A Dangerous Valentine’s Day Dance with PorcelainIt all started with an unceremonious scraping of a weathered metal serving spoon scratching along the bottom of the guacamole tub at the local supermarket in San Jose del Cabo. The flies rose around me with globs of bright green clinging to their feet as I dipped the spoon deep into the bottom of the large market tub. With a forceful flick of the wrist I managed to get every last bit of the remaining chunky guacamole from the tub aimed into a small plastic container. A bag of local fresh corn chips and a few pesos later, and I was off.
The green paste that would soon wreak havoc on my intestines, love life, and general outlook of one’s existence harmlessly swinging in my market bag as I strolled toward the rental car. That little tub of green pain hung out below my feet for what I imagined was only a few short hours, but we would regretfully find out was likely a few too many minutes passed the suggested health and safety recommendations in the hot Mexican heat.
We arrived in La Paz just before sunset, after a full day of winding along Highway 19 with the windows down, old rock crackling from the radio, and a warm breeze brushing our arms and intertwined hands as we drove. My boyfriend and I hadn’t seen each other in quite some time, he had been sailing down to Baja in a wooden sailboat for the better part of the beginning of the year and this was the first night we’d had alone together in over a month. We checked into our lovely little romantic hotel, complete with rooftop pool and private patio.
As the sun dipped lower toward the horizon, we basked in the warm orange light and cracked into a few lukewarm cervezas.
The next day was February 14, worldwide love day, and our sweet Valentine’s Day to be celebrated together in Mexico. We had big plans for it. A morning that bucket lists are made of, complete with snorkeling with whale sharks in the beautiful Sea of Cortez and an afternoon of exploring the quaint seaside town of La Paz and ending with evening dining at the most recommended tacos south of the border. As the sun dipped lower toward the horizon, we basked in the warm orange light and cracked into a few lukewarm cervezas with the aforementioned now green-turned-mottled-brown guacamole and chips as an innocent appetizer.
Once we’d made easy work of the beers and snacks we walked into town for a leisurely evening stroll. We were met by the festive lights, sounds, and sweet cotton candy smells of Carnaval, of which we’d had no idea was happening and we quickly got sucked into the delightful energy of the festival. A few hours into the excitement and I felt that unfortunately familiar sharp stabbing pang in my belly.
Dodging shrieking children, carnies with darts hanging off their bottom lips, and a mariachi band or two, we nearly broke into a run.
Imminent feelings of dread filling me with each passing moment and each footstep falling quicker and quicker trying to get back to the safety of the hotel room, and more importantly… hotel bathroom. About halfway through our hasty speedwalk towards the hotel, dodging shrieking children, carnies with darts hanging off their bottom lips, and a mariachi band or two, we nearly broke into a run as my boyfriend, too, felt that squirm in the stomach and punch to the gut.
Half running now, we darted up the final hill to our hotel and burst into the room clutching our stomachs and cursing the bottom of the barrel car-warmed guacamole we had eaten every last bite of. The rest of the evening consisted of taking turns running to the bathroom, intermittent bouts of feverish sleep, stabbing stomach pains, and the never-ending battle between cold sweats and teeth chattering chills. By the first light of morning we had fully succumbed to our poisoning, and gazing un-romantically at each under with the dusty hotel wastebasket tucked under one arm and a cold compress under the other we whispered “Happy Valentine’s Day” to each other.
We knew that the guacamole debacle had beaten us this time around, and we would be unable to enjoy our beautifully planned romantic La Paz Valentine’s Day. My love spent his day curled in the fetal position in bed, just feet from the hotel room bathroom which had taken the place of our Shangri La.
I rushed to the street to hail a taxi before I could change my mind.
I dragged my exhausted body out from under the comfort of the blankets and gave myself a strict talking to while looking at my bloodshot eyes in the dim light of the bathroom mirror. “You. Can. Do. This. You. WILL. See. The. Whale. Sharks. No. Matter. What.” I told myself in a hoarse voice due to too many hours spent heaving on the bathroom floor the night before. I tenderly pulled on my clothes, planted a kiss on my love’s cheek, and proceeded to push the doctor-recommended limit of Imodium washed down with a swig of trusty Mexican Gatorade.
I took some shaky steps towards the door leading out of our food poison prison, had one last puke in the bathroom sink before I left, and rushed to the street to hail a taxi before I could change my mind. And that’s how I spent my romantic holiday: alone in a lurching boat, white knuckles gripping the aluminum edge, wishing desperately I was on solid ground in our hotel room with the comfort of a toilet mere steps away, and concentrating hard on not spewing in front of the other couples sharing a romantic holiday amongst the whale sharks. I managed to jump into the water a couple times to catch a glimpse of the beautiful spotted giants under the swell, but the warm salty water splashing into my snorkel tube and down into my sensitive stomach rendered me useless quite quickly and I spent most of the day wrapped in a towel at the bottom of the boat anxiously staring at the horizon.
Somehow I made it back to the hotel and curled up next to my Valentine’s Day date who hadn’t moved an inch since my departure hours before. We held clammy hands, watched terrible old comedies, and wished for our Mexican Valentine’s Day to come to a very quick end.
I will say this, despite the nightmare of our tragically unromantic Mexican Valentine’s Day, true love really is a partner who will offer you the bathroom first when a particularly vicious bout of food poisoning decides to pay you both an untimely visit.