Jump to the first story
She had just one wish for the holidays. Peace. Not the world kind of peace. Inner peace. Yuma needed to forget the divorce from a lifeless marriage, to find herself once again. Wow, did that sound corny. But it was the truth, damn it.
Yuma sat at the back of the tour bus and rested her forehead against the window, breathing the cool outside air seeping in around the window seal, trying to avoid the combined breath wafting from the gabby, fat couple in the seat in front of her. It was obvious they’d recently enjoyed the local specialty, salsa rich with cilantro and onions. A fish in an oxygen-deprived aquarium would have more fresh air. Thick green foliage of trees, bushes, and vines whizzed by.
Her sister, Setty, hadn’t cheered her on when she’d announced her vacation. Well-meaning-still-married Setty told her that a trip to Cancun, Mexico, solo, was crazy, yet she hadn’t tried to talk her out of her one-person holiday. In fact, Yuma thought her sister envied her a bit, taking off by herself. It was romantic. There’s romantic and there’s romance. Yuma had insisted reflection was her goal, not romance. Setty had given her that oh-sure-whatever-you-say smile. It didn’t do any good to argue with her sister who believed all the important things in life like sex, kids, mowed lawns and a well-tuned auto required a man. She didn’t need what Setty needed.
But…if a little romance came her way, a slight distraction from reflection, then that would be fine.
The bus slowed as it traveled along the main street of a small town. Franco, the tour guide, gave a running commentary on village life in a Mexican town. Picking up speed, moments later, they approached the entrance to the Mayan ruins of Tulum.
Yuma looked at the backs of the heads of her fellow tourists. And they came in twos; old couples, young couples, a gay couple, and two elderly English ladies who kept asking the guide personal questions and turning around to smile at Yuma every few miles. The empty seat beside her became a neon sign announcing this woman in her forties is alone. Well, she was just very twenty-first century traveling without a companion.
Although, it would’ve been okay to see someone else sightseeing alone, someone that would perhaps have found her interesting enough to chance a…friendship.
But there was no single, middle-aged, American professor specializing in Mayan history who would ask her to his room after the tour to share a bottle of wine; who would find her irresistible long into the night, and serve her breakfast at dawn.
“You will enjoy the tour, even if Mexico is unreasonably cold.” Franco laughed heartily at his play on words as the bus pulled into the parking lot. Day two in sunny Mexico remained chilly and cloudy, exactly like day one. Guaranteed warmth should’ve accompanied the high price of a holiday vacation.
Hugging her jean jacket to her, Yuma stepped off the bus and into the arms of the two English ladies, one on each side, looping their arms around hers.
“Hello, dearie. We saw you were alone and thought you should chum with us. I’m Maureen.” Maureen looked over rectangle gold-framed glasses perched on a nose not quite in the middle of her face. Bright hazel eyes smiled under fluttering white lashes. The warmth of her bony fingers penetrated the jean jacket covering Yuma’s arm. “This is my baby sister, Helen.”
Helen tugged slightly on her, forcing Yuma to shift her attention to the plumper face of the baby sister. Faded blue eyes stared up while a whiskered upper lip curled in a smile, reminding Yuma of a baby seal in a Disney movie she took her niece to see. Helen patted her arm. “We single birds have to stick together.”
The single birds followed Franco around the grounds of Tulum, learning bits of Mayan history sprinkled with tour guide humor, the best of which amused Yuma and eluded the English sisterhood. They stayed at the front of the group for Helen’s sake, partly deaf in her left ear, according to Maureen, thanks to a bloody kick to the head from a mongrel cousin when she was four.
“Have you been single long?” Baby sister Helen asked when the tour concluded for lunch. “You leave him or did he leave you for a younger woman?”
“Helen! Don’t be so nosey!”
Helen’s seal lips pouted, and her round eyes grew watery. “I was only making conversation, Miss Bossy. You came up with the younger woman scenario anyway.” She took a huge, triumphant bite out of her cheese sandwich.
“Well!” Maureen turned to Yuma. “Sorry, dearie, but…”
“No need.” Yuma waved off the explanation. “I think I wear divorced like a badge. Or maybe a scary mask.”
“Oh, nonsense,” Maureen said. “A sweet, young thing like you? There must be all sorts of opportunity for romance.”
Yuma smiled at the sweet, young thing description. “I don’t really care about romance.”
“Romance is highly overrated.” Helen nodded, mouth full of sandwich, hurt feelings apparently forgotten. “In this day and age you can get more than romance if you aren’t careful.”
Maureen clucked her tongue and gave her sister a scornful look.
Yuma knew the middle-aged redhead in the commercial loan department at work would agree with Helen. She would’ve preferred to bring back a case of pineapples from Hawaii rather than her case of herpes. But Helen needn’t worry. This Mexican vacation, solo style, was not a desperation samba. Yuma needed some time alone, that was all.
Still, it would’ve been okay if yesterday, walking the streets of old Cancun, shopping the Mercado, and eating lunch on the patio of a restaurant under cloudy skies, she’d met someone. But there was no young Don Juan plying her with tequila and seducing her into getting a tattoo on her hip while caressing her cheek and murmuring what a fascinating creature she was.
“No more romance for you, Helen?” Yuma crumpled her napkin and stuffed it into her empty paper cup. The notion of romance finding Helen seemed more remote than the idea that Helen could even know what dangers lurked in a careless flirtatious union.
“Oh, if it were true romance, I wouldn’t walk away from it.” She scrubbed mayonnaise from her whiskers. “I’ve had my share though, dearie. It’s Maureen here that’s always on the lookout for a man, the marrying kind.”
“Helen, really!” Maureen stood and carried her lunch container to the trashcan.
More composed when she returned to the table, she didn’t sit down again. “You’ll have to excuse my sister. She has no sense of propriety.” She looked down over her glasses and gave her sister an obviously long-practiced scowl, a speechless language understood between siblings.
“I think they’re loading the bus.” Yuma stood and tossed her lunch remnants into the trashcan. “Thanks for the company. Enjoy your holiday.” Walking away from the sisters, she was glad Franco had instructed everyone to return to their same seats. Chumming with Helen could be amusing, but Maureen – not so much.
Yuma was the fifth one back in her seat. The gay couple quietly bickered, sitting as far apart as the bus seating would allow. Gabby fat couple clumped together, silently. Mr. had his head back and his eyes closed, rubbing his bulbous abdomen. It wasn’t that she needed someone in her life. She proved that when she walked away from a twenty-year marriage. She certainly didn't need the arguing or the nursemaid duties all men seemed to require. That was unfair. She’d had one marriage, one man. Maybe they didn’t all need nursemaids. Mrs. Gabby Fat Couple opened a package of antacid tablets, took out two, and placed them on Mr.’s extended tongue.
It’s always easier to figure out what you don’t need. The trick is figuring out what you do need. So what did she need in her life?
Maybe all husbands weren’t selfish, unimaginative, reticent and clueless. She was hard pressed to think of any of the men she knew that wasn’t. Leaning her head back, she stared at the ceiling. Maybe Dr. Tanner, her optometrist. Or Carl in accounting. Not knowing them on a personal level she could imagine them to be different from the husbands she actually knew. Could Dr. Tanner look into his wife’s eyes without checking for glaucoma, could he see the soul without seeing the iris?
What did she expect from this trip? Turning her head, she looked out at gray skies and sighed. She expected to get some damn sun in Mexico and lie on the beach in the bright yellow two-piece swimsuit that cost too much. Then again, if some younger-than-she-was hunk happened to notice her and find her attractive, she’d be like Helen and not walk, or swim, away from him. She closed her eyes and rested her head against the window. A little sun, a little adventure, a little…
“Do you mind?” A deep voice asked as he settled into the seat beside her.