Just because Yanche floated adrift in the ebbing surf of time didn’t mean that all moments were equal. For one thing, her consciousness was definitely attracted and bound to the Yucatan, and seemed mostly to involve the experiences of young women. Like a person awakening in a dark space, she could sense greater dimensions around her, but didn’t feel any urge to explore the darkness in search of walls and limits. It wasn’t that she couldn’t exist in earlier time, or in the old age of the lives she browsed through as idly as a jellyfish pulsing along on the tide; it was that her attention was elsewhere. Or elsewhen.

One limit that she was well aware of was the end of time itself. She knew where it was and what was happening there, but felt no attraction to the final taper, no impulse to savor the ultimatum.

There were even certain ephemeral moments that drew in her attention the way a lantern draws a moth across wide, dark fields: little nexi of consciousness that held her gaze and riveted her perception even amid the raucous sweep of jungly centuries.

One moment she constantly returned to (as if she ever really left) was simple, even humble, but evidently exercised some powerful esthetic for her. So much of her attention hovered just above a mosquito coil burning on a battered wooden table. It filled her “eyes”; she couldn’t look away as the glowing end of the black spiral moved steadily inward, a ruddy ember circling patiently inward, consuming it’s fuel in a measured march towards the center.

There was something about the hot red point eating its way along its pre-destined helix, turning the toxic incense into smoke and dropping a fine line of ash on the table below it, forming an after-image, a chalk shadow commemorating it’s cyclical passage to the center, where it would expire from lack of fuel and further destination.

Why that particular burning coil held her gaze, rather than the thousands of them all over the peninsula, had a lot to do with one of the few males that focused and enabled her attention: Puch Pop. She was grown very fond of Puch, as anybody would understand if they shared her timeless point of view.

One thing to admire: he used his real Mayan name. Unlike his brother, Juanito, who relished his Spanish name and would just as soon have forget that he had an Indian name at all–like so many Mayans with a shot at assimilation. Not that much of a shot in Mexico, where the world indio is a racial slur meaning “stupid” and “inferior”, where the spectrum of skin color blended up from dark to white by the blur of mestizaje amounted to a de facto caste system. But not all indios lived like ghosts in the jungle or wore huipiles to work cleaning hotel rooms or labored as construction peons for minimum wage. And the ones who did were called by Jorge or Maria, not Itzel or Kisin or Yum.

Even the once-great Mayan surnames were disappearing, thrust away into dark attics, buried under tiers of stone. Cham, Pook, Chal, Itza, Mams, Miss, Ek, Pop: these had been great names, royal names. Many were the names of glyphs carved into stone steles and calendars and temple walls. Now they were an embarrassment to those who tried to morph into a new mutt tribe of Gomez and Martinez and Sanchez. Or translated Ek into Estrella and moved on into bureaus or auto ownership. Was the next step moving to Florida and glossing Estrella into Star? Was that how stars were born?

And it got weirder than that. The Pop kids (the boys anyway) had gone to school at upper-middle class liceos and colegios: the result of parental scrimping and part-time jobs in Cancun, a tradition among Mexicans who pay for private rather than government medical care if they can possibly afford it, and sacrifice to give their kids a shot at being citizens of a real world rather than the illiterate burros the public school system coughed up. Where they ran into monied white kids who thought it was a hoot to troop off the Mayan settlements along strand north of town, slumming and eating salbutes and panuches they found tastier and more risqué than the normal fair in town. The more money and social pretense, the more likely for the offspring to be lolling under a palapa munching green tamales and tasty Kash Keken or Poc Chuc at “Mayami Beach”, the Harlem of their class.

Juanito would go along, unaware of or perhaps nervous about the irony of it, but Puch had only gone once. He’d ordered a beer from the Mayan girl, in her own language, and fallen into a short conversation with her about what school these people went to. He turned back to his friends and caught their stares. His race was not a secret, written all over his wide face and stocky build. But he had pulled it out and brandished it. They reacted as if twenties socialites in emeralds and pearls might have if one of their party at the Cotton Club had suddenly wiped off his grease paint to reveal himself as a Negro. It was at that point when he ended his social contacts with his schoolmates with the sole exception of faking their butts off on the soccer field.

There had been another episode he remembered and shelved next to the day he stopped “passing”, also sitting next to a pretty school girl–who wasn’t exactly blonde, but definitely not an indita–and ordering beer. Their middle-aged busboy’s heavy nose, squat hunched shoulders and blocky legs announced him as almost grotesquely Mayan. He came to their table looking down at an order pad and when he turned his eyes up to them expectantly, they were a deep, shocking violet. The girl showed nothing, but grabbed Puch’s thigh under the table and squeezed it in delight. Communicating a little delight to him, as well. When the lavender-eyed mozo left she turned to shaking with laughter. “Did you see that? Oh my god, que bárbaro!

Her friend, lighter-skinned with aspirations to being a preppy fresa twit and in total disapproval of her amiga running around with bush trash like Puch, snickered knowingly. “He saved up all his tip centavos then blew them on those contacts. Pathetic.”

“But why?” Puch’s date asked, genuinely bewildered. She didn’t look at Puch though. Neither one of them did. The last thing they wanted was any insight into the “Mayan don’t-wanna-be” syndrome. “Who’s he trying to kid?”

“Probably himself. Or just doesn’t get it.”

“Or maybe he knows what the deal is,” Puch said as he stood up, laid a hundred peso bill on the table, and picked up his book bag. “And just likes looking that way.”

It was the last time he dated a Mexican girl. He’d couldn’t articulate why, but he’d had it with the race-conscious Mexicanas and didn’t find the uneducated Mayan girls all that interesting. Fortunately, Cancun was a magnet for foreigners and he lived in a tourist attraction.

When Yanche’s viewpoint widened up and away from the eternal smoking spiral of the mosquito coil to include Puch’s hundred pesos on the table beside it, she saw the incident as though through a gold filter, the soft light of gas flame lanterns in the little “Mayami Bich” taco bar that did business without electrical or water hookups. It was one of many moments in the Pop boy’s life that she particularly cherished. Floating loose and rudderless in the whorling eddies of time, Yanche had come to see him always in a sort of golden light, the ecstatic coloration of what he would eventually realize he had become. And her overly-distributed consciousness would pulse with ineffable love for the stout, handsome kid. If you were looking for a savior of your race, you couldn’t do much better than Puch Pop.

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There are problems with having your consciousness come adrift in time, but also advantages. Or at least novelties. Yaxche had grown a bit jaded from savoring moments standing on high thrones in various centuries and even of presiding, thus enthroned, over the end of all time and works, but she never lacked perspective. And just as she could stare down from the peaks of stone pedestals, she could appreciate the much humbler layout represented by CroCun, even seeing it when it was no more than one more roadside zoo.

With a mere glance, or whatever you would term the ability to cast one’s point of view down through the helical process of time, she could see the site as it will become, as it stands at whatever locus you want to consider “now”, and as it once was. And how it became.

She could see the sinkhole itself over thousands of years, but it didn’t really get interesting until people showed up. With the usual complications and transactions. The temporal point that made her curious was how the scruffy little patch of scrub jungle had remained in the hands of a Mayan family when the highway from Cancun to Tulum went through. The first anomaly: first clue to a miracle. Yaxche could see it happening, but not interpret or understand.

Under the stewardship of the Pop family the sinkhole had become a water source for milpas, providing subsistence corn along with the secondary plants woven among the corn hills in the ancient fashion: beans, chiles, hedges of prickly nopal. The Pops had even managed to grow enough maize to trade. Then came a fortuitous stroke from an alien and catastrophic source: the Europeans who had infiltrated the area would pay money for chicle, and bubble gum created a bubble economy for the Pop clan.

It was at about the same time that the Pop homestead was operating as a chiclero camp that it also became a Rebel Base. The sinkhole, created because an odd concentration of cenotes had eroded into one unstable hollow and collapsed, was close enough to the coast, but deep enough in untracked jungle to avoid scrutiny during the Caste Wars, as the Spaniards called them. A waterhole with food supply owned by a family deeply committed to the rebellion against the Spanish, the Pop property was a major focus of the combat with civilization that the Maya never really lost. And a thorn in the side to colonists frustrated with their inability to put down the last next of resistance in all of the Americas. A period of interest when her gaze popped into those times, borne by a fierce young woman who’d taken the nom du guerre Kisin, a bloody earthquake of violence against the big, pale men who had abused and defiled her. Yaxche sometimes thought that the unquiet spirit of her fiery young avatar might have been responsible for setting her afloat on the circling currents of time.

After the wars were abandoned and the price of chicle reduced to nothing by the introduction of synthetics, time was a low, somnolent eddy at the Pop place, as flat and uneventful as the boring green carpet of jungle that overlays the flat slab of limestone Swiss cheese-riddled with cenotes that is the Yucatan. Then came the highway.

Once again, unpredictable foreign presence forged into the ancient jungles bearing mixed gifts. It became the backbone of a bustling, destructive, construction-addled entity known as the “Riviera Maya” and strewed the stretch with tractors, condominiums, cities, hotels, restaurants, airstrips, churches to foreign non-entities… and tourist traps. And the Pop clan, suddenly located a short distance from the right-of-way, inevitably decided they should trap a few tourists themselves.

Their first venture had, predictably, been a humble restaurant that was ignored by tourists because it looked too shabby to be sanitary yet too modern to be “touristic”, but frequented by locals and drivers because of the merited reputation of Kaax Pop, matriarch of that time slice, and mother of Puch Pop, who would capture more attention in later slices of years.

Señora Kaax supervised a kitchen crowded with Pop children, emitting fragrant steam like a volcano in Eden. And flowing with key lime soup, tamales tinted green from the plantain leaves they steamed in, salbutes and panuchos with flaky tortilla shells, papadzules in spicy pumpkinseed paste, poc chuc with the pork practically dissolving in its sour orange sauce… timeless, lip-smacking feasts laid out daily within a few yards of the plummeting tourism buses and trucks full of spare parts for the re-invention of local civilization.

But not a particularly brilliant use of prime frontage location, thought Puch and his older brother, who went by Juanito because he thought Mayan names were bush and wanted to get his hands on the new world and new wealth that flowed past their little mom and Pop operation. He worked with tourists at the Cobá ruins and saw how money would flow out of people who were offered a reason to stop blasting around and pause a minute in the world they’d come to look at. He was hot to blow the Pop stand.

Puch, as befitted a youngster named after the Diving God, chief deity at the nearby ruins of Tulum, had always worked as a diver; first plunging down the reef on sheer lung power with a cane and re-bar spear powered by inner tube straps, then a guide to the fish and coral for foreign tourists, most recently a certified PADI Cave Diver shepherding goggle-eyed visitors through the underwater caves and rivers that connected the cenotes.

Their exposure to foreigners let them to conclude that the gringos and europeos and japoneses wanted to see wild life in a wild, but controlled, setting. They captured a large portion of the local surviving caiman population and trapped a dozen spider monkeys from deeper jungle remote from the villages and westernization and opened the Mark I version of CrocoCun, a reptile farm with Mayan trappings, idiotic spiels that were absorbed as if valid, a T-shirt and curio shop and, of course, a killer restaurant/bar.

At some point Juanito was feeding the little gators and gazing around the eroded limestone walls of the sinkhole, ticked off that Puch had beaten his time with the cute Barcelona girl on their last tour. As he reflected on the irony that the foreign babes he kissed up to so shamelessly were more interested in his brother because he played that whole Maya thing, an inspired instant fell around him–a concept that would twist the Pop estate into its final manifestation. They wanted Mayan, he would give it to them. He left the little lizards struggling over their grisly feed and jogged up the hundred yards to the main buildings, calculating rapidly. The first thing he’d need would be stucco. And lots of cement.

Eyeing him from her bailiwick of millennia, Yaxche exulted again at having witnessed the Beginning of the End.

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