San Pedro is a beautiful little fishing village turned tourist hotspot on Ambergris Caye, a tropical paradise of beautiful white beach on crystal clear water just a quick boat run to the second largest barrier reef in the world.
It’s kind of sad, really. The ecotour businesses are running boatloads of folks out there all day every day, chumming up nurse sharks and sting rays so that the turista can swim among them while pretending not to be doing too much damage to the reef. We were doing way too much damage to the reef.
In the spirit of full disclosure, true confession and with full acceptance of my environmentalist hypocrisy, I kind of loved it. I’m a really lousy swimmer and kind of a wimp about it in the open waters of the sea, so the over crowded swimming pool aspect of the whole thing appealed to me a very childish, selfish kind of way. I got to hang on to a tow line as I dog paddled and snorkeled around, and the reef with its incredible diversity of marine life is really a sight to behold, an experience to be had.
The nurse sharks, really big catfish to my way of thinking, didn’t bother me at all. The stingrays I was a bit more wary of. Fear not, they didn’t speak to me, they didn’t have to. I have seen first hand and know of their power. I had such a vibe of deep respect for them, mostly due to stark fear, an it resonated off of me such that I’m sure they knew they didn’t need to say anything.
Well, maybe not on a conscious level I didn’t know it at that point, hindsight is clear and all that jazz. The poor little green sea turtles were mostly trying to high tail it out of there. Every time one moved, two dozen camera wielding, flipper flapping humans took off in hot pursuit of something to post on Facebook.
We lost another of our group there. Grace (four of nine is how I always think of her these days) was one of those folks who floundered around after them a little bit too carelessly. She crashed into some coral that was fairly close to the surface, breaking a chunk off and getting quite the gash in her leg in the process. How that might have been connected to her sudden onset of fever and chills I can’t say, maybe it was a coincidence and she’d contracted whatever it was that Kevin had. What I can say is that by the time the captain had her cut cleaned and patched, she was shivering and upchucking over the boat rail. She, too, retired to her room for the remainder of the trip on our return to the hotel after docking.
Half a dozen of us decided to explore the island via golf cart the second day on the island. Marie quickly commandeered Patrick and Anna into her cart, so that with their gear, Eric was forced to join me and Louise. The big boss brunette promptly gunned their vehicle into the mixed pedestrian and motor traffic of the village and lost us before we’d managed to get our stuff stowed. On the rare occasions that our paths crossed during the course of the day, she’d grin and beep the horn and wave as they sped by us.
“Let’s get the fuck out of town and see how the locals live.” It was the first time I’d heard Eric swear. He was getting tired of the game and Anna was looking less and less like the woman of his dreams, particularly if Marie was a permanent attachment. He turned to us, Louise up front in the passenger seat and me in back facing that way, watching the past unfold behind us. “Are you ladies ready for some lunch? I’d love to find some funky little place for a cold beer and some grub.”
“A cold beer sounds grand,” I replied, “a margarita even better”.
Louise had her travel map out. “There’s a bridge at the north end of town that crosses over to the north side of the Caye. It looks like there’s a couple of places to eat, but not a whole lot else. It’s definitely a lot more deserted than town.” She turned and gave me a wink. “And we probably won’t run into the girls and Patrick up there.”
Louise and I had been serving as relationship counsellors to Eric all day. Neither of us was a counsellor, but since he didn’t have a relationship, it was working out just fine. We were all having fun. It is the way of singles travel; sometimes one gets well laid, sometimes one has grand fun, and on rare occasions the two likely coincide. It’s been my observation on half a dozen or so such trips that coincidence of the two is rare.
Speaking of coincidence.
The funky little place we found was perfect. It was a family run place right on the beach, tacos stuffed with fresh fish grilled over an open fire as the only menu option of the day. It was the only option needed, perfectly matched with all the fixings, home made tortillas, and more than enough variety of beers and other libations for us to choose from.
“This old lady needs to pee.” Indeed the need to pee was upon me in a big way. I was hot, sweaty, hungry, and more than a little ready to sit and enjoy the salt air and sunshine with a nice cool drink. But I’d spent the past fifteen minutes of the very bumpy cart ride to the bar giving my urethral sphincter the workout of its long life.
“How do you want your margarita? Geez Louise, that sounds good, and Eric is driving!” Louise giggled. She was starting to loosen up a whole lot. I could hardly wait to see her snockered.
“Cheap tequila, cheap triple sec, real lime juice, salt, on the rocks.” I rarely bothered with good booze back in the day, but funky margarita mix is, was, and always will be, intolerable, an insult to even the worst of rotgut. “And a couple of tacos with the works.” I handed her a handful of bills and made my way post haste out back to the baño de las mujeres to empty my screaming bladder and wash up a little. Or maybe I was headed back to the eagle’s nest for a rite of purification with my day sign. Who knows?
It was an epic pee. You’ve probably had one or two, you know the kind I’m talking about. It’s the kind of animal release the causes an involuntary audible response somewhere between a sigh and a groan of pleasure. And it goes on and on, sometimes for what seems like minutes. I let out a final contented little tinkle and headed out for a splash of cool water on the face before lunch and libations.
She was standing right in front of me when I opened the funky little door of the toilet stall. How she’d gotten there so silently and why I hadn’t noticed her legs beneath the door is beyond me, and it was such a shock, I let out a little yikes.
She was a child of indeterminate age. Many of the local people tend to be small relative to those of us from el Norte, especially those with a lot of indigenous blood. She was smaller than Rudy’s eight year old and very delicately framed, but her eyes were ancient and her face wise in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. She wore a traditional Mayan skirt with a Happy Kitty t-shirt. She was a beautiful child with the dark hair and skin of the old ones, the broad features and almond shaped eyes that showed her native heritage. Her eyes were a brilliant blue.
“Oops, I did it again!” She giggled as I recovered myself and smiled back at her.
Oh dear god, she was quoting Britney Spears. What horrors had we wrought upon these people?
We did a little dance as we switched positions and I made my way to the sink and she made hers to the seat I’d just vacated. She left the door open and continued chatting with me as I rinsed salty sweat from my face.
“My name is Indie. That’s short for Indigo. That’s because of my blue eyes and when my parents found out we were coming they bought this place with money from Indiegogo. A man at the bar told them how. What’s your name?”
“I’m Brooke.” I wondered about the “we”, if it was a slip-up of language or if she was royalty of some kind. Of course she hadn’t said “we” did it again when she’d yikesed me, so probably not.
“What does Brooke mean?”
Since I was dealing with a child I decided that I could fib a bit, given that the truth of being named for a great grandfather rather irritated me. “It means that I babble like a brook. Have you ever heard of a babbling brooke? Like a river?” I made a snaking motion with my arm as I said it, grinning at her.
“That makes sense. Rushing Water”.
An almost overpowering sense of deja vu hit me when she said it, almost to herself. Where had I heard that recently? I shook it off and took a look in the mirror. I had a bit of a sunburn. Not that it matters much, I thought, I’ve been so sun fried so many times that I’ve got crocodile skin already.
Deja vu, all over again. The slight dizziness I felt passed as Indie grabbed my hand to lead me back to the table where lunch had been served.
“C’mon, it’s time to eat!”
At the table, Louise and Eric were engaged in animated conversation with a beautiful woman of forty or so who was dressed quite a bit like her daughter. She wore the same traditional style of skirt. Her t-shirt was vintage Grateful Dead. The only difference I could see between the features of the two females of the family was their eyes; Itzel’s were black as night.
“Geez Louise, Brooke, you’re not going to believe this! Eric and I have the same birthday! Well, not the same year, but the same birthday.” Their passports were out on the table. Apparently some of the bigwigs in town had been cracking down on selling booze to minors and they weren’t taking any chances on Louise. She did look great for her age and had a lot of youthful exuberance, but she’d told me she was over thirty. Ah, to be in one’s prime.
It didn’t strike me as being all that unusual, but I didn’t want to get into statistics. Eric was working the calculator on his phone, which I thought was a bit extreme. I just smiled and joined them.
“Funny thing is, your friend there has the same birthday, too.” Eric pointed to Indie.
“And Gogo, too!” as Indie said it, her brother came up from the beach and tossed the pompano he’d just caught into a cooler by the grill. He more resembled their father, a Belizean who could trace his Anglo roots back to the earliest days of British settlement there during the 18th century. The only difference between the boy and man in face and general form, once again, was the eyes. Michael’s were blue and Gogo’s were black, like his mother’s. They were a beautiful family, the children a masterpiece of genetic recombination, a single magnum opus of yin and yang. It felt that way looking at them, at least to me. Perhaps it’s my Libran sense of balance.
Okay, so four of them with the same birthday. Statistically, the twins only counted as one, at least to my thinking.
“That’s pretty cool.” A quick lick of the salt and down the hatch with some icy citrus. Very cool indeed. “So what’s the special day?”
“Ten ten.” Eric and Louise said it at the same time. I teetered between choking on the drink and falling out of my chair. I did half of each and recovered.
Binaries. All of us.
“You guys aren’t going to believe this.” I pulled out my passport and tossed it on the table to show them my date of birth: 10/10/1959. As I did, the folded up paper that Yhony had given me fell out. I opened it up.
“Oh geez, oh geez, oh geez Louise. I’m 79. And Eric is 69. And you’re..”
“Five of nine.” Oh geez Louise.
“That’s your Tzolk’in horoscope.” Itzel was matter of fact about it. Apparently it wasn’t all that unusual to have threesomes who shared her twins’ birthday show up; at least that’s the impression she gave. “This symbol Muluc is for water, that is your day sign. Indie and Gogo were born on the day of the eagle, Men, in the year 2002. That is your feminine sign, here.”
Rushing water. Soaring eagle. Deja vu? Coincidence? Hallucination? An elaborate trick? The passports were damned good if they’d been faked, and I couldn’t see the point.
“How can they have different day signs if they have the same birthday? The sign Yoyo drew on my sheet was different, too.” Louise was digging frantically in her bag trying to find the paper.
“You were born in different years. Our calendar is different from yours, our weeks and months not the same.”
This was the symbol he put on mine, what’s it?” Eric was getting intrigued. He’d forgotten all about his statistical analysis, we’d clearly left that realm behind.
“That is Ik, the wind.”
Winds of change.
“This is the tone for justice, and this is the crocodile. Caban is the symbol for Earth. Akbal is the symbol of night.” Itzel smiled at me. “It’s an interesting reading, but I’m not an expert. It depends on which aspect of your self each symbol represents. Only the old mothers do much of this. Of course with the end of the calendar coming up so soon, many have probably started looking at the old knowledge and sharing it. I imagine a person could learn a lot online.”
She winked at me.
I took another long pull on my drink.
“No bars here.” Eric had immediately picked his phone back up, probably just as freaked out as I was. He’d heard the whispers. He was just as much the rationalist I was. We were avoiding looking at each other. If the cave whisperers had been a hoax, it was one very well played, for no apparent reason. Nobody was trying to sell us anything.
“Oh, geez, that’s right, I was using it as a bookmark. It’s back in my room.”
Louise had given up on her search. I think all three of us were freaked out.
“C’mon kids, let’s go wrap some tacos for the old uncles. Our guests probably want to stop all this talk and eat lunch. Can I bring you more drinks?”
“Yes”. We’d all answered, not quite in unison; perhaps it was in binary. Perhaps our day signs all differed, but right there and then, we three binaries were all switched to the on position.
It only got more interesting as the day went on.
Linda Brooke Stabler, Ph.D.