I’ve been brewing over the past, the future and wrestling the present moment into a bear hug, desperate to stay grounded.
I have been thinking about what happened in Playa del Carmen after I discovered I was pregnant.
We all make choices, and then we live with those choices.
What I experienced in Playa del Carmen after discovering I am pregnant, was a rollercoaster of emotions.
I found myself reflecting on the series of choices that led me to the moment where I was sitting on the beach in the dark with Addison, listening to the waves and watching their white crests glint against the moonlight.
I had chosen to leave Addison, and to ride my bicycle to Brazil.
I chose to ride from Austin, leaving Brazil for last.
I didn’t just go straight to Brazil, because I wanted to follow the line I had started when I left Vermont on a bicycle 3 years ago.
If I had known I would only be gone for 3 months, yes, I would have gone straight to Brazil.
But I didn’t know that.
When you tell your life partner that you’re leaving them for 6-9 months and you don’t know when you’ll be back, naturally they must make adjustments of their own.
The trajectory of our lives had been splitting apart, and this child seemed to have appeared to make us reconsider everything.
In a way, it should have been relieving.
Being pregnant would mean I could go home. It could mean I wouldn’t lose Addison.
And it could mean many many other things.
Those many other things washed over me as I sat in the sand with Addison.
What about capoeira?
What about our music careers?
What about making it all the way to Brazil?
What about the book I was going to write once I finished my 9 month journey?
I imagine many new parents experience these kinds feelings.
New life bringing a sense of death to their old life.
But never once have I heard a parent tell me that they regretted having kids.
I am so fascinated by old people. People who have been through all of this and more. People whose children are already grown, and whose grandchildren have already been born.
When I see an old lady, I stare at her, study her, think about what she might be thinking about, how it might be to be her.
Her hands are wrinkled and covered with blue veins and dots, her face is sagging and her hair is thin. But her eyes are the same color as when she was 16.
She has lived–far longer than I have–with her choices.
She had dreams too. She hoped for things.
When she was young, she imagined her life to look a certain way, imagined the great things she would accomplish.
She fell in love, she broke hearts, she had her heart broken.
Maybe she tried to become a concert pianist, but it was too hard. Maybe her parents couldn’t afford the lessons. Maybe she lost interest when she got older because than she wanted to be the lead singer of a rock band.
Maybe she wanted to travel around the world.
Maybe she wanted to be a school teacher.
Most likely she wanted to be loved, respected, admired.
Maybe some of these things happened. Maybe none of them did. Maybe they happened in broken bits and pieces.
But by the time she is in her 70s or 80s, how much of it really matters to her anymore?
Or does it haunt her?
I hear Tom Waits’ voice drift through my head at this moment:
“What does it matter, a dream of love or a dream of lies?
We’re all gonna be in the same place when we die.
Your spirit don’t leave knowing
Your face or your name
The wind in your bones is all that remains.
And we’re all gonna be just dirt in the ground.”
Thanks for reading. Don’t want these posts to be too long, so I’m practicing keeping them a bit shorter. I have the next part mostly written and I’ll share it soon!
Throughout the past 6 months, things have been happening in my life and with Addison that I find myself hesitant to talk about in this blog. It just seems so gory and personal. I imagine that I will write with full honesty for my book, and then once it’s published and released to the world, I can only hope that my visceral story details will bring insight, smiles, relief, understanding and perhaps a feeling of ‘not being alone in this crazy world’ to my readers.
But perhaps I will never get so real with the faceless crowd. Perhaps it’s better to keep some semblance of a wall up.
All of that being said, my inability to write completely honestly makes it hard to write about what happened next after my arrival to Playa del Carmen.
I left off with the story of Watson and I in a bar, just after I had taken my pregnancy test and thought surely the double lines were really a single line with a very faint second line…
Addison would be arriving to visit me in Playa del Carmen, in just two days. He would stay in town with me for 4 days and then I would continue south into Belize and the rest of Central of America.
“It is HOT TODAY…” I exclaimed, as Watson and I walked out to a cafe for breakfast the next day.
“Jeez, it’s only spring,” Watson commented. “Wait’ll it hits summer here!”
“Thanks but no thanks. This is bad enough for me.”
The sounds of our footsteps scuffing on the pavement and the occasional scooter passing us filled the muggy air. I had been feeling incredibly sensitive to the heat, and my nausea was increasing. I felt slightly ill all day every day.
I didn’t like the sound of hearing myself complain about the heat constantly, but it just seemed truly unbearable to me. By 10 am, the best I could do was hide in Watson’s room, his fan oscillating in a lonely manner above my head.
I felt a growing sense of dread at Addison’s arrival. I hoped being face to face would clear up some of the inexplicable feelings of panic I was having about our relationship. But at the same time it didn’t really matter. We would be together for a few days, and then once I again I would hit the road and we wouldn’t see eachother for a couple more months.
“I am excited,” I allowed. “But also kind of dreading it. I’m going to have to live with the things he’s decided he needs to do while I’m away, and I’m just not handling it very gracefully.”
It was so strange to be eating breakfast side by side with other white people. Australian, English, American, French.
Why in the world would anyone want to come here for vacation? I caught myself thinking, as I looked around at all of the tourists. It’s hot, crowded, smells weird…
I stopped my thoughts.
Jeez, what is wrong with me? Why am I getting so down on Mexico?
I had begun to dread the thought of continuing my cycle tour in Central America. Cycle touring in Mexico had not been nearly as enjoyable as my cycle tour across the U.S., and I had no illusions that Central American roads and cities would be much better–or at all cooler. If anything, it was just going to get more and more hot the further south I went.
I was fantasizing about mountains, cool spring breezes drifting through pine needles, chickadees singing, their voices carrying through the forest dreamily.
“So when do you head to Alaska?” I asked Watson. He was leaving Playa del Carmen soon, and going to work on a fishing boat in some incredibly tiny town in Alaska.
“I gave the guys at the brewery my 2 months notice almost a month ago,” Watson said. He had moved down to Playa to help start a brewery with a couple of Argentinian guys who were friends with the owner of the Thirsty Planet Brewery in Austin where Watson had been working before. “But they still haven’t gotten my replacement down here to start training. I told ’em they’d better get their shit together, ’cause come the end of this month I am outta here!” He cut through the air with his hand, indicating a swift exit.
Watson was as keen to get out of Mexico as I was, except he was headed North and I was headed… South.
I sighed. “I feel ya.”
He shook his head, grinning humorlessly. “Yeah I SAY that… but really, if they do need me to stay longer, I probably will. I couldn’t leave them high and dry like that.” He sucked in some smoothie noisily and banged the cup down. “But goddamit guys, get your shit together!” He laughed.
Before I knew it, Friday March 18th had arrived, and I was clinging to Watson for dear life on the back of his motorcycle as we whipped through the sunny, Playa del Carmen traffic on our way to the Cancun airport.
Along the way, we stopped to see Pescadores, the brewery where Watson worked.
Once we arrived at the airport, Watson dropped me off and headed back to get some work done. I wandered around the airport, trying to figure out where to wait for arrivals.
I waited for what felt like a long time, watching white tourist after white tourist emerge from the arrivals area, looking dazed, confused, excited, or all of the above. I was nervous in a weird, not-very-fun way.
I’m not sure if this is a Mexican thing, but the screens that would have told me when the various flights were arriving, were inside the set of sliding, double doors that passengers were constantly exiting out of, but through which I was not supposed to go through.
I stood as close as I could to the doors to try and catch sight of Addison’s flight number on the screen inside, but finally I gave up and asked a guard if I could go in to look at the screen. He went to look at the computer for me and came back, telling me the flight number was not listed on the arrival screen.
“It does not mean that flight is not arriving,” he told me, “it’s just not on the screen.”
I nodded in confusion. How am I supposed to know if Addison’s flight is arriving at all then? I wondered, feeling irked.
But then, as I was being led to a desk to try and find out more, a tall, bearded, viking looking man emerged from the crowd.
“There you are!” I cried, before I buried my face in Addison’s big chest.
We made our way out to the bus area, paying an extravagant amount for a tiny bottle of water (I had forgotten to bring any sustenance with me). It was nice to see Addison, but also kind of awkward. I felt like there was a big, hairy gorilla standing between us, with a bad case of flatulence. I tried to pretend the gorilla wasn’t there, and smiled at Addison, who smiled back.
We took a bus back to Playa del Carmen, and the whole time I tried not to talk about the things that were disturbing me so deeply. They were the sort of things that I could easily convince myself I was making up.
We were staying at an air bnb apartment near downtown Playa.
I feel such an overwhelming sense of nausea and a retchfulness (no, that is not a word–yes, I made it up) when I remember that apartment and the bathroom…
It’s a big reason why I’ve procrastinated on writing this bit of the story, because it happens at this retchful apartment…
I’m going to get through this section really fast, before I throw up, so bear with me… (also, I will not reread to spell check certain sections, so I apologize in advance for grammatical errors)
As in many toilets in Mexico, we were asked not to flush the toilet paper. So imagine a hot, not-well-ventilated bathroom with a trash can full of poopy and peepee covered toilet paper. Add the distinct aroma of the blue chemical water that filled the toilet itself, and evil smelling chemical deodorizers hanging off the toilet, and voila…! You have the perfect recipe for never wanting to go into the bathroom.
If I absolutely had to get in there, I would pull my pants down before entering, and then plug my nose throughout the transaction. Afterwards I would hurl myself out of the bathroom, wheezing and gagging and jamming my face out of a window.
Addison was only going to be in Playa del Carmen for 4 days. So during this time we had to connect (since we wouldn’t be seeing eachother for another 2 months while I cycled across Central America), work out the status of our relationship, process, and also try to enjoy ourselves.
We visited the ocean everyday, ate at restaurants and ice cream shops, played music with Watson out on the beach, I took Addison to drink his first fresh coconut from a street vendor and scoop the sweet, juicy meat out after they split it in two for him, we spent hours crying and processing in our apartment and then, the day before Addison’s flight back to Austin, we also decided I should take another pregnancy test.
Watson was visiting, noodling around on Addison’s guitar, while I walked down the street to buy another pregnancy test. This time I knew what it was called, and did not have much difficultly in procuring one.
When I got back to to the apartment I looked at the two men, who were looking back at me.
“It’s a moment of truth guys,” I told them.
Addison looked anxious.
I unpacked the pregnancy test, plugged my nose, and ducked into the fumes-of-hell bathroom.
When I emerged, it was with feelings I had not expected…
I felt guilty.
I felt like maybe I had ruined Addison life.
I thought maybe he would resent me forever, and our relationship would crumble because of it.
“It’s positive,” I told the guys, who had both stopped what they were doing to stare at me.
I think Watson crowed.
But I was looking at Addison’s face. He had something like horror written across it.
I handed him the test stick with the two lines on it.
“I read the first pregnancy test wrong,” I told them.
Watson stared at me. “You read the first one WRONG?? How do you even do that??”
“I don’t know!” I cried. “I’ve never taken a pregnancy test before! I just assumed it was cheap, faulty, didn’t work well… I thought the ‘second line’ wasn’t really a line!”
Addison was gazing down at the test stick in silence. Than he started googling images for “a positive results pregnancy test”.
“I purposely bought a different brand of test this time,” I told them both. “And seeing a different one do exactly the same thing made me realize that I just got the first one wrong.”
I went and sat down on the couch with Watson. “Watson!” I yelled. “I’m pregnant! What are we going to do??”
He gaped at me. “Why are you coming over to me?? You should go to Addison! I’m getting out of here.”
I looked at Addison. “I’m giving Addison space. He’s in shock. And I feel bad for him.”
“YOU feel bad for ADDISON??” Watson gawped.
“He’s younger than me,” I said simply. “I’m more ready for the idea of being pregnant than he is.”
During all of this, Addison was occasionally grunting, agreeing or disagreeing with something that was being said, but I don’t really remember much else coming out of him.
Watson packed up and headed for the door. “You should name the kid Marcelles,” he said definitively, before walking out.
Addison chuckled dryly. “We’ll consider it. See ya later dude.”
We looked at eachother in the silence that followed. “Holy shit.”
I’m sorry to say, but there’ll have to be a Part III… maybe a Part IV??
It was 10:30 in the morning, and the sun was hot enough to make me feel as though my brains were gently steaming inside my head.
My bicycle was loaded down with enough gear to allow me to ride as long as their was land to keep pedaling across.
I had just arrived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and I was looking for an apartment number on Calle 20 North. As I rolled down the one way street, an older, extremely tanned American couple overtook me on their city bikes.
“Where are you coming from?” the man asked me, smiling happily at my alien appearance.
I smiled back. “Well, today I just rode down from Chemuyil. But I started in Austin, Texas.”
The man’s mouth dropped open appreciatively. “No kidding! Well, welcome to Playa del Carmen!”
We chatted for a few more minutes, than it was time for them to turn right and for me to re-assess my directions. I was pretty sure I had already passed the apartment I was looking for.
I pulled up a map on my iPhone and saw that it was back a few hundred yards from where I had just come.
Another American man was standing on the sidewalk, watching me. I hadn’t seen so many white people in months.
“Where’re you headed darlin’?” he asked, swaying slightly, a paper bag-clad bottle clutched in his left hand.
“I think I know where it is, I just passed it,” I began.
“Let me help you,” he said, waving me towards him. “Just show me where you’re trying to go. I’ve lived here for 11 years.”
I sighed, but humored him. Chances are giving directions to a cycle tourist would make this guy’s day, and I didn’t want to deprive him of the opportunity.
I pulled up to where he was standing and showed him the map. “Here’s where we are, and here’s where the apartment is.”
“Oh man…” he shook his head. “I’m sorry to say, but that’s all the way across town.”
“What? But the directions say it’s a 2 minute walk from here!”
He turned the map sideways, than upside down. “Oh ok…” he squinted his eyes. “Okay, it’s just down the street, back that way, on your left.” He gestured and pointed importantly, assuring me it was very close and easy to find.
I smiled wanly and took my phone back from him. “Thanks.”
In 2 minutes I was pulled up in front of the apartment building. I sent a Whatsapp message to my friend Watson: Hey dude, I’m outside your door.
Within minutes the broken, plastic door at the entrance of the apartment building opened, and Watson stepped out into the bright sunshine, his hair sticking up in gravity-defying directions.
“You got here fast! I just rolled out of bed like a half hour ago!” he laughed, and we embraced.
“I told you I was going to leave early this morning. Didn’t want to get caught in the heat. I was out the door by like 7:30 am. Rode like a bat out of hell.”
He was gazing at my bicycle and gear, smiling appreciatively. “Well, here it is! Your bicycle!” He looked at me again. “And you have a GoPro!”
“Duh,” I laughed. “How do you think I’ve been making all of those videos?”
“Watson,” I said, taking off my helmet. “I rode my bicycle across Mexico.”
“Yeah you did,” he laughed.
“And now I never have to do it again.”
We unloaded my gear and rolled my bike inside. Watson lived with three other housemates in a downstairs apartment. We shoved all of my belongings into a corner in his room.
“Well, this is where we’ll be sleeping,” he gestured to a rumpled, full-sized bed in the corner. “I get really hot in here at night–there’s no AC–so just stay on your side!”
That afternoon we walked to the beach. There were white people EVERYWHERE. Tourist shops, people jabbering in english, and the beach was packed. Every 30-40 steps we were invited to receive a massage by a guy or girl in a little uniform. They would wave and gesture us over to the massage tables under a tent or on a deck area, and we would politely decline. “No gracias.”
We eventually found a less crowded area, and dropped our stuff down in the sand. The ocean was a shocking blue.
I stripped down to the my bikini, and Watson, ever the faithful observer of women’s bodies, said: “Wow, your boobs are huge. Definitely bigger than last time I saw you.”
“Dammit!” I cried.
“Well jeez, usually most women are happy to hear that!” he laughed.
I had been traveling alone and there had been no one else who knew me well to stand back and look at me and say, ‘Jahnavi, your boobs look bigger than usual.’
Ever since I had arrived in Villahermosa (after taking the bus from Mexico City to there), I had noticed that I was having really intense PMS symptoms; but even after being a week late, my period still didn’t not happen. Every day I was sure that ‘THIS is the day’ I start my period and I would have to either ride all day bleeding or hole up in a shabby, Mexican hotel and wait for the storm to pass.
Finally, after weeks of ‘I’ll be starting my period any day now’, I gave up. I had officially missed my period, for the first time in my adult life.
I told my sister this over the phone. “Well that’s not a big surprise,” she said. “You’ve been exercising like mad. Your body just doesn’t have TIME to have a period.”
But why am I still having PMS symptoms? I wondered. I had been crying everyday, and had even begun to feel nauseous and tired over the past week.
I explained all of this to Watson.
“Oh!” he crowed. “Are you pregnant??”
“All the signs seem to be pointing to that, yes…” I sighed miserably.
We waded out into the blue ocean waters and I dove under a wave. Being in the salty water was incredibly rejuvenating. Watson continued to make ridiculous comments about my boobs, and I laughed for the sheer joy of laughing.
“I haven’t laughed in so long Watson,” I told him, jigging and splashing in the water, and laughing some more.
Afterwards we stopped at a beachside bar and jammed with a local musician:
That night, during dinner, we discussed my theoretical pregnancy. Watson gazed around the restaurant, resting his eyes on a chubby, curly haired toddler at the next table over. “That could be yours,” he whispered to me, smirking mischievously.
I widened my eyes at him threateningly. “STOP it. We have no idea if I’m pregnant.”
“What is Addison going to think?” Watson went on, staring at me earnestly.
“Addison would not be happy,” I admitted sadly.
“WHAT? Why not??”
“He just told me recently that he doesn’t even know if he wants to have kids. He seems to be reassessing everything right now. He doesn’t even seem to know if he wants to be with me at all. Well… okay, he says he does… just in the way that works for him, which doesn’t really work for me.”
Watson wanted to take me to his favorite bar after dinner, but I was suddenly reticent to consume alcohol. I had lost interest in drinking alcohol in the last month, and with how nauseous I had started to feel, it seemed even less appealing. And what if I WAS pregnant??
“Watson…” I began. “What if I AM pregnant? I shouldn’t drink alcohol if I am! Maybe I should take a pregnancy test first…”
We were both tickled by the idea of strolling down the street, buying a pregnancy test, and then sending me into the bathroom of the bar to check if I could drink or not.
“Ok, let’s do it.”
We walked across the street to a pharmacy. “I don’t even know how to say ‘pregnancy test’ in spanish!” I told Watson.
“Ha ha, neither do I.”
We approached the pharmacist at the counter. “Um…” I began. “No se el palabra, pero neccessito un… ‘pregnancy test’… para embarazada.”
She nodded, and mimed a big pregnant belly on herself.
“Everyone probably thinks I’m the dad,” Watson muttered, suddenly embarrassed.
“Maybe I should hold your hand,” he suggested.
After the pregnancy test was purchased, we headed to the bar. Watson got us a table and wished me luck. I clutched the pregnancy test close to me and found the bathroom.
I can’t believe I’m taking my first pregnancy test in a bathroom in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, I thought, looking at my reflection in the mirror in disbelief.
I read the directions in spanish, and looked at the pictures. I think I got this.
After peeing on the test stick, I waited.
Immediately, one line formed, and than a second, very faint line.
Hmmm… it says that if there are 2 lines, it means I’m pregnant. But the second line isn’t really a line… it’s so much fainter than the other.
To my surprise, I felt disappointment wash over me.
I’ve been fighting off baby fever for almost 10 years, and I suppose the idea that I was finally pregnant (and with Addison’s baby, someone I was truly in love with) had apparently been a small hope I had carried with me for the past few weeks.
I waited another 5 minutes, hoping the second line would darken and tell me that I was pregnant.
It stayed very faint.
I rinsed off the stick and tossed everything in the garbage. Sighing, I opened the bathroom door and saw Watson watching me furtively from his table. I walked up to him, smiling at the look on his face.
I shook my head. “Negative. I’m not pregant.”
Watson broke into a relieved chuckle. “Ha ha, alright!” He held up his glass of whiskey. “Here’s to you not being pregnant!”
I wasn’t feeling celebratory, but I appreciated his enthusiasm, and took a sip from his glass. Watson went to get us more drinks.
I looked around the bar at all of the tourists, imagining what their different stories might be, and why they had ended up in that bar.
I thought about why I was disappointed to not be pregnant…
I felt like my relationship with Addison could have been saved by a baby… but now… I didn’t know. Besides, having a baby as a way to save a relationship does not seem like a good idea. And I still need to get to Brazil. So this is for the better.
It wasn’t just my relationship with Addison I was feeling like saving… it was also the life I had left behind in Austin. Our band, our awesome pets, yoga, capoeira, meditation. I could still live in Austin and play music without Addison, could still have pets and do yoga and capoeira and meditate… but I liked doing those things WITH him. I liked our lives when they were combined. We were always scheming and coming up with new projects and ideas, and we loved going on adventures together, whether by bicycle or hitting the road on tour with a car full of musical instruments.
Addison was going to be in Playa del Carmen in just 2 more days.
…to be continued 😉
P.S. Here’s a bonus video of some of the inner-goings-ons of Watson and I’s time together: