Ruin Nation

Some members of my family are entirely convinced that the world really is going to end in 2012. Even my North Carolinian grandfather relentlessly tells me that the end times are coming, and that I’m not safe in Yankee-land of Boston, and that I’m certainly not secure in shaky Mexico. To me, though, if the world does indeed end on Dec. 21, 2012, I’d rather be in Mexico than any place else.

(Enter: one fateful, yet extraneous YouTube video of Echo & The Bunnymen. I swear this song comes into play later. Keep reading.)

My family is predisposed to this kind of thinking. Like most Southerners, we lead with our idiosyncrasies. For example, my father thought he was abducted my aliens. (Story here.)

But back to Mexico.

One of the many reasons I’m so drawn to the country is its brand of eccentricity, so singular and yet it somehow closely resembles the South, where the weather dictates our moods more than anything, and where we’re keenly shaped by the food and oral tradition of our families.

Spiritually, I feel right at home in Mexico with all its inherent mysticism of gods and goddesses, dark art, Mayan shamans, cleansing rituals, belief in ghosts, celebrations of life and death (hello, Día de los Muertos!), and extensive symbolism — the Mayan calendar, for one.

I grew up believing in ghosts, conducting seances with my brothers and friends; and at night, I worried about the sky opening up, the mysterious world of UFOs who’d struck my father and who might, at any time, want me, too. For a time, my mother even read Tarot cards; and on a fourth-grade trip to the Outer Banks, I scoured the isles looking for the ghost of Blackbeard the Pirate, who’s purported to still wander — lit candles tucked in his beard — when the tide or moon is just so.

Ancient Mayans believed in the alux — and contemporary Mexicans still do, too. And there’s the fabled Chupacabra, of course.

Mexico is intensely superstitious. Black cats, evil eyes, dropped tortillas, and walking beneath ladders all have consequences. As does, you guessed it, broken mirrors.

I broke two mirrors in Mexico.

Well, the housecleaner at my condo broke one, but it was due to my kooky placement of it. And then that mirror’s replacement was shattered out of nowhere when I arrived home one afternoon.

I decided to stop buying mirrors.

But the eeriness of Mexico persisted. My lover and I had been talking about skydiving in Playa del Carmen — it was one of the main things we wanted to do. My friend Stacy had warned me not to do it — a skydiving fatality had occurred to someone close to her, and she had obvious concerns.

Talking about all this one day, I turned to my lover and said, “There’s risks, but the risk of an accident is less than a plane falling from the sky and hitting you.”

That night, we randomly watched Donnie Darko (featuring aforementioned fateful Echo & The Bunnymen song), where in the film a plane falls from the sky onto the main character, played by Jake Gyllenhaal.

Coincidence? See, this is what I’m talking about.

Bizarrely, we’d planned to skydive on Friday the 13th — for some the most superstitious day of the year. When I learned this, we rescheduled for the 14th, and headed to the Tulum ruins instead.

Potential death averted.

But the next day, my lover woke up with crazy stomach pains and was sweating profusely. He was in so much agony that he insisted we head right away to a hospital — but there are no hospitals in Tulum. So we pulled over to a team of bomberos washing their firetruck, and inquired about the nearest medical facility.

Right here, they gestured. Behind their truck was a Cruz Roja. Miraculous.

He disappeared for a few hours while I sat in a waiting room across from a young boy who stared at me the entire time. We never once spoke to each other.

Finally, my lover reemerged. It was intestinal blockage. Likely seafood, and he would be fine. We filled prescriptions and headed back to the hotel to pack up for the day. There would be no skydiving after all.

And maybe this was all for the better? Maybe there were other forces at work here?

Just saying.