My housekeeper Lydia (not just my housekeeper, but this morning mine) uses my parking space when she comes over, which means I have to be out of the apartment by a certain hour. This was the kind of morning where I thought I had everything ready to go until the very last second, when I saw I still had trash to take down, needed to grab some notes I’d be working on today, and then I forgot my phone.
When I drove back I parked sloppily at the end of the curb so that I could run in and grab the phone. This was when Lydia arrived. I explained to her the Taylor situation. He’s now on day three of refusing food. He drinks a little water and sniffs at all of his favorite foods but ultimately refuses to eat. He sits, he wanders, he rubs his head against my leg. His new thing is the bathtub. He jumps in there and looks around like, “This place is AMAZING! Is this were you go every day? I cannot believe you do not sit in here all day, too. Look how cool this is. And it’s so close to water!”
Lydia and I patted Taylor’s skinny head and talked about how nice cats can be and how it’s amazing I’ve had this cat since I was in college. I told her that next week I’d be in Guatemala.
“Have you ever been?” I ask her.
“No, no,” Lydia says. “Never. But I hear it’s beautiful.”
“That’s what they say.”
I tell her why I’m going.
“Oh, okay,” she says, looking relieved. “So you are not going alone.”
“No. Not alone.”
She waits a second. “How many people are going with you?”
“I’m not sure. At least three, but I think more.”
“Okay, okay. That is good then. Because never, ever, ever, ever be alone. Do not be alone at all. And make sure that you are especially not alone at night. Sometimes there are places that are really bad. … But it is beautiful there. It really is. They say. And it’s not as dangerous as other places. I know a girl who goes there all the time; she’s still alive. She goes and comes back just fine.”
“Yes, it’s beautiful. But make sure you bring repellant, because the mosquitos are very bad. And do not drink the water, only bottled. But also you might want to bring your own food. Go to Trader Joe’s and get bags of food. That’s what the girl does, she only eats her own food. When I go visit home, I get sick when I eat the food, every time! And I’m from there! I mean, it’s nice to get so skinny, but you don’t want to be sick when you are there. If you do have to eat, don’t eat much. Your stomach isn’t used to it. The oils, or something. But I hear everybody is nice down there. Very nice. But listen, make sure you aren’t wearing any jewelry or any fancy clothes. And make sure you’re only in nice comfortable shoes, okay? Because when you run? You have to run. It’s serious. You don’t want to be trying to run for safety in those shoes you’re always wearing. Just wear some jeans and good running shoes. You will have a lovely time. I hear it is so beautiful there. I don’t think they have the gangs like in the other places, with guns and drugs. But don’t go anywhere alone, that’s important. Bring sunscreen. You will love it. I’m sure.”
This is being echoed other places, I should mention. People like to warn me about possible danger. Even the people booking this trip were like, “It’s mostly safe.”
“I mean, it’s not a fancy hotel you’ll be in.”
“It’s not the accommodations I’m worried about. I just want to make sure someone isn’t going to bust open the door and rob me.”
“You said ‘Probably’!”
“That’s why we’re having everybody two to a room.”
I was thinking about this when I suddenly remembered: “I’m illegally parked!”
Lydia looked out the window: “They’re giving you a ticket right now! Go!”
I ran down the stairs in my heels, just like Lydia had warned me could happen, and I slippy-stepped over to my car shouting, “I’m going! I’m going! I was just– I had to–!” and I know the parking enforcement lady mumbled something like “Too late,” but I got in my car and drove off.
I’m sure a ticket is on its way to my mailbox. And because of that, I’m going to remember that no matter how scary someone can make Guatemala sound, staying inside my apartment for too long can also be rather dangerous.