A requirement is that it must be difficult to arrive. A requirement is that the wifi be flaky and intermittent. A requirement is hammocks. A requirement is fruit. A requirement is sun bright enough that no one cares or watches as I peel off layers of winter gloom, down to an old bikini with wooden beads on patterned straps that can be untied as I lie on my stomach and admit defeat. A requirement is finally turning over, straps fastened, to try again.
Mornings begin around four, walking out from the room to watch the stars fade, the whole of Orion visible, not just his belt, the Seven Sisters shining in their open cluster on the celestial equator. The sky lightens and the birds swoop together, calling the sunrise. The fishermen push out their boats and a small boy is jumping rope, double-time, on the long dock that divides the beach on this side of the island. I go into the ocean all the way to the sandbar more feet out than I am old – and that feels plenty far – turning toward the sun and the hammers of new construction, the fanciful promise that will take this dignified quiet in return for business in and out of season. Vanishing the sleepier months without so many tourists who arrive to swim with whale sharks that are offered in plush and wooden miniatures in shop windows next to hippie ankhs and not much else, really, yet.
Young girls pass the shop windows in uniforms laced for the ferry to school, and I watch them unhurried, eating eggs divorciados. Salsa verde means I should leave at the end of the week. Salsa roja means I should stay forever, keep the bandanna protecting my hair from the wind wrapped tightly and stand behind the elote cart that will lead to my small restaurant on the main square near the church with bells on the hour.
This could be a little bit mine, this small spot in a Mexican state that the famous American prose writer named her daughter Quintana Roo after, where pirates are said to have intermarried with Mayans. Where the descendants from the seven original families live. I meet a man with a name like a conquistador. He is to be admired from a distance, like the new graffiti of a fishing hook revealing concerns about the stability of the currency sprayed on a building facade. Too late to be Mayan, we’re all pirates now.
The island turns out for each sunset, drinking beer with stray dogs, noting the cloud formations that change with the day. I sit on the rocks and think about forgiveness. It is such a privilege to just start again.