You have to fly into Cancun in the daytime to even get a clue. Miles out you look down into open ocean and it looks like desert. You’re seeing the bottom because you can’t see the water. That’s your first clue.
Seagull, in The Blasé Sojourner.
It had come on pretty smoothly, considering half of the trippers were virgins. Xchab had fretted nervously, pacing and twitching and popping her eyes in totally non-noble redman sort of tension. Loris had tried to soothe the girl, but realized she was skittish and suspicious, so she just gave her some space and concentrated on her own little pre-flight mantras and mudras.
She’d smiled watching Bannock adjusting, peering around at first; trying to analyze and guard. But after her one of her prolonged dips, lowering backwards and sinking into the silky, accepting water, she emerged and whipcracked her hair and saw him staring at the pellets of water flying our like a crown of pearls shimmering with the reflected lights of the hotel zone. She waved to him and he waved back, then fell into the whole fingertip thing, wiping and weaving in the air. She giggled and kicked a spray of jeweled water at him.
Winston, of course, came on like a true slut, psychodillies as mother’s milk to him. He did a boneless dance in the shallows, flapping his floppy shirt to internal music. She gave another glance at Xchab, paralyzed on the sand, and figured it was time to shed a little light. She waded in, and approached the Mayan girl slowly. She got on response, seeing eyes focused inwards and dead-centered. She stood in front of the girl motionless, beaming herself into her. Xchab blinked once, in slow motion, the met her eyes, directly and without evasion for the first time. She sensed something powerful in the dark gaze, but also undirected, drifting in currents that emitted no light. She reached to her own waist and undid her soaked dress, then stepped out of it and whirled it around her head. Drops of moon-hue spun out into the darkness around them. Xchab stared at her, then tipped her head to watch the outward spiral of light drops into the night.
The girl reached out now, laid her hand tentatively on Loris’ cheek as if checking to see if she was really there. Her hand trailed down the pale skin, slid off the pale breast, hung heavily at her side. Loris tossed the wet huipil onto the sand and made a simple gesture.
Immediately Xchab shed her own clothes, which blew whatever was left of Winston’s mind. Xchab had emphatically not been the type for public nudity. He stopped his ghost dance and stared at the two naked women standing face to face, the short one so dark and solid, the tall one so while and slim. Whoa!
Bannock stared at the pair, also. He exulted in the sight, wiped out by the beauty of both of them. But without a touch of lust, a lack he was somewhat aware of. Sublime shapes under the cresting moon. Then Loris turned and walked back into the sea. Once waist-deep, she dived, the flash of her half-moons and wonder under the lunar lighting. When she breached again, she waved to Xchab, laughing. Xchab stared then did the last thing either Bannock or Winston expected. She broke into a laugh and charged into the water, kicking up a fountain of spray until she, also, took a dive.
She came up and paddled towards Loris like a puppy, chortling in childish glee. Loris splashed water in her face, initiating a spate of horseplay that the men watched, struck dumb and motionless. Until Loris glanced at them, standing ankle deep in their street clothes and snickered. “Wotta bunch of wussies.”
Winston glanced at the big guy and said, “Are we going to take that?”
“Hell no, podnuh.” And Bannock was immediately pulling off his attire and sailing it back onto the beach.
“Who’s the rotten egg?” Loris taunted while Xchab cackled and tossed Mayan catcalls at them.
The two men thundered into the water like Percherons, belly-flopping noisily into the wet warmth, then swam at the howling girls with windmilling crawl strokes that filled the air with a filigree of moonwater. They slithered through the pale light like otters, basking and bellowing in the electric night over the reef.
The sky was lightening, the turquoise tint seeping into the water, and Bannock was spending more and more time below the surface, watching the quicksilver underside of the surface, snatching at fish, sliding around Loris’ legs like an eel. He pushed off the bottom and came into the air like a killer whale, a big male upsurge into a sky going pink but still full of stars. He stood near Loris and tossed big double handfuls of water into the sky, watching the seductive play of color in the droplets, striving to build his own rainbow. “So this is where stars come from,” he murmured.
Then he turned to Loris, and was washed over by feeling. The beauty of her, rising from the water like a Greek marble. The wonder of her, every line and movement a hint of the strong, smooth stream he’d plunged into in her depths. Then he saw that the water on her cheeks wasn’t seawater, but tears and was beside her in a minute, waiting for her words.
“We made a big mistake,” she whispered, and Bannock felt the big red balloon inside him go slack.
“I don’t think so,” he told her, trying to catch her eye and not succeeding. “I feel better about us all the time.”
That brought her around, sweeping him with a sorrowful gaze he saw as somehow Italian. “So do it. And when I’m, you know… like this… and feel that way, I take it pretty seriously.”
Winston had been floating with eyes dilated upwards and all the drive and animation of a barnacled log, Xchab also back-floating with her head to his, her lush hair pulsing around him like seaweed. He suddenly tipped his head up, the girl’s hair spilling over his brow like the world’s worst comb-over. “Seriously?” he piped. “Are you serious? Don’t take anything seriously. Or it will take you right back.”
He flopped back into sensory deprivation and Loris stepped to Bannock and laid her hands on his pectorals, her head on his chest near his heart. “I’m talking about oXo,” she said forlornly. “Those guys are assholes. They are imprisoning him to exploit him.”
Bannock placed his palms just where her hips curved out from her waist and spoke into the top of her head. “Did you have a vision of him chained in a dungeon begging you to come rescue him and bring some crack?”
“I just know, okay? We have to get him back.”
He took a long pause, feeling her skin, the warmth of her against the hair of his chest, watching the fingers of day creep up the eastern sky over Isla Mujeres. “I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with me anymore, but I guess that’s a good enough reason for me, too.”
Winston bobbed up, eyeing them like a graying sea otter. “Good enough for me, too. Whatever you’re talking about.”
Bannock ignored the old hippie, who receded once again into the sea. “If it wasn’t for you and ol’ oXo I wouldn’t have been caught dead eating this crazy shit. But now I can’t believe I would have turned it down, ever. It changed me too, somehow. I feel like a different person. Does that wear off?”
She smiled softly into his wet chest thatch and said, “Not if you work at it.”
“So I’m a different person now? Would you say?”
“If you say so. And not just you, either.”
Bannock turned where she was looking and saw Xchab slowly rise, the water slicking down off her cinnamon body as if off sheet metal. As she came up out of the water her hair slid off Winston’s head, like a stop-action of aging. She stood facing the dawn and reached out towards the faintest aura of sun, doing something ritualistic with her fingers. She turned to them and Bannock saw what Loris meant: the girl’s face was cast into a firmer mold, hard as igneous rock, ductile as sand. She was a solemn priestess, eyeing them for worthiness. And spoke: “This is the place where the sun is born.”
She reached down and gently lifted Winston’s head, Loris noting a more tender attitude towards the geezer. He stood and looked around at them, then at the shivering new sun. And Xchab spoke again. “The place and the time.”
Xchab’s hand had come to rest on the green fender of the taxi as they got in, tracing the last three letters of the words “EcoCab”. Winston chuckled and leaned over to tell Loris, “Cab is a Mayan word. It means ‘bee’, wouldn’t you know”.
The ride from Punta Nizuc to the other end of the lagoon had been almost entirely silent. The driver didn’t know what to make of the odd quartet, and anyway their clothes were soaked and sogging up his cool Toluca seatcovers. The foursome, wrapped in the soft, brown ego-restructure of a waning good trip, had little to say, but found it very comfortable to relax in one another’s company without babbling.
They got out at the gravel lot by the bridge, huddled together in the post-dawn while Bannock handed the cabbie a too-big bill and got no change. But as soon as they turned to head down the path hacked years ago through the mangroves they saw Copper slumped under the stunted trees like a sack of old clothes.
Winston moved to her, shocked at seeing her in such an abject, beaten posture: unthinkable for the ebullient, defiant redhead. Bannock was looking around for threat as he followed Winston towards Copper, Loris moving in with a calm certainty. Just as Winston reached her, she tilted her head back, her eyes puffed and tearful. “It’s gone!” she sobbed. “They killed it!”
Winston looked where she was pointing and saw only a slick of oily rubbish and chopped vegetation where his home had once floated.