss and dramatically added, “the boss of my own destiny”, and turned to go. He called after me saying, “You used to be so cute”.
I couldn’t get far enough away from the dude. “Old” rang in my ears. “Used to be cute”, followed right after. Did I look that bad? Had I aged in the 12 years I had been in Tulum? Of course I had, I reminded myself. In this little village turned boom town I had passed my forties and now into my 50’s. I had grown. Old? Perhaps. Wise? Perhaps, some might say jaded. I had at least grown to know to stay away from that sort of person. And once I got far enough away from him, I stopped to see the pink clouds in the distance, inhale the sea air, dig my feet into the pink sand and remind myself that I was the boss of my own destiny. I smiled at the sunset reflecting in the wet sand and told myself, besides, what other people think of me is really none of my business. I turned to climb the dune and drive home to the pueblo.