My travel agent suggested that I spend my paid vacation this year in a small coastal town in South America. It was the worst vacation ever. A lot of things went wrong.
Juanita was our chef for lunch the first day. She had just bid farewell to her lover, posted by the military to a distant port town. Her infinite tears spilled into the flour like raindrops while she cooked, expressing in taste what she was forbidden to tell with words. When she served the meal, each bite echoed with the unbearable sadness of Juanita’s limitless heartbreak.
It was the worst burrito I ever had.
The next night I went to the town’s annual talent show.
The first act was a young boy who sang, with such beauty that the birds dropped dead from the sky of jealousy (but no one translated the song for me). Then came a melodramatic lady who, with great tears and fanfare, vanished permanently from the earth.
Finally after what seemed like forever, it was time for my magic trick.
“Ladies and hombres, I need an assistant. How about… you! Come on up!”
With a little luck and a lot of distraction techniques, I was able to bring the card the poor orphan girl was thinking about right to the front of the deck.
I heard a lot of nervous shuffling, but no applause.
“That is not a trick to us,” one man finally offered. “That is the way the cards here always are.”
I quickly switched categories and tried to win for “Most Ironic”—but that award went to some blind prophet who could tell how many fingers a person was about to hold up but never how many he was holding at the time.
At the awards ceremony, first prize turned out to be the undying love of a woman whose excess of sensual passion could melt all the snow of the Andés. I wondered aloud if she also had enough excess of detergent to get me clean towels. “Oh, that was the prize for ‘most Ironic,’” she smirked, with such excess of sarcastic force that the Amazon started to flow backwards, flooding my hotel room and ruining a lot of my stuff.
The following evening I noticed an attractive lady sitting by herself at the town dance.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“I have no name,” she whispered through closed lips. “Beauty is nameless,” echoed the wind.
“Can I get you a drink?”
With that she floated away, off the Earth forever. She was too beautiful for the Earth.
“Too pretty,” sighed the man to my right.
Yes, pretty, I repeated. (Pretty lame.)
Could anything save my trip? I thought at least I could get some good surfing in the next morning. I hiked down to the beach—but the damn ocean was as still as ice!
“In our town,” explained the sage José Revuelto de Cementario, before turning into a spider, “those who stare at the moon by night erase its morning power over the waves.” Or something like that—I wasn’t really listening. “Perhaps you may surf on the sand.
Of course, José. That’s exactly how surfing works.
It was time to put an end to this dumb vacation. In the town plaza, I found an old book shop that I figured might sell a guidebook that could help me find a way to leave town.
This doorknob is loose, I thought as I entered.
“So, I hear, is the woman who bore thee,” punned the mind-reading gypsy behind the counter, In English, absolutely embarrassing me, as he handed me the guidebook. The store erupted in cold flames as I left, and frankly, I was glad.
It turned out the guidebook that the old gypsy had sold to me was not an ordinary guidebook, but an account of my own journey to the town. I skipped ahead a couple pages, and before long found the text predicting my reading of each word of the book as I read it. As I stared into my unfolding fate, present and future became one, my life and my destiny trapped together for eternity in an inescapable and endless hall of mirrors.
It was the most boring infinite stretch of time ever.