Loris had already slipped out of her huipil and waded waist deep in the warm tropic waters just inside Point Nizuc. She stood topless, lapped by gentle dark waves, arms raised as if to embrace the gibbous moon.
Winston still had on his droopy hemp pants, standing knee-deep in the water carefully counting out a handful of mushrooms. Xchab eyed him with guarded disgust. Old hippy getting set to bend his brains again. He’d be naked in a hour if her experience proved true; humming his Hindu chants or barking like a dog.
Bannock had kicked off his shoes and rolled up his Dockers, wading tentatively in the shallows while keeping an eye towards the hotels and Club Med buildings.
Xchab winced as Winston gulped down a big pinch of the dread hongos, then stared as Loris turned from her moonitation and approached him like a marble goddess emerging from the sea. She had been respectful of Loris from first sight: unable to pigeon her into any imaginable hole, wiped out by her beauty and whiteness and grave aura. And there she was examining the fungi, holding one up to examine by moonlight. The big matón who was obviously her boyfriend had come up to watch as Winston wolfed down another dried cap.
“So what’s the dose on these little beauties?” Loris asked.
“Well, based on your estimated body weight, obvious attitude, and extraneous pulchritude,” Winston offered in judicious tones, “I think three or four should do you wrong.”
He hunched a shoulder at Bannock and added, “Tuffy, here, about the same.”
“Okay, can I get eight, then? Wait, make it twelve.”
“Whoa, you’re a trouper after my own riddled heart.”
“There are still three of us unserved, if you recall.”
Winston shot a highly un-inclusive look at Xchab, who was hanging way outside the companionable circle the others had fallen into around the handful of shrooms. Then shrugged and handed Loris a dozen of the shriveled little pixie caps and gobbled the ones remaining. He waded out deeper, staring into the shifting moondepths for minnows.
Loris turned to Bannock, cupping the sacraments between her breasts. She quietly took in his reluctance and smiled.
“You know, the first time I ate these things I was a completely different person.” She stared past him, into some temporal inner distance. “They squared me away, put my life into a different order.”
“I thought that was oXo’s job.” He spoke lightly, but was actually very interested in her past. A first for him. He wanted all of it, everything about her.
“Simplest answer; they worked hand in hand.”
“So how long ago was this different person?” How much past baggage could she have at her age, anyway?
“Not as long as you’d think. I was a cheerleader, how do you like that?”
“I can see you cheering people up. Kind of unexpected, though.”
“Not really. I was definitely attractive. I was also a neurotic, grasping, manipulative, shallow little rotten twat. All social, just what looks best and how can you get it. Messed up.”
“Kind of typical, though.”
“Worse than par, I’d say. I was a pretty fucked-up kid. I was heading for suicide or one of the installment plan suicides lots of my friends had already signed on for.”
“But you dropped acid and traded your pom-poms for tom-toms?”
“It was a process. But I’d have to say that drugs saved my life.”
“Try not to give any speeches at PTA rallies, okay?”
Her only answer was holding out cupped hands full of p. cubensis
“So your opinion as a professional healer/weirdo is that I should eat this disgusting crap?”
“Absolutely. Cross my heart.”
“Okay, but I gotta tell you…”
She leaned in quickly, stopping him with a quick brush of her lips. “No you don’t.”
Bannock bowed his head to sniff the fungus in her hands. They had a little smell, but faint amid her vanilla soap, faint musk, and clean, silvery personal scent. He carefully picked out half the shrooms, then paused.
“Should I chew them up?”
“Not recommended. They taste nasty. Just get them down the hatch quick as you can.”
He popped them in his mouth and bent to scoop up a handful of the lukewarm Caribe water, and lapped it like a dog to chase them home. “Well. That’s that. Do I get my money back if I end up drooling in a loonybin somewhere?”
She stepped close to him and cupped his face in her hands. She stared into his eyes from six inches away, luminous under the moon. “We’re going to be just fine.”
And he believed her. Maybe that was what it really was about her all along: he believed her.
Loris turned and approached Xchab, who was on the point of turning tail, but stuck around mostly because of her personal awe of the white girl. She dressed like a queen on the tele, took charge, didn’t defer in the least to Bannock–who Xchab had immediately seen as a macho, dangerous guy–and in fact had obviously talked him into eating the mushrooms. And, don’t forget, she hadn’t batted an eye when thousands of dollars crossed the table back in Pericos.
But above all, she’d been nice to her. Had noticed her, for one thing. Invited her to the table and treated her well. There was something about her that just told you she was on the right side. She walked up to Xchab with two hands full of fungus, held them out to Xchab as if it was already agreed.
The Mayan girl glanced at the men, who were watching her with a careful neutrality, just wanting to see what she’d do. She wondered, herself. Then she looked back at Loris, pale breasts luminous under the moonglow, her face ancient and innocent, and couldn’t look away.
“I’ve never thought of it as a trip,” Loris said. “Always as coming home. And I’m all I’ve got to come home to.”
Xchab stepped forward, as though putting her foot over a cliff. She held out her hands, cupped as if to receive water, and Loris poured the remaining shrooms into her grasp. Without breaking her gaze into Loris’ big eyes, she swallowed them. They tasted totally revolting, like dirt and chicken droppings, but she was a jungle girl and had consumed weirder eats out in the village. She gave a deep, all-over shiver like a big dog coming out of water.
The big guy said, “So now what?”
And when Loris spoke, Xchab knew it was profoundly true. “Now we wait,” she said. “It’s just a matter of time.”