Riviera Maya, margaritas and spicy guacamole!
A large caravan of clouds crosses the sky this morning, pulling behind it the beautiful memory of a trip to the Riviera Maya. It’s been over 20 years and yet my arms can still feel the warmth as I think about the sun shining down on Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula.
Did you know, dear readers, that a lemon soaked in hot water or microwaved for a few minutes releases more juice?
And there I was, soaking up the heat of the warm white sands of Mexico with my skin smeared with Ombrelle 45. I couldn’t help but notice all the attractive men hanging off the arms of women who were almost as plain-looking as me. How in heaven’s name do they catch them, I wondered. Have they simply been growing there forever? Did they meet at the dawn of time? Aboard Noah’s Ark? Did they somehow blossom together?
I am desperate to understand how people are attracted to each other. How does love between people work outside of children and careers? Some of my girlfriends explain that they are blended couples for the most part. Like adding two eggs and a cup of water to a dry mixture, stirring it until consistent and then putting it all in the oven for 35 minutes? I remember Pauline telling me that it is almost as good as the original recipe. And Sophia, herself in a blended relationship, swearing that it is often better.
Even though I’ve spent my life cracking eggs, it seems I still haven’t learned how to put a few of them in the right bowl. And how could I? When I never had time to leave the kitchen, to take an interest in anything other than business? With a life so out of balance, I didn’t know how to compartmentalize my life or take the time to exchange romantic looks.
What a shame! The Adonises spread cream on their partner’s shoulders. They ran after their straw hats carried away by the wind and, when evening came, handsome and scented, they cracked open the small fried crabs from the buffet for them to eat. Young or old, morning, noon or night, the couples went about in their blissful bubbles, making friends, laughing at their mangled Spanish or simply tanning against each other, stretched out on the sand like two pieces of toast of the same sandwich. Unbelievable! I even spotted one removing the stringy bits of a tangerine for his beloved. I guess that’s what being in love is all about: always wanting to be useful to the other person. Always trying to please them.
How could I have contemplated this when the time came? I had so little free time and so much work ahead of me. I remember, right after the divorce, how hard I had to work to be able to feed the kids, clothe them, pay the rent and gas up the car. Anxiety and self-pity filled my head. I was 33 years old, I was attractive, and yet I didn’t realize my own worth. I didn’t know then that another man could genuinely love me and cherish my happiness.
I dove into my work with a heart, body and mind totally free of all such attachments. No wonder I was so prodigiously productive. On the rare occasions when I did think about something other than work, I tried to convince myself that when a nice suitor did cross my path one day, I’d be able to make room for him. Little did I know, however, that I had plunged into the bottomless Sea of Business. I swam bravely on, and time passed.
Yet, today, I envy those lucky women who have their lovers clean the sand between their toes. The famous Maslow and his hierarchy of needs would be displeased with me: having achieved a reliable level of security, I completely skipped over love. Curse this independence that opened the door to success while at the next table, the man removed the skin from small Mexican chicken wings for his sweetheart. I see her taking the lean meat with her fingertips and bringing it to her pink, delicate mouth. I see her turquoise eyes whispering sensual promises to her beau, which he savours between sips of cerveza. I was so envious of all these small gestures; this shared affection and complicity.
All those years while I worked in the kitchen, I would hear customers talk about their southern travels between orders and it seemed incomprehensible, unimaginable to me. Thank goodness in the end those happy pursuits never distracted me from my life’s work; I was unaware of their existence.
4:32 p.m. local time
Now hanging around the edge of the private VIP pool wearing the same colour bracelet as me, the couples continue to sun themselves. Red as lobsters just out of the pot, the princes bring the princesses their daiquiris dripping onto the expensive marble of the Iberostar Grand Paradiso. Content and splendid, the lovers stretch their lazy limbs, get up from their lounge chairs, take a few steps and sit down on the pool steps to sip their drinks. They exchange pleasantries about their favourite celebrities and TV shows they’re watching, and the trips they dream about taking next.
5:40 p.m. local time
The sun has just slipped behind the horizon and a gentle darkness dims the Mexican paradise. Having returned to their rooms, the couples prepare for the nightly dinner ritual at the themed restaurants. The patio is silent but it is still very hot. All alone in the large lapis lazuli pool, I float with my arms stretched out and my head almost completely immersed in happiness. Yes, thinking about it, I was happy too. I am happy with the path I have travelled, proud to have persisted and succeeded to finally have the luxury to enjoy a real vacation. I accepted responsibility for my family, I worked hard and discovered a boundless energy. It pleases me to think that by doing all this, I have also inspired my children and colleagues to do the same for themselves. Now that I know myself better, I am learning to appreciate myself. And the more I am able to love myself, the more I can believe that someone else can too.
Psst: It’s noon right now in the Laurentians. The sun has chased away the large clouds, and the air feels almost warm. Instead of wanting a good sandwich for lunch, I miss the big buffet at the Iberostar. I also miss the blue sea, beautiful flowers, giant cacti, delicious papayas, margaritas, and especially, the spicy guacamole.