“Limbo day” sometimes happens to me on trips. It’s that pressure on your chest that occurs when the delirious joy of exploration wanes and the trip is nearly over — you’ve been gone too long, no one is thinking about you, you have work to do.
We awoke abruptly at 08:00, rabidly scratching at our mosquito bites. We wandered out for breakfast, our ankles bleeding. Our usual — chilaquiles, frijoles, salsa verde — and then a walk into town to find a remedy for our itching at the SuperFarmacía. We walked silently, quickly — the itching was unbearable. A group of taxi drivers across the street whistled as we walked past — I didn’t look back.
We strode through the large open doors of the pharmacy, and everyone turned to stare for a moment — it was like a movie, where the soundtrack pauses and then life resumes without a second thought. We meandered to the pharmacy counter and I asked for “crema de difenhidramina” — the Spanish generic name for Benadryl cream awkwardly falling out of my mouth. The pharmacist replied that they didn’t have any, but they had Benadryl capsules? I laughed — why hadn’t I just asked for Benadryl? She escorted us to a checkout, we paid the $77 MXN for the capsules and bottled water, then made our way home. I took my dose on the walk back, eager to be free of the incessant sting.
We settled by the pool as we had no plans for the day, and the combination of the heat and the drugs helped me drift off into a fitful sleep. I’d awaken every half-hour or so, drenched in sweat. After I’d roused myself from the latest bout of drowsiness, we had lunch at the main house — tacos de chuletón and a limeade. They were so delicious in the heat — perfect morsels of tortilla and meat, drenched in spice, quenched with sour.
Back to the pool for more fitful sleep — and Instagram. I’d wake up, browse, fall asleep, wake up, browse, fall asleep… A continuous, ruinous cycle for hours. The limbo day was in full effect. “These people are so much more successful than me. They have six-packs, nice cars, beautiful houses, popular blogs, furniture lines, fashion houses… They’re younger than me, smarter than me, richer than me, better educated than me… Why can’t I ever seem to get anything done? Why can’t I ever lose those 20 pounds? Why can’t I seem to make the right amount of money?” I was spinning — the self-doubt, comparison to others, perfectionism spiraling out of control.
This is why I am not an idle traveler — I cannot go sit on a beach and relax. Relaxation for me is being busy — it allows my mind to concentrate on anything other than myself and my list of anxieties and possible shortcomings. A perfect trip for me is one with plans, activities, destinations — idle time makes me uneasy.
I sat there, on the edge of the pool, deep in my insecurities. I was staring off into space when I noticed movement in the water, and I walked over to investigate. A tiny frog was trapped in the pool, too small to fight the surface tension. I cupped my hands and gently scooped him out onto the edge of the pool. He sat there for a moment, warming in the sun — and then hopped off into the grass. At that very moment, Mark jumped into the pool with a holler. The splash snapped my brain back into reality, back to the moment at hand.
I took off my shirt, and jumped.
The cold water hit me like a wall, and I rose to the surface gasping for air — and then laughter came. It erupted out of me, uncontrollable. “I am in paradise, with the person I love more than anything in the entire world. I am done sacrificing this perfect and irreplaceable moment for the uncertainty of the future.” I had spent the entire day worrying about the future instead of enjoying the present. I should have been relishing every delicious moment, appreciating the incredible gift of that second, that minute, that hour, that day. Done, finished, reset. I climbed out of the pool, turned my phone off and fell asleep again, warmed by the sun.
We woke up and headed to dinner. More tacos, more salsa, more beer — so simple and perfect. The evening’s drama occurred when, in between bites of taco, we realized our flight from Veracruz to Mexico City wasn’t showing up on our itinerary anymore. Many beers, many customer service representatives, and an hour or so later it was fixed. But it made my day seem like even more of a dumb waste of time and pointed out the futility of worrying about what may come or what you haven’t got.
We went to bed early, after packing — we had to be up early to drive to the airport. I fell asleep quickly, exhausted by my mental gymnastics, eager to escape the real world with sleep.