Once I unpacked, I decided to take a walk into town, something I reveled in on my last trip. I love to walk anyway, but taking the short journey into town on foot gave me a sense of connection to the locals. Many people walk here, so I would frequently pass small families walking along the highway, on their way home from a day’s work, I assumed. Their faces were always inviting with wide smiles and warm eyes as they greeted me, “Hola!” About a month before my trip, I was walking down the street in Brooklyn and the very idea of walking to town once again in Mexico made my heart skip with joy.
Though I’m exhausted, I know the walk will do me good, reconnecting to the very thing that draws me here – the warmth. It’s still really hot, (which is not the warmth to which I’m referring!) but I’m on my way. It’s not yet dark, but the sun is definitely setting as I turn left off the condo driveway and head north on Highway 307 towards town. Highway 307 runs all the way from Cancun, through Playa, to Tulum and beyond. It turns into Avenida Tulum in the pueblo or the center of town. The condo sits about a half mile from the edge of town, which on foot, usually takes about ten minutes to reach.
Making my way north, Tulum feels different to me. I dismiss the feeling and chalk it up to the internal dialogue that continues to haunt. I want to be afraid – a default mode of sorts. But I gently remind myself to breathe and have faith that it will be okay. I pass several locals on the street, but they don’t greet me with the same enthusiasm as my past experiences. In fact, they don’t greet me at all. I try to take the initiative and offer up a cheerful, “Hola!” but their responses are either lackluster or non-existent. This fuels my fear. The inner dialogue growing in volume, “Ya see? Tulum was just a fluke. It’s not so great……”
I focus on my feet and the ground beneath them telling myself that in the heat, perhaps, it’s just too much energy to be friendly.
I think about dinner. I’m craving something light and Mexican. I decide on Charlie,s, a local spot in town that has a great chicken tostada with black beans, guacamole and tasty pico de gallo. With renewed enthusiasm, I carry on.
At the edge of town, I notice some places that have shut down. Empanada Joe’s is for rent. Disappointing, as I liked their breakfast and free WiFi. My usual internet cafe is shuttered too, but I wonder if it’s just for the low-season. And, unfortunately, Charlie’s is closed too. Not shuttered, thankfully, but closed. Perhaps it’s because it’s Monday. I continue on and notice several places seem to be closed as well. The town seems sleepy and not as inviting.
I settle on La Nave – my favorite Italian spot, though it’s a little hot for pasta. I have a quiet dinner amongst 5 other diners and decide to call it a night. I am truly exhausted – it’s 8pm.
I hail a cab back to the condo and even the driver seems unfriendly. I’m so disappointed as I can’t help but keep comparing it to my last visit where I would converse with anyone willing to deal with my broken Spanish. I feel myself pulling inward – a silent warning bell ringing. “I can’t disappear. I have to stay present,” I tell myself. I think about sleepaway camp and my childhood, determined to trust my choice and give this journey a chance.
Arriving “home”, I turn on my NY cell phone hoping for a text message from someone reminding me that I’m not completely shut off from the outside world. I don’t have wireless in the apartment. One of the couples, Ron and Catherine, who live here all year ‘round, have offered me a key to their patio, where I can use their wireless connection for access to the internet. It’s great that I have this option, but I’m conscious of not wearing out my welcome.
No messages from home. I am tired and anxious to sleep. Tomorrow, I tell myself, I will start fresh. Tomorrow, it will be better.