You wake up at sunrise. This close to the equator, it doesn’t vary much. About 5:30, the sky starts to lighten. You look out the window to the sea. Any cruise ships blocking your view? Not today. You smile. Only a couple of early morning fishing boats out.
You get ready to run. You know you’re not here long enough to fully adjust to the humidity. You set small goals, figuring 2 miles in 80 degrees with 84% humidity is probably equivalent to 4 miles in 50 degrees and 35% humidity. There’s an algorithm there, you’re certain.
Because you’re not from around here and you don’t want to get lost in the city known as San Miguel de Cozumel, you have two choices: run along the sea wall, into downtown (north); or you could run out towards Caleta Harbor, where the boat pulled out for scuba diving, away from town (south). Most days, you choose away from downtown. The pavement poured smooth here, in front of the Cozumel Naval Dock and various resorts. A bike and walking path assures safe passage. As you move away from the ocean, the trees come up thick on both sides. Commuters pass you. Most ride scooters. Sometimes, entire families – father, mother and kid in the middle – surge by. Bicyclists greet you. “Buenos dias!” You manage a strangled greeting as the humidity starts to get to you. You have yet to see any mammals on this island, save dogs. Some walk their owners and some are happy-looking strays. You did smell skunk spray the other morning. You count yourself lucky to have missed that encounter.
The pavement downtown looks like uneven frosting in some places, broken like mosaic in others. You notice pavement because you used to work in your city’s public works department, and they fixed roads and sidewalks. You also know the taxi drivers congregate on the sea wall. They stand around, shooting the bull, waiting for tourists. You ran that gauntlet once. Cries of “Hola, amiga!” greeted you. Sheepish, you “hola-ed” back. Just being polite. Then on the way back, one older gent told you “good job”. Which was nice but awkward.
Yet this morning, your last time on Cozumel, you want to run by the water again. So you turn left into the city. You figure you’ll just keep running like a crazy gringa past any loitering drivers.
You pass other runners. Runners acknowledge each other, too, even more so here. One thing you like about runners here is nobody runs fast. Everyone is sweating like they failed a lie detector test in a murder trial. You haven’t seen any Olympic runners yet. Groups of walkers pass you. The sun rises slowly to your right, blocked by the office buildings and hotels. You relish the small pocket of shade this provides. To your left, beyond the sea wall, lies the ocean. This side of the island faces the Gulf of Mexico, which yields a gentle surf. The slate-gray water holds a few yachts and catamarans moored just offshore. They bob up and down in the silence.
As you turn around, you contemplate what it would take to live here. This is summer, which you heard is their rainy season. You know what a rainy season is. This ain’t it. The appeal of near-constant sunshine draws you. But the hot, damp air and taking 3 showers a day don’t appeal. Cruise ships, up to four a day, dock right offshore. The town swells with tourists every day but Sunday. An educational taxi driver told you that Cozumel contains 70,000 souls in a 3-mile area. This is the low season, he said. It has a negligible crime rate, too.
You know it could be fun living here. Ruby would do well, with all the Spanish she’s learned at her grade school. You could swim whenever you wanted. You could get dive certified here, with some of the best scuba diving in the world. Jonathon telecommutes anyway. He could pick up and go, no problem. Zac leaves for college in 2 months, so he would be alright.
Yet in your heart of hearts, you know this is fantasy. You miss your family and friends, and jeans. You miss roses and Douglas firs and cats. You miss your church. You miss worship, and conversing in your native tongue. You miss seasons. You miss feeling cold. You miss decent chocolate cake. You won’t miss mosquitoes. You can point out your 8 itchy bites right now. You belong at home, in Shelton.
You say goodbye to the turquoise waves and the kind, hospitable people of Cozumel. You hope to return one day, but if not, adios, amigos. Thanks for sharing your beautiful island with the world.
The whole wooden structure (above)was held together entirely with driftwood and dreams.
Punta Sur, on the Caribbean Ocean side of the island.
Pete the Pelican, unofficial El Cid Hotel mascot