Friday, March 15, 2013

Yucatan Whips

The storm was churning and the newscasters were prophesying with porcelain veneers, bloodshot forecasters pontificating over satellite maps with furrowed brows. We had been preparing for this system twenty minutes. Mom already had a black eye and Dad was knocked out the window into the swimming pool. The eye was aiming our way;  windows were taped into shapes of cumulonimbus: what we wanted to push away. Cool raindrops pelted blue stained-glass.

We had been through a Category 1, but this was a different monster: a Category 4 swirling from the western Caribbean toward the room we rented in Cancun. We had no money to evacuate, no luxury of leaving our possessions. We were not snotty tourists with lobster sunburns buying baggies of cocaine on the beach with sombreros, swimming in decadent resort swimming pools sipping piña coladas; we are a working family. Dad owns a taco stand and we marry the condiments and mix salsas with wooden spoons spawning Escherichia coli in guacamole at midnight.

Mom demanded Dad tape the bathroom window, place as much effort into this endeavor as he dedicates to his gambling. When he gets submersed in the latter he resembles a grisly meth addict: yellowed teeth and sunken cheeks pocked with obstinate grayish skin. We are atheists, but for some reason Mom was praying and Dad was crossing his chest with purple knuckles like a Mexican, kissing his thumb. My brother was ashamed in the corner, hoping the storm knocked the whole apartment into the sea and concussed Mom severely enough to create short-term amnesia.

We had learned more about each other in twenty minutes than we had in ten years, even living in quant quarters of squalor amid palm fronds and the aroma of urine melting amid tropical sunshine. Mom was frantic as she pulled the pillowcases from their stained feathers, shoved them under the door, went for the extras and discovered the first hint of the degree of lust that sprung from her thirteen year-old-son. She did not tell Dad. She pinned it beneath the door with her fingernails, exercising more caution than with the others. That should do it, Dad said.

The prick of the cacti, the frenetic search for items to keep out the tempest; it even came through windows, underneath stucco walls which were already dampened and water-stained. The storm was already inside us, we were the eyes catching glimpses, closer into our sclera, our secrets meshed with reality and the deathly rattle of pelting horizontal.

Mom uncovered hundreds of old betting tickets–losers that Dad had saved as a way to ascertain the logic of his errors, the systemic endemic rot of a man addicted to horses. Mom tried to punch him, to blacken his other eye and knock out his tooth, but he lunged away at the last moment, catching her elbow as the ticket stubs swirled around the room like a deck of cards.

Dad tried to catch himself, but it was too late, and jabbing his wife’s eye, he receded two stories below, into the storm, again. The chlorine embraced him like a jockey hugging a tortured stallion after pulling out an insurmountable comeback on the final lap. The horse would die from exhaustion, having been run to death by the whips of a diminutive madman.