Mexico, my darling. Oh how you sway us in your turquoise ocean and hold our hands as we walk your white coral beaches. For the past ten days we ran freely through your dirt roads and danced wildly in your streets as you pulsed our heart to your beat.
Our minutes were endless but our days were short and so we speak gratitude and stow bags filled with artisanal weaves and mezcal in our rental. The dawn hasn't dawned yet and the neighbourhood cock still chants his kee-kee-ree-kee to joyous squeals of our twenty month old señorita. I pick a jasmine blossom and pin it behind my ear to breath your scent a little while longer, blissfully unaware you're about to take our breath away.
The night is thick with warmth and darkness, the streets deserted as we turn onto the main road chuckling that the police driving along side us doesn't care that the truck in front of us has five people squeezed into the front seat with two more snoring in a hammock in the rear. I buenos dias and smile as we pass and they turn off the path that will ride us through Quintana Roo back to Cancún International Airport.
We drive and reflect, sad to leave, when my rear-view flashes. My heart drops, I check my speed and think they'll pass, but they don't. I halt to the jungle side of the highway lit by the stars and the moon. The officer walks up and asks for my licencia. I get out, search the trunk, and hand it over. He accuses me of speeding and asks when my flight leaves. 10:30 y lo siento muchísimo, señor. He pauses. I swallow as the jasmine petals wilt and its scent rots. My options aren't options and I can choose to pick up my licencia at 12pm for 2800 pesos at the station OR just this once he could be nice and give me a 50% discount if I pay ahorita. Pero señor. Tenemos un bebe y solo doscientos pesos en efectivo y nada más.
He glances toward his much kinder looking partner who nods with a slow close of the eye lids implying let's take it, but the officer I'm talking to fanes sympathy and keeps repeating el problemo is that no es para mí. This ain't his first rodeo and after a short negotiation and an explanation on my end that the Canadian dollar banks a miserable exchange rate, we agree on 1000 pesos and a drive to the ATM. At its best the cash will buy his son's school supplies, though it will more likely translate into joyrides celebrating another successful transaction in the life of two small time crooks protected by uniforms of the Policia municipal Tulum.
The flashing lights guide the way but instead of turning back towards el pueblo they take a right turn onto a gravel road into the jungle. My heart beats in my mouth and we halt in front of a deserted parking lot that holds the eeriness of places meant to be crowded with both bodies and noise. Unfortunately for us this pre dawn AM, there's not a soul in sight. Just dust, a flickering lamppost reserved for psycho thrillers and the dense jungle emitting noises of creatures whose presence you sense but can't see.
The police officers step out and so does my husband. We don't see an ATM but the officer points toward a string of shacks about 200 meters across the empty lot. Nicolas walks over while I guard our car and our baby. I see Nicolas popping his shoulders into his ears in search of said ATM and then I witness the exchange that makes my veins crunch ice. The officer hands his partner a baton and the little, chunky, silent officer rolls his knuckles around the weapon and crosses the field. My tears taste of boiled ocean and my sobs are now audible. Our Ella screams and while I want to pull her out of her seat to console her, I continue blinking into the darkness that swallowed her father. My thoughts begin racing with images of gushing wounds and single motherhood, but since I can't right this wrong I clench my darling's hand in an attempt to regain control of my fear.
And then just like that I observe the silhouettes of a swap and my heartbeat recovers from flatlining. Nic is back safe and the transaction is complete. No one got touched, no harm done and other than our bank account and the belief in humanity no one was violated.
I roll down my window to toss a jasmine blossom into your winds and we race toward the sunrise to climb aboard an airplane that will fly us the hell out of hell. 80 km later we return our car and I feel all the feels recounting the episode to the budget folks, who innocently worked their script to ask if the rental experience was to our liking.
And then I hear her sob. Her eyes well up and her tears fall hot and heavy. She, the budget supervisor, cannot tame her sadness, her fear and her apologies. Here she sits: A beautiful Mexican Mama whose heart is broken by my account of corruption in the land she calls home. I hug her and hold her and she cries snot, salt and water into the spot on my neck that surly gifts her the gentle perfume of jasmine.
My darling Mexico, I hurt for you. I hurt that you're being abused by those meant to protect you. I hurt that all your beauty and your kindness and your art and your people exist overshadowed by corruption and I promise you that we will visit again.
I will have to think twice whether I'll let my daughter play wildly in your winds again, but locking ourselves into one of your all inclusives is not the answer to our continued romance. It is our great privilege to fly home to a country where the police are friends and helpers, but it's also our privilege to live in a system that doesn't drive them into a dawn of corruption. The two officers will wake tomorrow morning and go about their schemes further numbing to the injustice of their existence, one scam and crooked exploitation at a time. My heart breaks for them.
Mexico, querida I'll love you in spite of the abuse you suffer and I will think of you fondly, hoping to return into your light while dreaming you'll one day free yourself from the vicious darkness that chokes you.
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