Los Flamingos
Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico
February 2018

By Jamie Arendt

The roof of the lavandería is missing
Inside walls crumble
Portals to stacked towels
To motor-bikes
In the moonlight men fold towels
This is Mexico


I ring the bell
Five minutes
The transvestite takes my bag
No ticket – 
5pm – we smile
My clothes come back pristine always
There are no floors
Dirt changes to broken tile
Sun shines down the portal shafts
This is Mexico  


The piano player plays his broken keys
In the eighth hour, outside my quarters
I lay flat, face up
The cathedral roof hangs over me
I imagine this is my funeral
It’s lovely
Guests arrive in crisp black
They speak Italian and wear veils
Risa calls me while I lay there
I tell her about the music and my funeral
I hold the phone up so she can hear it
She thinks it’s a beautiful way to fall asleep
This is Mérida 


I stare up at the church in Celestún
Three crucifixes’ stand on the top
My roll runs out
I bless the land and myself
I have no right bless a land I hardly know, but I bless it anyway
The sky bleeds pink
I light a cigarette and find a van I know I assume is the “bus” 
Kids on bikes direct me
Then tell me to watch out as they pretend to run me over
I ask the man outside if he is the driver 


My hair flops in my eyes, dirty, beach-worn
My eyes squint, worn eyes
No hot water in 13 days
I didn’t step in the sea today
I stared at it like an older lover, in admiration, weary to touch
I am fine with this feeling
I don’t even dip my toe
I bathe in the fumes of the salt
This is enough
Sometimes fumes are enough 


The sun is descending
I have a smoke with the van driver
It is the last local bus from Celestún to Mérida
I thought I was taking a bus, but it is a van
I take my seat in the last row
16 other passengers in the 16-passenger van are already seated
Then five more men pile in
Most of them carry buckets that seem heavy and smell of the day-long sea
The radio turns on, loud
It costs 82 pesos
The van will take me the two to four hours back to Merida where I now I live 


In Celestún there are flamingos
It is not exactly a nice beach
I don’t suggest the food there
But there are beers, mescal and Nespresso
And the sun still sets
I suppose it is what you might call a marine beach 


I assume I am seeing lights I might not see again
It is doubtful when or if I will return to Celestún
Or take the last night local “bus” to Mérida
It is my first time to see Mexico in this way
At night, peering into windows as we pass
It is not my first time on the bus in Mexico
Nor driving at night
Nor alone


But I haven’t seen Mexico like this
At night
On the local bus
With fisherman  
Feels intrusive


A man cooks dinner topless at a counter
Behind him a green hammock hangs inside and two children crawl inside it
My camera is out of film
My phone is dead
I watch
As we make each stop, men descend the van with their buckets 

Radio stations change
Water splashes to the floor of the van
There is a smell I can’t quite stand but have no choice
No one talks to me
The music is too loud
It's too dark to write, and she gives up


As we drive away from the red church, the sky turns bright red
My adoration for a burning red sunset is strong
It comes close to the smell of grass in Texas when it rains
To the golden walls of Paris in September
I have never seen the sun burn red as it sets over New York City
I watch it now burn over the Yucatán
The smallness of a world on fire
For a moment I smell nothing