The last save date for this post was 21st May 2016. It is an historical recollection at the time it was written. For more about looking backwards, read the introduction.
Enjoy what was...
Dear Adventurous Reader,
I panicked. I never knew I had it in me. I always thought that I took situations with a grain of salt, with a dab of butter. But it seems that going to Mexico, with not much of a plan was too much.
We crossed into Mexico with no hassles. Passed the man at the booth, were stopped by a border guard, who looked in the trunk and didn’t want to check if we had things to declare. Then we were in the country, right into the streets of Nuevo Laredo, without a clue where to go.
The rain was falling in torrents. Huge swathes of water fell on the windshield, and were pushed away by the wipers in was could have been bucket-fulls (at least the wipers were working). I pulled over on the side of the road, struck that the border-controls were so light. It did not feel like we crossed a border, we just changed cities, but there was something different.
There were no signs. No directions. So, in my first instinct I started getting frustrated with Jacqui. After some gentle coaching she suggested we drive forward. Large blue signs directed us down some side streets, and around a long u-turn that felt as if we were being taken back to the US.
The rain kept streaming down. One boy commented that “This is the most rain I have ever seen.”
The building was long, and white. Pulling up in the car, we ran inside to avoid as much of the rain that we could.
Visas. Car Import. Insurance.
Getting our visas sorted, and the car imported, was easy. It could have been difficult, considering the very limited (read none) Spanish that we speak. Within an hour we were out the other side, in a car line-up to exit Mexico. It was the wrong line. The guard waved us through, with a smile (or a laugh), and into the streets of Nuevo Laredo.
Driving Rain, or Driving Sane?
Busy. Cars sliding from lane to lane without indicating. The rain had poured huge pools of water onto the road, and driving through caused it to splash onto the windscreen.
We pull up at a light. A man and his friend look into the window and started yelling. I talk back, “No hablo espanol.” To which he say the number 300, raising 3 fingers. Then he draws a line across his throat, points to the back of the car, and repeats the 300. I tell him again “No hablo espanol”, and look out the front window, waiting for the light to change.
Not sure if it was a threat, or just someone having a bit of fun, I celebrate that the light changed colour, only to wonder if he started to follow me.
Three toots from the car behind.
I drive half across a lane. A truck passes.
“We need to find an ATM.” I say.
“There’s a Walmart.” But I am stuck in traffic. No way to merge. No way to get to the lane. These roads no longer lead to Walmart.
Road works. A man waving a red flag with gusto.
A am repeating myself from the last few days. “Where are we going?” and then reply, “Nowhere, just yet. But it will probably be okay.” I’d wave my hands. “Probably.”
My head aches. My eyes are darting around making sure no one will merge into our car. I find it difficult to talk, and my two lower fingers are tingling.
I stop indicating, no one else is. I don’t want to appear too much of a foreigner. In my white Suburban, with foreign plates, and import sticker.
I slip off my wedding ring. Take down the GPS grip that we have not used. Pity the air condition is broken so I cannot do up my windows. I want to hide. Not cause any problems.
What followed was me loosing my mind. Pressure, stress, confusion. The past weeks of discussions, the past weeks of trying to understand our position on which way to go. They all flood out of me.
The remaining fingers start to tingle, it feels like pins are being pressed into my skin. Shaking my hands didn’t do anything. Signs flashed past us, in a language I cannot understand. Words that look like “caution”, and something about “accident”. Attractive faces with smiles, and long names that I cannot pronounce.
A while down the highway my foot feels numb. My chest feels heavy, and I am reminded of people breathing into paper bags; we have no paper bags. I think that the driving keeps me sane - it is not like there are any places to pull over on the side of the road.
I was talking to myself for a long time. Trying to speak reason to a situation that I could find no reason. I knew I was panicking. I knew that there was something wrong in my brain, but the pieces weren’t correcting themselves. It was falling apart, my brain slowly becoming undone.
Toll booth. Slow and pay. Check booth, “No hablo espanol” - it is my mantra, the first thing I say when speaking gets difficult. A second man comes to the car. He asks some questions, checks our papers and waves us on.
Eventually. After 100kms of driving on the highway, I found peace. Numbness. A washing of confusion in a place of steady unease. Highway driving is something we have become accustomed to over the past few years, so I can handle that. Forward motion. Moving forward.
There was a time when I had thought that I could handle anything. Life’s little problems were not a worry to me. Care free. A shrug of a shoulder, and we would move on to the next thing. Take it step by step. Problems would arise, and I would smile, and we would move on to the next thing.
The time when I thought I could handle anything has passed. Yesterday morning I was reluctant to leave, and yesterday afternoon I spent more than an hour driving Mexican roads with the brain of a crazy person. Maybe, just maybe, I am capable of a mental breakdown.
Pressure. Stress. Confusion. The cracks are starting to show.
I try and think how it will be okay. I know in the back of my mind it will be okay. But I cannot get rid of this deep sense of unease. Unease for the future, for what we have done and what we will do.
I cannot find it in myself to find peace with these scars.
Jacqui talks of moving on, or going home. I am worried to get behind the wheel of the car. The road into the town scares me. I don’t know what will happen.
Some of this email was written in the car after we arrived at a place in Mexico, choosing not to get out of the car (I sent it to a friend who was very comforting in reply).