The ride back to the hotel was a quiet one. We’d had a fun and laughter filled chat about the probability of all of us having the same birthday during the course of that second round of drinks. We enjoyed an interesting, albeit low frequency, vibe of connection. We didn’t talk about whispers and horoscopes, none of us had had adequate time to process those things. That’s because none of us had had the chance to do that thing that we of the 21st Century do, either.
We needed to Google.
Eric was focused on the rutted road. Its muddy potholes could be treacherous, and he struck me as the kind of guy who liked having a task to divert him when he needed to clear his head. Louise seemed to be dozing, slouched down in the shot-gun position of the cart, her head gently tilted back with her hat pulled over her face. She’d put down a third drink quickly as we headed out and said our goodbyes to the Smiths. Michael had brought out the last of the margaritas he’d mixed up for us as he bussed the table.
“Waste not, want not.” she’d said as a salute. A woman after my own heart.
The look at the past from my position in the back seat didn’t include much of the road on the return trip. I was doing that thing I do and looking at what had just gone down from every angle I could imagine. My internal rationalist was trying very hard to explain the utter far-outness of the whole trip thus far. If it was a ruse, my friends had to be in on it, and I was sure that was not the case.
I mean really, what would be the point?
Was I dreaming? I’d been adventuring in the world of lucid dreaming for a while; I’d read the books and had success with the techniques. Even as a child I’d often been aware when I was dreaming, especially if I’d been flying. Flying like an eagle.
I’d asked myself that question more than once over the past few days, was I dreaming? I’d answered it yes with the Howler because that experience was so dreamy, so out there. The whispers, kind of dreamy, sure, but I was in an inner tube floating down a very wet river and was convinced it was a trick. Dreaming? Imagining the existence of these people I’d never met? I’d ruled that out again and again, this was not a dream. Every bump in the road implied reality, my inability to influence the action confirmed it. There are ways to determine if you’re dreaming in a dream. It’s amazing the things one can learn on exploration of the unknown.
Cyberspace was just the place to do that.
By the time we got back to the golf cart rental joint, the sun was starting to go down.
“Man, look at the line.” Eric groaned. It looked like everybody who’d rented a cart had just shown up for returns.
“Geez Louise, I need a shower before dinner.”
The whole crew, or what was left of us, had a date for dinner and drinks and live music at the hotel bar. Both Eric and Louise were eager to get spiffed up for the event, so I stayed behind and took care of the cart while they hoofed it back to the hotel through town. Being more a meanderer than hoofer and far less concerned with spiffiness, I decided to take the long way home and enjoy the beach route. The web would still be there waiting for me.
“Hey Mama, you want some Ganja?” An ancient Rasta man on the beach smiled and called out to me as I walked by him a few hundred meters into the trip. I smiled back with a polite “No thanks” and kept walking. We were warned, of course, that one shouldn’t buy weed on the beach. That was almost enough to make me stop and reconsider right there.
After all, I thought, I love weed.
“Weed love you, too,” a gentle whisper, so green I could taste it. Feminine, not the voice of the Rasta man, no, not the voice of a man at all. But not the voice of a woman, either. It was flowery, ripe, botanical. Mama Ganja had spoken to me for the first time. I turned and walked back.
“For you, Mama, five bucks.” He pulled out as fine a nickel bag as I’d seen since the seventies.
It had the same character, the stems and the seeds and the grown in the wild free spirit. It wasn’t some hybridized, amped up, mass produced clone of a clone of a clone. It wasn’t high octane or high tech, it was good old fashioned weed. Its energy came straight from old Sol, not some watered down version of electromagnetism cast from a lamp. Its stuff was made of soil and tropical breezes, not Miracle Gro and ventilation systems. I’d have to go find some good old fashioned bamboos to go with it so I could roll up a few big fat Marleys for the party. That was the appropriate term I’d learned from Rudy, and when in Belize, I like to do as the Belizeans do.
I knew bumpkiss from what the Belizeans do. But I was about to find out.
The detour back into town to find some papers shaved another twenty minutes or so off of the time I had to check out the Tzolk’in and get ready for dinner. I booted up the Mac as I shed my sweaty clothes and dug out a dress. Having grown up on the beach I was good at the kind of quickie splash and brush that the social atmosphere of a tropical bar calls for. Changes in attitude and all that. I pulled the braids from my hair and rolled up a few blunts. Then I turned my attention to the computer.
Just as Itzel had suggested, lots of folks had started showing interest in the ancient Mayan calendar and its relationship to the stars and astrology. Just Googling the term Tzolk’in brought half a million hits. A mad dash through the top ten or so led me to a place where I could plug in my birth date and time information and pull up my horoscope. Yoyo had somehow managed to get it right. Obviously he could have gotten my information from Rudy and done exactly what I was in the process of doing. But that didn’t explain Louise and Eric; none of us had been invited on this trip, we’d just shown up.
Time was short, so I bookmarked the page for a detailed reading later and checked my email. At the top of the queue was one from a woman named Sharon. It was an invitation to follow up on a job application I’d submitted; I’d made the first round of cuts and had been invited for a phone interview.
Well, I thought, if it’s all a dream, it just got a whole lot more real.
Employment was one of those things I’d been mostly ignoring over the past year. After a lifetime of a pretty dispassionate version of it I was tired and ready for real living, ready for travel and adventure and love. I'd earned tenure as a professor in Oklahoma, and then immediately quit.
But of course, the whole lot more real reality of life for most folks in the 21st century involves things like mortgages and utility bills and food that comes from grocery stores. So I had applied for a job. Just the one.
The position seemed to fit the description of “the best kind of job to have” that I’d heard from a professor I’d admired in grad school: a small, private, liberal arts college, preferably in New England. Such a position had entered my radar, one that my credentials also happened to fit quite nicely. So I’d half heartedly applied. Sharon’s invitation was full hearted, so I immediately replied that I’d love to interview but was currently out of the country. I’d be home in a couple of days.
I shut down, tidied up, and headed out to the bar.
“Could you be loooooooooved…….Candy love?!” Patrick and his dynamic duo were hammered. The threesome occupied one end of the table that had been set up for us and were belting out their best along with the rather mechanical sounding band back in the corner.
Marie had pledged her allegiance to Malbec when it first hit the scene in the US. Patrick was far more Continental, and having spent many years in the south of France, he was a great lover of the classics of Bordeaux and Beaujolais. Apparently they’d been dueling with reds all day, and Anna had been toucheé’d, repeatedly, in her role as innocent bystander.
“Eric!” Anna stood and attempted to wrap herself around him as he pulled out the chair from the vacant spot beside her at the table. “I missed you today”.
She damned near missed him with her hug, the wrap around transforming quickly into a cling-to for support as he kept her from crashing to the ground. Alcohol has a way of letting those hidden truths peak out from their places of secure cover. Marie had finally been defeated by the very weapon she’d been using in the war against Eric. Eric was more of a lover than a fighter. He didn’t need weapons.
Dinner was a grand mix of local pork, grilled to perfection, fried cassava and greens, and the ever present variety of fresh tropical fruit. Our friends at the south end of the table continued on their quest to drink the place dry of red wine. Louise was sticking with the margaritas. Eric and I had both transitioned to water. The band in the corner was on its third trip through Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits. It seemed to be all they knew, but the turista loved it.
“I love Bob Marley. I just wish they’d throw in something a little less commercial. I’ve frankly heard better versions of island music in New Orleans.” I was getting a little cranky. My love of music was not finding what it was looking for coming from that band, it was kind of a tragic metaphor for the whole trip, at least in my quest for something more in the love department. Or so I thought at the time.
Patrick and Rudy had joined me on the beach to enjoy the weed I’d picked up earlier. Eric was not one to partake, and Louise was having too good a time sharing with him what she’d learned about herself from the perspective of Mayan star gazers. Marie and Anna were up on the dance floor Jammin’.
“If you want to hear the music, you got to pay the band.” Rudy had a few good old sayings that he’d picked up along the way. “These guys can’t make any money playing the real stuff in places like this. They got to play what the people with the money want to hear.” He passed the big spliff over to Patrick. “You should see them at a private celebrations. They’re really great.”
“Yeah, I know. My cousin with the rock band told me that if he ever got another request for Stairway to Freebird he’d scream.” I smiled. “We seem to have gotten uncomfortable with originality and spirit where I come from”. I accepted the gift of Mama Ganja that Patrick passed along.
Patrick smiled an incredibly drunken and lopsided smile. He’d mellowed quite a bit with the weed and was doing what any smart drinker of red wine does, mixing it with food and water. Patrick was no dummy. We old farts do learn a few things along the way. Still, the wine brought a little hidden truth out of him, too. He stood up.
“Well, I’ll tell you what. I’m getting pretty fucking uncomfortable with lack of originality and spirit. And I can afford to pay the band. Let’s see what they can do.” He marched on up to the stage and pulled out some bills. Big bills.
“My friend Rudy tells me you’re good. Show me what you’ve got. I want real music, real dance, real life!” He was getting fired up. He stuffed the bills into the jar on the keyboard.
That’s when the voodoo woman appeared, and everything got primal.
It wasn’t just the music that changed, it was everything. Maybe we switched channels for a while, visited something different from our regularly scheduled programming. That’s what it felt like.
She was black and beautiful as night. Her skin glistened in the low light of the tiki torches of the bar. She wore next to nothing, but it was something, all gold and and black and brown. She said something to Patrick in Creole French, somehow knowing that he understood her as she led him out onto the floor the girls had vacated a few minutes before.
“Voulez-vous vivre ce soir?”
Bob Marley sat up in his grave to watch and enjoy the show as the band took every musical meme from the ancient ones of Africa to Hendrix at Woodstock and turned it into something new. They channeled magic, and there was no way to not be caught in the spell of its beat.
She was sex, dancing. I’ve never been into women, but the way she moved as she focused her entire being on Patrick was so steamy that Kundalini was once again shunted to its base in my body. She was hot. Rudy just smiled as we settled back in at the table with Eric and Louise.
Patrick was completely under her spell, helpless. He’d dropped to his knees before her, weeping. She left him there and made her way to our table. She had her eye on Eric. Marie and Anna had retired to their room where the young blonde enjoyed the relative ease of passed out oblivion as Marie hugged the commode. She hadn’t yet mastered the food and water trick of the journeyman drinker.
As steadfast a guy as he might be, Eric was not immune to the spell. He seemed mesmerized as he stood to follow her wherever she might lead.
That’s when Louise started growling. Her inner jaguar had just woken up and its feminine energy was aimed at the voodoo woman. Patrick had asked for it; Eric had not. She leapt to her feet with feline agility and wedged herself between the two. She got right the face of the woman who towered over her and hissed.
“You leave him alone!” She sounded something like Linda Blair had in the Exorcist. It wouldn’t have surprised me a bit if her head had spun a few times, the fires of Kali were flaring up from the depths in her protection of her brother in binary. Sweet little Louise in her pretty little dress of pink and blue hibiscus was about to take down the voodoo woman.
And the voodoo woman knew it.
The widening of her eyes in rage quickly transitioned into stark terror as Louise continued with her low growl. Eric seemed to be recovering, shaking off whatever it was that had grabbed him. Rudy had high tailed it to the bar; he was in charge of this show and the change in script was getting a little too deep for the tourist trade.
The magical musical mix came to halt just as the lights came up and the bartender made the last call for alcohol. The voodoo woman stormed off into the night, disappearing in the darkness from which she’d emerged. Patrick found himself sitting on the ground, still quietly sobbing. Louise looked like she’d just done little channel surfing of her own; she was in stunned shock.
Eric had recovered enough to help her back into her seat.
I sat there dumbfounded by the whole show. Far out, I thought.
I didn’t realize at that point that I’d not gotten very far out there, not at all. I’d yet to meet the big blue dragon. I’d not yet been enchanted by the beautiful trolls. I was only just taking the first few tentative steps on that yellow brick road that led to the wizard.
Linda Brooke Stabler, Ph.D.