It was a little nerve-wracking coming back to Playa del Carmen, a place we had loved so much during our last stay.
“What if it’s not the same?!” my neurosis screamed. Or worse, “What if it’s EXACTLY the same and I get bored?!” (just to ensure it covered all the bases of negative outcomes).
After being stamped into the country for a whole six months at Cancun’s immigration counter, we boarded the ADO bus bound for Playa, just as we had done five months previously. I overheard a lady inquiring at the ticket counter about an express bus to Merida. In Spanish, and I understood her. I understood her!
That made me smile.
When we entered the gates of the Quinta Margarita apartments, our landlord Offner greeted us like old friends, which in a way, we were. When we left a few moths ago, we told him we’d be back someday, not realizing it would be so soon. He showed us to a studio apartment a few doors down from the last one we stayed in, assuring us, ‘our place’ would be vacant in a week.
After dumping our bags and trying to overcome the feeling that we were in our friends’ Sabina and Phillip’s place, we emerged to settle our rent for the month.
“Nah, we’ll do it later,” Offner dismissed us casually, “It’s good to have you guys back.”
We still haven’t paid him.
We wandered down to La Exqusita de la 38, our favourite taco restaurant nearby. We ordered the usual, then heard our names being shouted from the kitchen.
“Sarah and Ty!” the owner Brian cried as he rushed outside, bringing with him a look of surprise. “I was just thinking about you guys the other day!”
We told him we’d been thinking about him and his delicious tacos for the last three months.
We collapsed into bed that night, barely able to keep our eyes open past 8pm. Thanks to jet lag, we awoke early and traced our familiar route down to the beach, three blocks away.
“It’s cold!” I exaggerated as I braced myself against the breeze, unaccustomed to February’s cool mornings.
We walked along the coastline and observed the different shape of the shore, sculpted by the tide’s unusually choppy water. Last year we arrived in September to searing temperatures and calm, glass-like seas. It was as though ‘our beach’ had gone wild like a wayward teenager and I was the scorning parent who didn’t approve of its rough new look.
A man cast a wide net into the Caribbean and drew it in, empty but for a small silver fish he tossed to a feathered friend.
“He’s my assistant,” he joked to us as we took photos of El Pelicano.
I side-stepped a piece of sharp, hard plastic and scorned the tides or the tourists or whoever the hell was responsible for the litter.
“What’s going on?” I asked no-one-in-particular.
“I hate it here, let’s just LEAVE!” Tyrhone cried in a dramatically effeminate tone, mocking me.
We laughed, slapping our feet through the cool, shallow whitewash.
And then, he appeared.
“Buenos Dias!” the man stated, as though imparting a fact rather than a greeting. I knew his face well, but not his name. I accepted his small but precious gift with so much gratitude, for whilst I had flown to Australia via Dallas, driven across India, then flown to London via Singapore and back again, he had been here, striding along the beach as he had done every day since I left, gathering delicate shells in his brown fingers to give to passers by.
And just like that, I knew all was well in Playa, as it had always been, and always would be, no matter what changed or stayed the same.
Remember when I received a similar gift from the same man last year? Read this post if you missed it…