It was Christmas Eve and the air was sticky-salty and thick. It didn’t feel like Christmas at all. I’d just moved to Mexico, and my brand new friend and I were headed out to one of the biggest nightclubs in Playa Del Carmen.
My friend – let’s call her C. – , who was also an ex-pat and from Philadelphia, led me down La Quinta, winding our way through throngs of tourists and be-tinseled lamp-posts and garland-wrapped palm trees and salesmen yelling “Hey, Lady! Let me rip you off! You know you need some Mexican junk to take home with you!” thinking they were so clever. “Vivimos aqui,” we repeated all the way to the club.
When we arrived, we wandered through the massive, booming premises and its 4 dancefloors covered in sand opening out to the beach. We found my brother and his friend up to their chests in beer and girls, so we said our hellos and headed to the bar for a drink. I ordered a beer – a Victoria most likely – and waited for the cold brew to arrive. C. took off to the bathroom.
“Please, tell me you’re not from New York”
I turned to see a skinny, blonde Hilfiger-looking guy in a pale blue polo and khaki shorts. I shuffled my neon pink and green Chuck Taylors as if to show Mr. Hamptons I’m no Hilfiger girl.
“I’m not from New York.” I replied, dryly, letting on I was uninterested in case this was a pick-up line. I was emotionally involved with Godless Dad at the time.
“Good, because I couldn’t talk to a Jets or a Giants fan. Colts, all the way baby.”
“I’m a Browns fan.”
He looked down at his Izod flip-flops and back up at me, his blue eyes drooping with feigned sadness. “I’m sorry.” He stepped toward me for a hug.
“I’m good. I’d rather be left alone if you don’t mind.” More bluntly now, ’cause buddysquad wasn’t gettin’ the message. I fended off his advance with my hands. His face fell but he still had a sickening smirk.
“Dos Bictorias!” The bartender slammed two beers down in front of me so hard, foam flew from the bottle.
“Two? Are you here with someone?” Team USA asked.
“Yeah, I am.” I hoped that would be enough for him to leave me alone before C. came back and he realized I was with another girl.
“Girl, that line-up was something else! And no lights in the bathroom! Can you see my lipstick? I couldn't see my lipstick.” Too late. C. puckered her lips in my face. She was a stunning woman of Barbadian descent and knew exactly which shade of lipstick to choose for her gorgeous skin.
“C., you’re drop-dead gorgeous, as usual.” I handed her a Victoria.
“And you are?” Hilfiger held out his hand.
C. ignored it. “Noneya business is who.” She chuckled, picking up perfectly on my signals that I wanted this guy to leave.
“Well, I’m Adam. Adam from Indianapolis.”
“Hi, Adam from Indianapolis. If you’ll excuse us, my girl and I have some booty-shakin' to do.” C. grabbed my arm and pulled me to the dance floor, where we danced to the signature beat of damn near every Mexican song – da dum dum, pum, da dum dum, pum – until we needed a refill. We hit the bar again and within moments Vanilla Ice was back.
“So, where you from, sugar?”
“Canada. Same place my boyfriend is from.” Was this guy for real? Sugar? Really?
“No way! You are not from Canada!”
“Yep.” I’d never gotten that reaction before. He seemed to sincerely doubt I was telling him the truth.
“Uh. I like poutine, eh?” That was all I could think of. He doubled over with laughter.
“I still don’t believe you.” His laughing fit subsided.
“I dunno what to say. To be honest, I don’t really care if you believe me.”
“Ouch! Touche!” Grabbing his heart, he dramatically took a step back.
This man could not get any douchier.
“Can I at least buy you a drink?” He plead.
“I’d really rather you didn’t. I’m just here to have fun with my friend.” I really hated being around the tourists. They were so obnoxious and disrespectful, and even when they were nice, it was fleeting. They had a departure date.
“Come on, girl, it won’t hurt.”
“No. Thank you.”
“Let’s go, Court!” C. handed me a tequila shot. I got it down as fast as I could before she handed me another. It burned. I followed C. to the dance floor again, leaving Yacht Club standing by the bar with his dingy in his hands. C. had two Negra Modelos in each fist. She handed me two of them and thus began a cycle of inebriated dancing, getting more shots, more beer and avoiding Richie Rich
A few hours later, our systems sufficiently slowed down by the sheer volume of booze we’d consumed, C. and I grab a seat at a newly freed up table with a sofa. We ordered more drinks and attempted to have a coherent conversation, but just ended up in puddles of hysterical laughter.
“What’s so funny? Am I interrupting?” Dammit. He found us.
“Goway.” I said, slurring. He sat down, anyway. Right next to me.
“I just wanted to ask where in Canada you’re from, which I still don’t believe, by the way.” He shifted closer to me.
“Vancouver. Now, goway.”
“No way! My brother-in-law is from there. There’s no way you’re from there.” Closer now, I could feel his body heat. “I just don’t believe you.” He mouthed.
“Fuck, fine! Here!” I pulled out my wallet, clumsily, and showed him my ID. It clearly said, British Columbia, Canada. A bit of cash had fallen out, and I collected it off the sand, and put it back in my wallet.
“Wow! You are from there! Have you heard of Saltspring Island?”
“Of course I have, you fucking dunce.” My anger was beginning to sober me up. I’d lost all interest in being nice at this point. I just wanted to celebrate Christmas Eve with my newly found friend and this guy would not leave us alone.
“My brother-in-law is from there but he lives here.” He was pressed up against me now. C. was eyeing him with disapproval.
“How utterly unique. I live here, now, too.” I pulled away from him.
“No way! Do you find the Mexicans rude? I think they are so rude.”
“Boy, you’re gettin’ on my last nerve,” C. said sternly, standing up. I pushed Polo Sport away from me.
“Is there a problem, Court?” The perfect moment. My brother and his friend slide onto the couch next to Prep School, sitting so close and breathing down the guy’s neck.
“Alright, alright. I’m out. Bitch.” He held his hands up in surrender and wandered off through the crowd.
I wasn’t quite ready to believe that was the end of it, so I asked C. if she wanted to go sing some old songs at a Karaoke bar. We grabbed some travelers to sip on our way, as we stumbled through the streets of PDC singing at the top of our lungs.
We managed to get through a few slurred songs at karaoke before they were closing. C. had to hit the bathroom and I waited for her out on the sidewalk.
“There’s the cunt from Vancouver!”
Fuck. I turned around to see douchecanoe and his squad walking toward me. He had a wounded look on his face as he got closer.
“Why’d you have to be such a bitch? I was going to buy you a drink. Maybe dance a little bit.”
“Leave me alone, please.” I looked through the bar window impatiently for C.
He stepped closer. “You’re such an entitled little whore.” Spittle flew from his mouth.
Panic was setting in. I nervously checked my watch. He was so close now, he looked down to see what it said, too. “3:30 in the morning. Is that the witching hour? Because you’re a witch.”
I couldn’t help it. I laughed. That was the worst insult I’d ever heard.
“What? What does that even mean? You fucking idiot.”
He grabbed my arms and pulled me toward him. He was pressed up against me and fear shot through my body.
“You’ll regret turning me down, cunt.” His golfing buddies laughed behind him.
“Vete! Vete! Llamaré a la policía!” The bartender had emerged from the karaoke bar. A 40-something Mexican man.
“Shut up, you fucking bean, no one know what you’re saying!” He dropped his hands, pulled away from me and turned to laugh with the peanut gallery.
“He told you to get out of here or he’ll call the police.”
Adam looked at me viciously. “You’ll regret it.” He turned and walked away.
I shuddered. I hadn’t expected him to get that bent out of shape over the whole thing.
C. finally came out of the bar and I told her what happened.
“They can’t all be Fred Astaire.” She sighed. “Let’s grab some tacos.”
Around the corner, there was an all-night taco stand. Señor Tacombi’s. They were the most delicious tacos served out of an old, remodelled VW van. I ordered a couple of shrimp tacos and reached for my wallet to pay. I patted around my pockets. Nothing. It was gone.
“That motherfucker!” I exclaimed. C. cocked her head and looked at me.
“That fucking motherfucker Colts fan Adam. He stole my fucking wallet!” My heart was pounding. There was no way I would ever find it or him again.
“Are you fucking kidding me? Check your back pocket.”
“I did. I don’t have it.”
“Let’s retrace our steps.” She offered. She paid for my tacos and we headed back to Coco Maya, hoping it wasn’t true and I’d just left the wallet somewhere. When we arrived there, the bouncer was gone and in his place was a little person in a 3 piece black and white striped suit. Like, thick stripes, not pinstripes. He had a black top hat on and walked with a cane. I asked him about my wallet, and if anyone had turned one in, etc. He took off running through the place asking this guy and that guy and I’m trying to follow him through the thick crowds dancing on the dance floors, the strobe lights and smoke from smoke machines, pounding techno music. I keep catching glimpses of black and white stripes and follow in that direction and he’s not there, then I see black and white stripes streaking through the crowd again and follow him again and he’s not there, and over and over until I felt like the whole night had been written by Lewis Carroll and my brain was spinning, full of tequila and Victorias and Sols and Modelos. Then the be-striped man finally emerges from the chaos and says “no tengo” and shows me his empty hands. I felt like crying.
“He took it, C. He had to have.” I looked up at the sky in disbelief. “He fucking said it. He said I would regret turning him down. Fucking hell.”
Defeated, we wandered home. I woke up Christmas morning to a pounding head and a checklist a mile long to help me figure out how to replace everything in my wallet from two countries away.
When people asked me what I got for Christmas that year, I answered every time, “A lesson: Never trust a Colts fan.”