October 30, 1991
Fernando and I skedaddled out of the Señora’s Zipolite compound in the early morning, making our way back to Ruta 200 through beautiful Puerto Angel and south down the heavily forested two-lane coastal road to what I think of as Hualtulco Bay, a nameless curve of coast west of the town of Santa Maria Huatulco. The entire area is called Bahías de Huatulco, the Bays of Huatulco —there are nine of ’em—and none called Huatulco.
It didn’t take us long to establish our routine. Fer loved to drive the combi, a pleasure I didn’t share, wrestling the cumbersome beast around the sharp mountainous curves of coastal Oaxaca. He possessed infinite patience with UYOLKAN, “heart of sky” in not quite grammatical Yucatecan Maya. He understood her limits and was happy to promenade at a pace I found gruelingly slow when I drove.
I had plenty of time to see Mexico once Fernando became my chauffeur. That morning he took pride in showing me his country, stopping as often as I wanted, allowing me to photograph anything that caught my eye. While he drove, he talked. And talked. And talked. Notes in my dictionary, never far from my reach, tell me I looked up words having to do with Mexico’s history, politics and social order.
Although I spoke very little Spanish, I fell under Fernando’s magico from the moment we met, and I understood the gist of his dissertations. The problem was, I simply couldn’t respond. When I really needed to say something, I resorted to English, but Fernando spoke Spanish and German—no English.
Fer had lived in Munich with a German tourist he’d met while working at a Cancun resort. He thought he would marry her, but found living in Germany was not for him. He struggled with the language. He hated the climate and the rigid culture. He’d felt isolated and lonely, longing for the land of mañana so much, he came home. Remembering what it was like, he did all he could to make my experience more pleasant. I loved him for that. Although sometimes frustration got the better of me, we got by in a simple, child-like Spanish when it was necessary to communicate with full understanding, mostly regarding common daily necessities like finding food or gas, feeding the dog, stopping for a beer and finding a bathroom.
While Fernando talked incessantly when we drove, conversation wasn’t our big connection in Huatulco. Once we got away from Zipolite, Sam and Gerardo, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. I quickly learned the true meaning of caliente.
Fernando’s thick golden-brown hair curled onto his neck and waved off his forehead, highlighting his gorgeous sea-blue eyes. Sexy plump lips grinned around straight white teeth, and he had a way of appearing like an innocent puppy—so adorable I just wanted to pet him all the time. I’ve never met a man who looked better waking up grimey with sweat, rumpled clothes sticking to him, in the back of a VW bus in a PEMEX station, three-day whiskers scruffing his face. Sam couldn’t compete with the sheer sex appeal of this Mexicano Macho. Fernando turned out to be the quintessential Latin Lover—in all its connotations.
Our first night in Huatulco counts as one of the top-ten hottest nights of my life. I have a visceral memory of the feel of Fernando’s smooth skin next to mine. The rasp of his beard on my cheek. The faintly sen-sen scent of his breath. The burning trails left by his lips across my thighs. I can feel the weight of his arm as it draped over my shoulder. Our relationship was founded on a tactile communication, but later, as my Spanish improved, our connection to one another diminished.
We landed on a large deserted bowl-like bay surrounded by dark green forested mountains. We drove right out onto the sand and set up camp, the only folks there on a late Wednesday morning. The wild, empty beach sloped down to the frothing surf— not your average tourist beach with gentle waves, but crashing, thunderous surf colliding with shore.
Fernando had not participated in the setting up of my combi campsite before. He was interested in how I’d built my rolling home, what I’d included and how it all worked. The combi gave him stars in his eyes. There is something compelling about being able to go as you please, dependent on no one and nothing except PEMEX, Petroleos Mexicanos,and money I’d inherited from my grandfather. But even the illusion of freedom is exhilarating.
On Playa San Agustín, I taught Fernando how set up camp and made some lunch. He immediately got the hang of threading the canopy through the track and staking it in place with telescoping poles and lines tied with truckers knots then whipping the folding chairs off the roof, hanging the canvas seats in place and “¡ya, listo!” Ready to eat.
After sandwiches, we settled Parsley under the bus, locked the doors, and took off down to the water to swim. About this time, a pickup trailering two jet skis pulled out of the forest onto the beach near our camp. We sauntered back and soon Fernando had engaged the driver in conversation. It turned out he was an American, Jerry, living in Huatulco in a house-trailer with his Mexican wife and two children. She worked at a school and he played at the beach with his jet skis. That day, he and his little boy and a couple of other adult friends came out to ride the skis. I can’t remember how they got them into the water, or how Fernando convinced them to let us ride one, but I do remember us jetting across the bay, my hair streaming behind me in the wind, as we bounced from wave to wave. I felt exhilarated and scared and clutched Fernando tightly around his waist. We zigged and zagged, sending up great rooster tails of spray and passing sparks of electricity between us.
The mouth of the bahía yawned wide, but two or three rocks jutted up, forming small islands on the ocean side. The heavy, grey-blue water surged and chopped into white caps as the wind came up. I worried about capsizing, but Fernando raced us into the wind and across the wind and with the wind until we flew. Neither of us wanted to give the machine back at the end of our ride.
Jerry, invited us to spend the night at his trailer park. He and Fernando had hit it off, probably because they each had foreign “spouses” in common. We had other plans, and wanted our seclusion.
By late afternoon Fernando and I were alone. I set up the sun shower off the back of the bus, a brilliant piece of low-tech technology, consisting of a heavy plastic bag, clear on one side and black on the other that holds a couple gallons of water. A two-foot hose with a red shower nozzle at the end attachesat the bottom and a cord for hanging to is tied to the top. When left black-side up in the sun, the water heats to as hot as I ever wanted it. I had devised a way to set up a heavy plastic curtain and the sun shower off the back of my camper, but alone on the beach, we skipped the curtain and washed off the salt with a shared “tank” of hot water in glorious nature.
Clean, dry, and back in shorts, we wandered down the beach devoid of shells, driftwood, seaweed and trash—a perfect white crescent in a perfect green and blue bowl. The energy that arced between us had taken on a faint tinge of cerise. And I was holding the hand of a perfect man. In our short acquaintance, Fernando had treated me, and my dog, kindly, gentlemanly; he held my door, my towel. He helped me to sit and stand. He carried my parcels. He drove my car. And he looked at me with a visage of warm loving acceptance that I had never before experienced. I had fallen under his spell, and I felt certain he had fallen under mine. I knew Fernando and I were destined to be together.
We wandered to the water at the base of the cliff that jutted up from the beach and formed the right boundary of the bay. There, atop the rock face grew a giant Nopal cactus with broad flat paddles, and swooping down to that cactus, a dangling snake gripped in its talons, an eagle.
Fernando grabbled me in a bear hug and danced me around the sand. “I knew coming home [from Germany] was the right thing to do! That’s the symbol of Mexico. See it, see it? That’s my symbol. I’m cien por ciento mexicano and I’m back in my place. And now I’ve met my Anita. Es mi destino—it’s my destiny.”
One wouldn’t think it possible to ramp up the energy between us any more than it was, but this eagle with the snake, the symbol for Mexico displayed on the flag, supercharged the emotions and sensations running through us. Was this love?