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I take one last look in my backpack to make sure I have my passport as I finish my room temperature beer. I consider all of the Poutine and mullets I was about to encounter and head out the door. “Good luck with your invisible surgery!” My roommate yells as I close the door behind me. Most people would not travel to Canada in the winter, but I gladly accepted the last minute invitation to meet with a Brazilian mystical healer. As I made my way to the airport, I allowed myself to reflect on all of the white clothing items I would be wearing to allow mediums to accurately read my aura. Normally, I would be weary, but Oprah endorsed this guy. I’ll admit, I was also seduced by the promise of a nap on a crystal bed. As I checked in with my gate agent, I felt pressured to make sure this would be number one of my greatest naps of all time. I must have had a far off look of disappointment painted on my face as I realized suddenly that I forgot my dream catcher necklace. “Ma’am. Ma’am? Everything alright?” I return to reality and hand her my ticket and passport. “I’m going to Canada to see a magical man to find out what’s wrong with me!” I leaned in to revel in her reaction as she pointed towards the security line and flatly said “so is everyone else on this flight.” My efforts consistently damned, I have found New Yorkers to be a real buzzkill. They have seen and heard it all, so my oddities have always had a better audience elsewhere.
I was still sucking the vodka off my ice cubes when we were landing. Every time I go to a new country, I look forward to getting my passport stamped. I always present it to customs and point to the exact spot I want them to fill. When customs do not stamp my passport or they stamp a random page in the back, I fill with rage. This customs agent stamped over a spot previously taken by Mexico. Suddenly, all of my preconceived judgments about Canadian culture were realized. The agent smiles at me with the same half-sedated smile I came to know in Canada. I mumble under my breath as I walk away “you had one job…” Aside from passport stamps, my second most important thing to do while traveling is to practice my new language skills. “Enchante’ Monsieur . Ja mapell Katy” I say to my cab driver. “In Toronto, we speak English, ma’am.” I had been called “ma’am” way to many times that day and I decided that I was not a fan of this new land. I resorted to my standby Midwest accent as I was not about to surrender my needs that easy, “oh ya sherrr ya betcha, doncha know.” I took this opportunity to discuss the third most important thing to me when traveling, “Where can I pet a moose?”
I arrive just in time to see my cousin and his friend splayed out on the couch recovering from their invisible surgeries they had had that afternoon. I learned that each surgery required a huge box of prescription water bottles and some post-op instructions. I glanced at the papers and let out a gasp. There before me was the greatest challenge I would face in this lifetime. Spelled out in specific terms was my nightmare prescription: no drugs, no alcohol, no sex, no spicy food, no caffeine for 40 DAYS! “You don’t have to get a surgery, you could opt for a blessing instead” my cousin reassured me. I was obviously in over my head. I had a major decision to make. Had I come this far to bow out as a mere metaphysical spectator? Or, do I go all in? I know my limits well, but this was a moment to exercise self-control. This is exactly why I have failed at attempts to be a yogi master, a guitar virtuoso and a Catholic. I nodded my head in the most pious way I could, and said “if it is willed, I will.” Without skipping a beat, my cousin Will stood up to head to bed. I took it as a sign.
The morning came with a vengeance. The windows in our hotel overlooked some noteworthy lake that blinded me with glitter of a thousand suns at 6am. It is at this point I realized that I needed to savor my last cup of coffee prior to my spiritual enlightenment. I breathed in slowly and started laying out my white clothes. My wardrobe at home entirely consists of professional clothes, dresses and costumes with nothing in between. The instructions I had prior to packing gave me an understanding of the type of crowd I would soon be a part of. I was 100% sure this crowd would not be wearing a tight white pencil skirt, a see-through white t-shirt, a white jean jacket and white heels. It was part of a repurposed outfit from a Gay Pride “white party” cruise I had once taken and it was the best I could do with short notice. I folded up a piece of paper with my wishes written down in purple glitter ink and placed it in the pocket closest to my heart. This was done to clear up any potential confusion as my spiritual guides searched my heart during my scheduled meditation. I have always failed at attempts to meditate as I come down with spontaneous bouts of ADD. I did not want my spiritual guides to listen to the part of my brain trying to imagine what the lady across from me would look like with a parasitic twin. My list had about ten items and I resisted the temptation to write more. “This is not fucking Santa. This is serious. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Don’t laugh” I said out loud to myself in the mirror as I turn sideways to inspect my outfit. Leaning in, I could see the distinct glint of sequins off of my bra. Pleased, I spin around to allow one of the boys into the bathroom. “It was either a black bra or a sequin bra and yes, I need to get my shit together” I say as I spill a drop of coffee on my skirt.
Reality hit me as I walked into the convention center that was flooded with white linen pants. A single escalator rose in the middle of the crowd. Each white-washed person rose up the escalator as the skylight overhead illuminated their bright faces. “Am I dead?” I thought. There were people by the thousands, each one with the same positive energy. I look out the window across the great lake and see a faint land on the horizon. “New York, thank God” I whisper in relief as I paint on my best non-cynical face. This day was the second of a three-day convention. Those that had been there the previous day were trading stories. “Did you feel anything? Is this your first time? Isn’t this amazing! Look at you, you’re glowing!” The boys recommended we bypass the crowd to be first in line for the crystal beds.
I knew I liked these beds the moment I walked into the dark room filled with hundreds of rainbow lights like a gay Christmas. I assumed the position under my crystal chandelier as my little helper arranges the lights over what I assumed to be my chakras. “Lay back, relax and keep your intentions in your heart” I was told as a towel is folded over my eyes. Years of acupuncture had prepared me for this day. Years of acupuncture had also concluded that I am incapable of real relaxation. My thoughts drifted under the crystals in my typical disorganized process. “What are my intentions? What the fuck am I doing? Why are my eyes watering? What is up with the girl next to me? I feel that she is sad? Why do I feel sad for her? Is she even a girl? How many more minutes do I lay here? Can I scratch my face? What are these, fucking tears? Why am I tearing? Seriously, what’s with this chick next to me? Should I get vagazzled? OMG I am in Canada. I need to center myself. I’m centering. I think I’m centered. I’m fucking centered. I think. This is nice, actually. I could do this for a while. Why is there always Spanish guitar playing? Is she coming towards me to wake me up? Not while I’m centering! I’m fucking relaxed! This is great! Really, with the wind chimes? Someone needs to give this girl next to me a hug. I think I need a hug. No, I just need a drink. I can’t drink for 40 days! Oh no, I’m un-centering! Wait, I was supposed to decide my intentions. I need more time!” I walk out of the room in a state as close to Zen as I can get. I found my cousin talking with a group of people he had known from his trips to Brazil. Immediately, everyone embraced me with an impatient need to know about my crystal bed experience. “It was nice. I had these weird things, tears I think, fall down my face. I couldn’t stop focusing on this sad girl next to me. She was making my face wet.” Two of my new friends smiled in my direction and declared “she’s a medium and an empath!” I decided immediately to accept this as fact and move on. “I’m a medium. I knew it!” I said to myself as I decided to check out the gift shop.
I sat down to fail miserably at meditation, yet again. Instead, I picked up new foreign words for my arsenal. “Bem-vindo.” “Bom dia.” “Obrigado.” “Deus.” I realized that my preparation for my trip to Canada was entirely misguided with my French efforts. Picking up Portuguese phrases was a welcome little surprise and I would make sure to exploit the hell out of my new fluency. “Bom dia, bom dia, bom diaaaaaa!!!!!” I asked all of my important Portuguese language questions from this bilingual lady next to me. “Bom dia. How do you say: I am a cold gangster? Ah, obrigado!” Moments later, I found myself standing on line to meet the man himself. Each person stood in front of him for a silent split-second. A medium would interpret for the man of the hour whether you needed an invisible surgery or a simple blessing, indicated with a point to the left or to the right of the room. I grew anxious as it became my turn in line. I stood there expecting an immediate result. Instead, the medium whispered to me “he wants you to look into his eyes” and pointed towards him. Awkwardly, I stumble towards him while I wondered if he could see my sequins. “Bom dia” I whispered. My head started to go into panic mode. “No one else had to look into his eyes! What’s wrong with me? Do I say something? Omigod, omigod, oh meu deus!” I welcomed the interruption that indicated that I needed to step into the room to the right of me for my surgery. I passed the time reviewing my list of wishes and wondering if any of them had come true. At the bottom of the page I wrote down “Eu sou um gangster frio” for later consideration.
After my surgery, I had further confirmation that I am, in fact, a medium. “He told you to look in his eyes! He thinks you are a medium!” I shot off a text to my friends, telling them to pray for my speedy recovery. I didn’t feel any different, other than my new language skills and new title, but there was still time for the procedure to really set in. I learned that if I wanted an actual physical surgery, I would need to travel to Brazil. This news suddenly made it to my bucket list. I received my case of water and post-op instructions and we headed back to the hotel to rest.
The next day I took my 45 minute flight back home. I dropped off my case of prescription water at my apartment and headed out the door for a third date with this guy I was dating because he had legs that looked like a chickens. I was in it for the limp and the story. He also proved to be the perfect audience for my new spiritual enlightenment. I drank in club soda and his shocked reactions. I waited for him to declare me insane and leave me with the tab, but he instead started kissing my neck. “Let’s go back to my place” he said with a wink. At the time, there were literally millions of things I would rather do than to travel to New Jersey to see the penis of a guy I didn’t like. I decided to cash in. “I’m sorry, I can’t have sex for 40 days.” The look of rejection on his face was quickly replaced with genuine concern. “Just how into this metaphysical stuff are you?” I paused for dramatics, took a sip of my club soda and declared “oh, I don’t know. Medium?”
It seemed as good of a time as any to start drinking shots of rum. We had missed the 9am tour bus headed for the Mayan ruins “Chichen Itza” because we made that last minute liquor run. My friend Adam sat on the edge of the fountain in front of our hotel and started his ritual of painting his ginger body with sunscreen. I hand off the handle of rum to Kendall, “This tastes like pure gasoline.” We stare into the sun for a few more swigs and head inside. There is something about The Ritz Carlton that inspires me to overuse the word “dahhhling”, and the chosen target of the day was the doorman. The poor guy had been unofficially designated as my morning chaperone. “Esscuse me miss? You left your bottle over there. Also, if you are going into downtown Cancun, make sure you don’t leave your bag open. If you are out late and drinking, make sure to arrange with the concierge for car service. Sorry you missed your shuttle…I tried calling you!” It was clear that we were the assholes who scored some sort of deal to stay in a place beyond our means. We had gotten very lucky on this particular trip as we had been upgraded to First Class and had a family discount at the Ritz. I couldn’t help but remember that I was still the same girl that at 10 years old, my grandmother would pay me to wear a dress for dinner at her country club and beg me not to wear shorts underneath or burp in front of her fancy friends. I march into the grand entrance and toss an over-the-shoulder Hollywood glance back at him, “muchas gracias, dahhhling.” We all instinctually start exaggerating the clicking sound our shoes make on the marble floor as we sashay up to the concierge. “We want to see the Chicken Pizza” I announce. “She means Chichen Itza. How do we get there?” Kendall always knows to remain locked and loaded with explanations when she is around Adam and me. The three of us operate best when utilizing each other’s strengths. I charm, Adam haggles and Kendall is the closer. Adam chimes in, “those tours are a bit much, are there any other ways to go there on a budget?” The concierge seemed to be running out of ideas and patience when my chaperone interrupted for the win. “Esscuse me miss? I will show you the way.”
We board a retired school bus heading for downtown Cancun and drop 50 cents into a plastic jar. Adam sits in the pleather seat in front of me and stifles a snort cackle. The same man who doesn’t flinch at buying Veuve Clicquot by the case wouldn’t be caught dead splurging on a frivolous taxicab. I adore this character trait, mostly because it marks him as an easy target for my shenanigans. Later on I went in for the kill, “Hey, I rented us a car! It was $300 a day plus tax and insurance! I hope you don’t mind, but I put it on your card!” I’m not a liar, but I like to lie to Adam. I enjoy timing the moment of impact to the moment his face matches his hair. With impeccable timing, the rental agent pulls around a clown car. “You paid that much…for this piece of shit? Ok…..” The car was really $45, but I live to exploit gullible Adam. “You would think they would have thrown in full sized tires” he says as he climbs into the driver’s seat. His anger is a slow burn which is just the way I like it. I hand him a paper placemat with a rudimentary outline of the country of Mexico. “What am I supposed to do with this?” he asks. “It’s our map…just follow the big black line to the little black line to the thing that looks like a pyramid.” In perfect succession, he discovers that we had no radio, air conditioning and torn up windshield wipers without fluid. Minutes into our drive to the interstate, Adam had to pull over to wipe down the windows with a towel as the brown dust that is omnipresent in Mexico created a delightful little film in front of his eyes and Adam took it as a personal insult. He sits behind the wheel about to blow up when Kendall and I reveal the real cost of the vehicle. His anger quickly turned to delight as he turned the car on with a smile and a “what a deal!”
Finding Chichen Itza was quite easy as all we needed to do was follow the busses full of Gringos. We had a nice enough time searching for virgins to sacrifice and taking inappropriate photographs. The one thing I wanted to do while in Mexico was to find this cave thing with magical blue waters inside that you could swim in. Although, I had no idea what it was called, where I could find it and I forgot to ask Google about it. At the time, all three of us had a basic handle of the Italian language and a sprinkle of Spanish terms. Our quest to find the glory hole was made all the more interesting when our questions translate to: to swim (in Spanish) rocks (in Italian) down in blue please thank you we need (in Spanish). We couldn’t understand why people kept insisting we needed a “la playa” so we instead started refocusing our efforts on finding our way back to Cancun.
We spent the next twenty minutes with me singing Mariah Carey songs with Scott Stapp’s voice as Adam harmonized with his impressive whistling skills. Kendall stared out the window looking for a place we could find some mixers for our rum when suddenly she saw it. “Katy, those are stalactites, right?” She was right to ask me after I had spent exactly two summers pointing at stalactites in a cave and I was clearly an expert. A small road sign did, in fact, resemble a cave. We decide to take our mission off map at the next exit. If Cancun is an Epcot parody of Mexico, then we suddenly found the part of Mexico where heads are found in coolers. We follow an emaciated dog down a dirt road through a village where the families in clay houses slept in hammocks. I stared out the window fantasizing, as I often do, about the news of my death traveling back to the states. “We had to identify her by her dental records” the medical examiner would say to my family. I was so distracted as I was making mental vows to floss better if I survived, that I didn’t realize we had pulled over in front of someone’s home. A picnic table on the front porch had a few coconuts and Kendall was offering to buy them. A heavyset woman flashed us a smile filled with gold teeth and disappeared inside her house. She returned with the same grin and a machete held high in her right hand. “We can outrun her!” I say as Kendall pulls out a camera to document our own death. Three coconuts were decapitated as their innards spilled out. Our mixer problems solved and our necks still attached to our bodies, we carry on. Several locals shook their heads as we kept asking for the magical swimming cave. We were about to give up all together, when we pulled over one last time to ask someone to point us in the direction of the highway. Adam found a small jewelry store and started talking Italian to the sweet couple that ran the joint. By some luck, the woman knew Italian. We asked her if she knew where we could find this cave and if no, how the hell we could find our way back. A crooked smirk came across her face as she pointed 50 yards away to a small wooden ticket booth being manned by a single small child.
We pay our pesos as a seven year old takes us through a gate heading underground. We meandered through the damp darkness which was occasionally lit by basic lanterns. Eventually, we find the ceiling opening to the sky. A tunnel of sunshine shone like a spotlight making the water below it glow an impossible blue. There was another Mexican couple on their way out, leaving us to play by ourselves. Most of the swimming hole was covered by a stalactite roof and hundreds of bats. We immediately change into our bathing suits and jump off a cliff into the water. The water was cool and effervescent as schools of goldfish tickled our toes. At some point a man came and said something to us in hurried Spanish, to which we replied with three thumbs up. We took to floating on our backs with our arms curled around our coconuts for an occasional sip of legit goodness. We watched as the sun started changing the sky from blue to orange to purple. We knew we had very few minutes before dark, so we thought it would be best to find out if our car actually had headlights. We make our way through the pitch black tunnels by memory and cell phone lights. Panic set in when we found a large steel door covering the entrance as it immediately dawned on us what that man was trying to say to us. “No one is around to hear our screams” I say dramatically to Kendall. Adam suggests we head back to the water hole to make a plan in the fading light.
We collectively agreed that our best option for survival was to scale the rocks up to the top of the cave where the skylight was. “We’re from Colorado, we got this” we all concluded. With our clothes wrapped up in our towels like satchels, our bathing suits and our cursed flip flops on, we start the climb. Boulder by boulder we get closer to the top, never once letting go of our precious coconuts. Our shins completely torn up, we finally get to a point where we could stand up straight and look out of the hole.
The most likely chance we had at a successful escape was over a tall wooden fence. We scramble across the slippery rocks and we decide that I had to go over first, being that I am the shortest. Kendall and Adam boost me up to the top and I fall over the edge with a flop. As I stand up to brush myself off, Kendall and Adam jump down gracefully. It was then that we were face to face with a mariachi band that was about to perform right on the patio of a crowded restaurant. Every single person froze in place to observe the three gringos wearing bathing suits and holding coconuts. We do our best to put on our “nothing to see here” attitude and we walk towards the door of the restaurant, stopping by the bathroom before exiting. Not a word was exchanged by anyone and we made it all the way to our car before unraveling in fits of hysterics.
Thunder announced the beginning of our flooded journey back to Cancun. “Goddamn windshield wipers, I can’t see anything” Adam curses. I stare for clues on our placemat map as I tend to the scrapes on my knees and Kendall optimistically declares “well, at least we have dim lights.” “Our vacation was almost ruined! Get it?” I jab Kendall in the ribs. This was a declaration of what ended up being an hour long pun war, which Kendall quickly shot back “yeah, it got pretty rocky there for a minute.”