Ah, Tulum. The magical city in Quintana Roo, Mexico that has experienced a massive surge in basic bitch tourism over the last few years. It’s the place to go, that’s no argument. So when my sister suggested we travel there as a belated 30th birthday celebration, I said “YAS!” faster than your average American girl when you ask her if she wants tacos, pizza, Chipotle or to stalk someone for you online.
So last week, we met up in the Cancún International Airport, rented a Dodge Attitude, and drove two hours to this tucked away jungle town on the beach. We were greeted at our cabana hotel with mimosas, shown to our economically-sound and gorgeously crafted hut/room, and made our merry way to the beach to start 4.5 days of unadulterated relaxation.
For the first 2.5 days, life was a parade of piña coladas, pastor tacos, y Mexican waiters asking if we spoke Spanish (“Un poquito,” we always responded). Sun, fun, and run(ning) on the beach is all we cared about (JK, I “jogged” one morning with my sister’s girlfriend and my calves are still fucked up from it). Life was as it should be on vacation: easy with no schedule, no plan, and no worries except when the next drink or taco was coming.
Then, Thursday night happened.
At my sister’s suggestion, we got a Tulum taxi to a restaurant near the edge of town — a restaurant none of my been-there-have-recos-for-that friends had sent me pre-trip. Alas, it’s where my sister felt we should go and since neither myself nor her girlfriend were in any mood to plan otherwise, we agreed.
We should’ve known. The place was dead and the menu left little to be desired, but being the stubborn Americans we are, we decided to stay in an effort to not hurt the feelings of complete strangers we’ll never see again.
I was gonna order the yellow fin tuna. I really was. But for whatever reason, the ribeye that was featured on the restaurant’s chalkboard specials kinda sounded good. Who fucks up a steak? I thought to myself. So I ordered the ribeye.
From her vantage point and because it was one of those open kitchens where you can watch the chefs prepare your food, my sister witnessed as they retrieved my cut of meat from a freezer. “Your meat is frozen…” she told the table. “Okay but they’re dressing it up really nice…” She watched them doctor it, cook it, and plate it. When it arrived at the table, I can now admit it looked a little… grey. But maybe it was the lighting! Or maybe it wasn’t. Either way, my hunger blinded my common sense and I ended up putting half that thing away. I offered bites to my sister and her girlfriend, but both of them smartly refused. Once dinner was done, we carried on throughout the evening and had a lovely little night filled with gelato! Y live music! Y stray dogs I wanted to pet but didn’t because although they’re dogs, they looked sketchy as fuck!
At around 3pm the next day (Friday), as I lay on my cushiony beach pad soaking up the sun a la Sheryl Crow, something began to feel off. My stomach didn’t hurt. My head didn’t hurt. I just felt not right. There wasn’t a specificity to my symptoms worth trying to explain to my sister or her girlfriend. Instead, I settled on “I feel weird” and excused myself to the room. There, I had a small bathroom situation that I decided for the moment was more than likely due to mild heat exhaustion (after all, the Mexican sol es no joke, y’all). Shortly thereafter, it was time to get ready for dinner. Still feeling “weird,” I told myself it was probably low key anxiety about god knows what and to just push through it. It was our last night and last dinner on the beach, after all.
But once we arrived at the restaurant, the nausea set in. OH, the nausea. It was gripping. I ordered a Coke (an old Golden-family trick for an upset stomach) and began sipping and praying. But even the smallest swig felt like a death sentence going down my throat. Almost as soon as we sat down, I excused myself to the bathroom. Nothing happened there, but I had to escape the table. I sat on a bench outside the bathroom to ground myself before heading back inside. I felt unsteady and just couldn’t figure out why. Upon my return, I saw the caprese salad had been delivered. “Want some?” my sister’s girlfriend offered. I vehemently shook my head. “Actually,” I barely choked out, “I’m gonna go.” “Emma, what? What’s wrong?” They asked. “I don’t know. I just need to go. I’ll walk back.” “That’s like a 30-minute walk on the beach!” “It’s ok. Maybe that’s what I need. You guys enjoy dinner.” I grabbed my Coke, took off my Birkies (as one English traveler had referred to them the previous day), and started the long trek home down the shoreline during sunset.
This is nice, I thought to myself as I began to walk. Maybe this is what I needed. A nice long walk alone to recenter. It was nearing sunset, so the shore and sand were overrun with sun-kissed vacationers and tired cabana boys who’d spent their day serving privileged white folk “Tecate red.” I looked on as a teenager received a parasailing lesson and a group of friends attempted sand volleyball (while failing, hard). I felt better, definitely.
Then, I dry heaved. No, I’m sorry. I didn’t dry heave. I FULL BODY heaved. Audibly and aggressively. No. No no. No this cannot happen right here, right now. Omg. OMGOMGOMGOMG. I look in front of me: people. I look to the side of me: people. I look to the my other side: ocean. I look behind me: a couple. I was fucked from literally every angle.
Knowing you’re about to uncontrollably vomit in public is one of the most out of control, helpless feelings I’ve experienced to date. There’s nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. This is about to happen, and you need to decide where you’re going to release and just do it. So, I just did it. In a split second, I decided to walk up and to the right, fall to my hands and knees in the wet sand, and puke violently into a small pile of washed-up seaweed that the ocean had gently delivered to its shoreline.
As the vomit sprayed down in front of me, all I could think was “Are you fucking kidding me?” Once it stopped, I stood up in my all-white outfit, my legs and hands covered in wet sand, with vomit-induced tears on my face just as the couple who’d been behind me walked by.
And they. said. NOTHING.
Not even an “Are you OK?” NOTHING. In fact, the woman GLARED at me with disgust, which made me squeak out a completely unnecessary “Sorry!” at her. They probably thought I was a dumb drunk bitch or something, but still. To that couple — FUCK YOU AND I HOPE WHATEVER YOU HAD FOR DINNER THAT NIGHT SUCKED AND YOU GOT IN A HUGE FIGHT BEFORE YOU LEFT MEXICO. A FIGHT SO BIG IT MADE YOU QUESTION YOUR ENTIRE RELATIONSHIP.
Once I washed myself off via ocean water, I booked it back to the hotel, all the while holding back the urge to fart because I knew the fart I felt was not in any way going to be just a fart. No way, no how. And BOY WAS I RIGHT! I’ll spare you the details. Those are private. Sacred, even. There were only three people in our hotel room that night, one of which is a sound sleeper who was able to knock herself out in order to not deal (hint: it wasn’t my sister). But four hours and six rounds later of both of my ends turning on me, this is the position I found myself in:
If you’re asking yourself “Is that… is that a diaper fashioned out of a towel?” The answer is yeah, it sure is. Because when you’ve been dispensing fluids out of your own body for hours and all you want to do is sleep but the fear of shitting yourself mid-slumber is very real, you and your sister GET CRAFTY.
The next day, I had to travel and wanted more than anything to wear that towel diaper on the plane. Alas, for a number of reasons, I couldn’t. But I made it home. I truly don’t know how I did, but I did. And here I am, almost a week later from when it all started with confirmed E. Coli poisoning (YEAH. Not just food poisoning. E. Coli. Food poisoning doesn’t last five days, so your sad friend here had to go to the doctor to ask WTF was wrong with me. Turns out I have what Chipotle gave so many but never gave to me because it’s all that’s right and true in this world). I survived, y’all. I’m here and writing the tale of the time I threw up in broad daylight on a crowded beach. I made it.
The sea was angry that day, my friends. Hopefully my vomit tamed it.