That was also the day Luis, the pool guy – who, I’m sure, had a more descript title, though at the time his title wasn’t any of my concern and is still of no real relevance to this account – found the baby floating, face down, in the pool. It was morning (obviously), the sky only a few shades brighter than the ocean it crowned and under which Luis performed his customary – and, most likely, included-in-the-job-description – rotating of the recliner cushions before even the surliest elderly resorters, hot-dog tans and trashy dime novels in tow, came creeping from their master suites to lay claim, with an unhurried flourishing of mint and forest-green striped pool towels, over the chairs sporting the most shade/least shade/closest proximity to the swim-up bar/washrooms/etc. I know what the sun looked like so early because, although I was not yet awake, my brother was standing in line later that afternoon to exchange US currency for its equivalent in the then-floundering peso, and the lobby’s teller window, it so happened, was conspicuously close to the little back room wherein sat Luis, accompanied by a resort bigwig and one or two of Mazatlan’s finest – though, to be accurate here, said policemen probably weren’t the finest, because all the finest had been/were in the process of being machine-gunned down, Rambo-style, by the local drug cartel. I know because the night before we’d seen it happen; “We” being my family and I. It was Spring Break Week 2010, I’d graduated from college just under a year previous, and this was the afternoon in which I’d finally shed my insecurities, renounce Catholicism, and join my mom for a game of Blackjack under the billowing shade of the ominously stark Activities Tent I’d steadfastly avoided for the previous ten years’ worth of Spring Break trips to the exact same poolside under the exact same sun toiled under by the exact same pool guy, Luis.
The dead girl likely had no major impact on the day’s proceedings, though she makes for a real slam-bang of an opener. Plus, seeing as the rest of the story isn’t anywhere near as exciting as the discovery of a waterlogged corpse at dawn, I always use it as a hook. If I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I’ll also point out the striking coincidental nature of the timing of this dead body popping up a mere eight-ish hours after my own personal witnessing of the massacre of the three police taken out the night before directly in front of the Oxxo we sped by on the return journey from dinner at The Purple Onion to Emerald Bay Mazatlan, a less-than-humble resort destination we frequented once a year, called our own, littered with wet towels, and then sped away from just in time for another family to pull up, repeat the process with probably only one or two significant variations from our own take on the word vacation, and then desert in due process.
The whole endeavor was enough to make one feel like shit – if you could manage to extract yourself from the pool volleyball tournaments and the exotic drinks for long enough to actually take a removed look at the situation and assess the squalor of the surrounding beaches/peoples/waterlogged corpses that only kinda served, at least in the eyes of my family and I (until, of course, a certain age) as a literal striking contrast to the luxury of vacation both my mother and father had “worked so hard to be able to afford.” I (again, only until a certain age) at that shit up, man.
At any rate, our pulmonia gunned past the scene of the crime to the bounce of MJ’s finest, “Beat It,” and my mother sat hunched behind her camera. It was brand new and shiny – she’d lost her older one somewhere between Christmas and PDX, and though she’d pulled it out intending to snap a picture of my brother and I – coifs slightly bent against the warm, pungent Mexico breeze – the Canon PowerShot A570 IS’s ultra-fast shutter speed actually captured brains. Lots of brains, traveling Southwest along Calle Maxipista parallel to the trajectory of our pulmonia. My father would later remark that the freeze-framed sinewy blobs more closely resembled jellyfish than anything, but “pink ones… with shit all over them.”
And our driver didn’t slow. Maybe in Mexico it’s customary to flee a crime scene ASAFP. Or maybe he didn’t want his pinkie finger’s tricked-out nail to attract attention to the Eight Ball of coke that no doubt sat just between his thighs. Whatever the case, all we had time to process were shots, pinging like popcorn in a too-big kettle – only about a hundred thousand times louder. And men falling. And other men running. And my mother’s trembling grasp on the PowerShot, her mouth slackening into an “O” so saggy if she’d seen it the eventual facelift would’ve happened several birthdays sooner. The rest was supplied by the local news in our hotel room that evening. My father forbid us from telling anyone there what we’d seen. My brother and I had to drink our way into a stupor just to fall asleep we were so adrenalized – this after he’d failed to score a dime bag from the housekeeping staff.
So at any rate the next morning dawned, and there was eventually some screaming, and for a while I was really jazzed about the potential “whodunit”-type afternoon I might be in store for, but it was quickly deduced by the policía – with no little help from Luis, I can assure you – that the girl had simply crawled from her ground-floor patio and fallen into the water. At least this is what my brother heard from his perch in the lobby, during which point he also hypothesized that the guilty-as-fuck look on the parents’ faces as they sat on a marble bench just to the left of the teller window that everything that morning seemed to be happening either in, behind, or around was the direct result of them having been boning so early and so loudly in the morning as to have awoken their daughter, who obviously wanted nothing to do with whatever was causing such a ruckus and instead decided on a swim – or, at least, came as close to a decision as a twenty-month-old can.
“But she didn’t bring her water wings.”
I didn’t laugh when he cracked that one, so it’s okay if you don’t, either. Rather, I rolled away from facing him on my lounge chair beside the pool – which they’d reopened (and on schedule!) after a thorough chlorine filtering – for another sip of my Salty Dog. The activities woman – one Elena Big Tits, as the elderly gentleman who routinely sat to the left of our collection of chairs had taken to calling her after she’d personally awarded him a drink coupon for his Bingo win two days previous – announced over the speaker system an imminent game of Blackjack in the Activities Tent. She made it sound like “Black Yak.” Both of us chuckled.
“But seriously, though,” he continued, “how can something like that happen, you know? Where’s God when some little girl’s crawling her way to the deep end?” This was the closest I can ever recall my brother getting to all that existence-type stuff. He’s never been a real heavy thinker.
I stood, mapped out my path of travel around the pool’s perimeter so as to come as close to Elena Big Tits as possible, hiked up my board shorts, and started walking. “Maybe he’s dead. God, I mean.” Which he – God – really must not have appreciated, considering how the ten years since have gone.