I always knew I would find salvation in tacos.
Most people have figured out a way to get through major upheavals, breakups and little changes in their life in constructive and normal ways. I have not. I recently changed the account where my car insurance comes from and it shook me to my core. There are the usual ways to get through this: gin; ice cream; bitter nights sitting at a bar with friends. For me, there has always been travel. I run to my computer to look for flights like an addict who just relapsed.
Mexico City had been different. I had booked it in March for a few reasons. One, being that it was an incredibly cheap flight and I wouldn’t have to take time off work. But second, after a year of domestic trips with family or friends, I needed to travel alone. I am the perpetual single girl among my friends (no joke – I am affectionately known as the favourite third wheel and have a spare bedroom in two different houses). I go on trips to places no one else wants to visit and get myself into all kinds of trouble. When I got into a relationship, I was still looking to the horizons to find adventure but I felt a deep attachment to home; to the person I was with. When it happened, it was visceral. I could feel the tension between home and away; love and lust; single and taken.
Mexico was a way to reconcile those two differences. I could be the girl who travels, but also the girl in a serious relationship. I could climb pyramids and eat street food but text someone things like “Wish you were here!” or “What are the chances I get a serious disease from eating this?” We could make plans to backpack the country on our next vacation together and sleep in beach-side cottages with gauzy white curtains blowing in the sea salt air. I would know the layout of the airport and avoid the bad tequila*. Mexicans would give me insider recommendations and we would bounce around cities, searching for hidden treasures.
It didn’t happen that way.
So, when the time came to get onto the plane, I picked up my purse, the cheap sunglasses I buy from the gas station and all the most colourful dresses I owned, and went looking for something to heal my broken heart.
I found it in Mexico City.
It wasn’t only in tacos – but in escamoles, chilaquiles, taco asadas, el helado, mezcal, tequila, and basically everything that was handed to me. I found it in the churches, the museums, the pyramids, the cobblestone streets, the metro, the tourist attractions, the coffee.
It was more. It was the sudden silencing of my inner monologue.
In Mexico City, I learned how to dance in the margins, taking advantage of the limited space that was available. I moved my body around the arms of a new friend as he spun me around the crowd. I weaved my hips through couples and friends and lovers, letting the music pulse me in a bar that was hidden away in the second floor of a bristling building. Later, someone showed me the typical steps of a mexican dance on the boats of Xochimilco – tracing our feet through the smallness of the stern as hundreds of boats around us fought for space.
I had never known such chaos.
The city’s attraction is that it leaves you no room for your own thoughts, much less pangs of sadness that might hit you as the sweet, salty smell of roasted corn wafts past. Like a needy toddler, it demands your attention. Crescendos of street markets, merchants and traffic fill the air, the chiles impale your nostrils and the cars crush your personal space. You are in a concrete jungle that becomes almost unbearable until you stumble upon ancient ruins or the most darling park and rest your feet on a rooftop bar.
The buildings look like they may crumble at any moment, puzzle pieces swaying in the bold sky, but as you step inside, you can feel the patterns on the wall, dancing in front of you to offer its condolences of its appearance. The city looks like this – apologetic but knows how to draw you in and smother you with excitement.
The streets are uneven on your feet – the cobblestone twists and turn, the music is always playing. I can hear the words soothing my ringing ears as I try to catch the meanings. One by one, the Spanish words replace the memories of the past year.
Perhaps the thing most surprising to me was my ability to fall asleep. As a chronic sufferer of insomnia, I let the sounds of the city lull me into unconsciousness. Mexico City is the loudest place and that noise drowned out my own thoughts. It forced me to let go of worries, of anxieties, of heartbreak.
I let go.
Without hassle, I let myself return exactly where I was suppose to be. Exhausted by the sheer action of being present in the city, I let go. I felt myself evaporate all the things I couldn’t get out of my head and reassemble back into who I was.
I fell in love with the city and its people but that is a post for another day. Today, I just want to remember the honks, whistles, screams, drums, singing, chatter and feet stomping of CDMX.
I will officially be prescribing Mexico City as a cure for insomnia. Send me a message if you need one. I’m not sure it is covered by your insurance but it will give you peace.
*That was a trick. All tequila is bad.