cancun: day four – in the jungle, the mayan jungle

When I hear the thunder rumble only several kilometers away, the trees in the jungle tremble as if to warn us that Quetzalcoatl himself was due for his return.

Today we travel to Coba, an ancient Mayan city guarded by a torturous jungle. We make our way down a 2-kilometer dirt path, drenched in humidity, in search of a ruined city. Our trek is not a long one, but the history we need to understand in order to fully appreciate the significance of this journey, is.

The Mayan civilization dates back as far as August 11, 3114 B.C., the first date listed in the Mayan calendar. This is the same calendar that ends on December 21, 2012. Note that I said that the calendar ends, not that the world ends. Most people have the false impression that the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world, but this isn’t necessarily their fault. The media like to skew facts for the sake of sensational news, and the movie 2012 did nothing to distill this misconception.

The Mayan calendar is pictured below. More often than not, people mistake the Aztec calendar (2nd photo down) for the Mayan calendar, which is completely different. The Mayas were a different civilization altogether and should not be lost in the conglomerate of other ancient Mesoamerican cultures for many reasons. For starters, their calendar is the most accurate ancient calendar in the world. Our current calendar, the Gregorian calendar, was implemented by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. As you know, it is inaccurate by a fourth of a day each year. So every four years, we add an extra day to February. This is called a Leap Year. On the other hand, the Mayan calendar is only inaccurate by 17 seconds every year. Consummate observers of the stars, the Maya were able to predict when astrological cycles began and ended long before anyone else invented instruments to do the same thing.

Mayan calendar

Aztec calendar

Just like the world doesn’t end after your kitchen calendar ends on December 31 each year, the same goes for the Mayan calendar. Another cycle simply would have started. Whereas we can simply buy a calendar to start the next year on January 1, 70% of all Mayan documents were destroyed over the years. When Franciscan monks arrived in the late 15th century, they did all they could to spread the Christian faith to the indigenous people of the Americas — even if it meant destroying everything that seemed contrary to Christianity. The priests burned books and destroyed the only records of thousands of years of Mayan history. For a civilization whose elites and royals were scholars, astronomers, architects — seekers of knowledge — this was devastating. Maya script, the only pre-Columbian written language, contains snakelike characters, which, as we know, evokes images of evil, Satan, and sin in the context of Christianity. The reason for this is that snakes are prevalent in this particular region. In fact, the city of Cancun derives its name from two Mayan words: “can” for snake and “cun” for nest. The Mayans desperately hid books by burying them in the earth, but the organic paper documents decayed and became indistinguishable.

Fortunately (and mysteriously), three books survived. They had been sent to Europe as gifts during colonial times. The three books now remain in New York, Dresden, and Spain. Think about it: what we now know about the Mayans is based on only 30% of thousands of documents that once existed. This is a lamentable part of Mayan history, but the scarcity of our resources has made us that much more eager to understand, preserve, and appreciate what does remain.

Coba, where I am headed today, is one of the handful of Mayan ruins left standing. It is also the only site where you are able to climb to the top of the main pyramid. Due to safety restrictions, the pyramids at other sites have been closed off to climbers.

Atop the pyramid, I feel as if I am looking down at an ancient land. The jungle around the pyramid is disabused by modern buildings, roads, or constructions. All I can see is green brush, through which nearby temples and pyramids protrude. I have traveled thousands of years backward in time, and I am privy to a view that only high priests and human sacrifices have experienced. It is breathtaking. At this moment, I can’t fathom the idea of the destruction of a place so inherently beautiful.

Did the Mayans disappear? Many cities like Coba were abandoned or deserted due to famine, wars, and disease. However, the Mayans themselves didn’t simply evaporate into thin air. Most traveled to other tribes from other civilizations and blended into new societies. Direct descendants of the Mayan people still exist today, especially in this part of Mexico. Mayan villages thrive off of the tourist industry, where visitors buy handicrafts, local food, and other goods. Various dialects of the Mayan native language have also survived and can be overheard today in many places.

The history of the Mayan civilization is long and bittersweet. While at the height of their civilization, they had a better understanding of astronomy, mathematics, and writing than the rest of the pre-Columbian world, their golden age drew to a steady close.

The Mayans believed that life is cyclical. Perhaps their fate was simply part of a cycle of birth, death, and re-birth. We currently live in a world that science fiction writers could only imagine. In an instant, we can communicate with someone on the other side of the globe. We have developed cures for diseases that once killed thousands without explanation. We have sent individuals far into space and deep into the ocean. After spending a day walking through Mayan history, I can’t help but wonder: what if this is our golden age? Perhaps our fate is tied to the same cycle.

…And the only way we’ll find out is waiting until December 21, 2012. 🙂 Until next post.

cancun: day three

Where to even begin?

The janky, 60-year old, manual transmission “Mexican Ferrari” that we rented to circumnavigate Cozumel Island? The virgin beach that we discovered, tucked between rocky shores? Or the fire coral that stung Felipe while we snorkeled off the second longest barrier reef in the world? Today has been the day of days, and it’s only the third of our trip.

Let’s begin with breakfast. Without knowing how big the food portions were, I haplessly ordered too much of everything. Felipe and I shrugged at each other and dug in…to all of it. We’re on vacation – there’s no shame in pigging out!

After our room serviced meal, we hopped on the bus to Playa del Carmen for the second time in two days. This time, it was to catch the ferry to Cozumel Island, located off the coast of the Mayan Riviera. Cozumel hosted the last of the Mayan people after the population on the mainland began to die off from famine, disease, and wars. Today, like most of the state of Quinta Roo, Cozumel has fallen victim to the tourist industry.

We arrived at the island and immediately went snorkeling. Underwater, I witnessed the miracle of the life aquatic. I found myself chasing after iridescent fish and floating cautiously over fire coral. What looks like nothing more than choppy waves from the surface reveals a gamut of movement, color, and life beneath.

Felipe accidentally brushed against some fire coral while we were swimming. It turns out that fire coral is a misnomer. The plant is more closely related to jellyfish than coral, and it fires nematocysts into your skin upon contact. After getting out of the water, though, he recovered just fine. Crisis: averted.

The northern and eastern shores of the islands are mostly untainted by tourists. There, you can find fishing villages, haberdasheries, and unadulterated beaches. These parts of the island are only accessible by car or scooter. Enter the Mexican Ferrari…

At $35/day to rent, who could say no? Well, after struggling with the 60-year old manual transmission and stalling several times in the middle of a large road, maybe we should have. Then again, our epic drive around the island just wouldn’t have been the same. My dad, Felipe, and I all drove it around the island — all of us recalling bits and pieces of how to drive manual and filling in the blanks along the way. The last time I drove stick was in Germany. It seems like I’ve got a track record of only driving stick shift outside of the U.S.

Half an hour out of the city, we came across a beautiful virgin beach tucked between two rocky coves. There were very few people there, and we had the beach to ourselves, for the most part. Felipe and I lay down in the water and observed different sedimentary and volcanic rocks. My conception of time dissipated into the humid air. I don’t remember the last time I was that happy.

I secretly made a wish that land developers would never think to use the area to build another hotel. I wanted this to be our secret to return to next time we came back to Cozumel. Sadly, that probably will not be the case. Either way, I’m so fortunate to have experienced it this way.

We returned to the mainland tanner, more sore, and much sleepier than when we first left. Somehow, I still managed to stay awake long enough to upload/edit photos, write this post, and run 3 miles. Looking back on today, I feel like I’m watching someone else’s life. Someone who lives in a James Bond movie, or someone who lives in an affluent yet obscure European country like Luxembourg, to whom experiences like these seem commonplace. Yet, when I realize that I was actually there, I’m inflated with good feelings.

Today, I took a road less traveled and discovered a shortcut to happiness.

cancun: day two

Explorers, cartographers, scholars — close your books and set down your instruments! The search is over: I have found Paradise. It’s in Mexico.

It’s strange how you forget a place after leaving it. No matter how much of an impression it left on you, that impression dims over time. Today, while I was swimming in the Caribbean Ocean, it began to rain. This didn’t seem to faze anyone else in the water, so I stayed in. I suddenly remembered how I had done the same thing over 5 years ago and thought it strange that I hadn’t even thought about it until coming back here again.

Somehow, by snapping incessant photos every five minutes, I hope to be preserving the memory of this trip better than the last time. I even gave into the food porn craze and took photos of my breakfast.

Felipe and I woke up early and caught the bus to Playa del Carmen, about 20 minutes away from our hotel. There, we had breakfast at the buffet. I kept it healthy (oatmeal, grapefruit, and some toast), but i gave into the hot chocolate for “dessert.” This isn’t your U.S. just-add-water hot chocolate. This is actual chocolate , heated and melted in milk — a labor of love for and an ode to all things sweet and delicious in life! After leaving Cancun, I will continue to think about this hot chocolate obsessively until the next time I’m here. Now, cut to a slow-motion montage of me sipping my hot chocolate, underscored by “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan. Oh, yeah.

After breakfast, we headed to 5th Avenue to go shopping. This area consists of 24 full blocks of shops, catered to tourists and travelers. Three t-shirts for $10, shot glasses, figurines, hammocks, hats, sunglasses, tequila…It was all there at 5th Avenue. We ran into a guy who let people take pictures with his pet monkey for a small fee. When someone starts following you and saying, “Come on, touch my monkey!” it’s really easy to interpret that the wrong way and really, really hard to suppress your laughter. Another guy was doing the same thing with another exotic animal. Instead of monkeys, he was offering people photographs with his pet baby tiger named Shakira. It took a lot of my willpower to walk away from that one, that’s for sure.

We were all shopped out by noon, so we headed back to the beach for a swim. Nowhere else in the world does the water look this perfect. Being a natural skeptic when it comes to tourist epicenters, I’m convinced that flawless views such as the one in the photo above have to be fabricated somehow. There must be blue dye in the water, I tell myself. Or the sky is just a painted backdrop like in The Truman Show. If I went out far enough, I’d discover that Paradise was a manmade phenomenon. Despite myself, I have accepted that Cancun really is as beautiful as it looks in its travel brochures.

By the time we got back to our hotel at the end of the day, we were so pooped that we ordered room service instead of walking all of 10 feet from our building to the nearest restaurant.

I do believe that I’ve found Paradise here in Cancun, but I view Paradise as a feeling rather than an actual place. It’s that joie de vivre that comes to you in simple moments. Suddenly, you feel more alive than you have lately, and there’s nothing quite like it. What I love about vacations is this: vacations remind you to be present in the moment. They remind you to be where you are.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to end this post and do just that. I happen to be in bed as I’m typing this, and it sounds like an incredible place to focus on right about now.

cancun: el primer día

To say that we’ve traveled is far too mundane. I’m grateful to be on solid ground again after 9+ hours of commuting by car, plane, van, and golf cart before sitting still. Santa Ana, CA to Denver, CO to Charlotte, NC and finally to the Mayan Riviera in Cancun, MX.

The backaches, plane breath, and travel delays all became worth it when we first saw this view:

Quickly proceeded by this one:

We’re staying at Aventura Cove Spa, part of Palace Resorts. It’s an all-inclusive resort, which means that by the bracelet that they provide you with as soon as you arrive, you can do what you want, eat what you want, and go where you want at no “charge.” Not once do you have to pull out your wallet after a meal or before a massage. Things like manicures and hydrotherapy sessions are complimentary. There is 24-hour room service. Every room has its own hot tub. It’s all included — at least, that’s how they want to make you feel. Of course, there are certain limitations, but if you are a member of their club, barely any of these restrictions apply. I feel terribly guilty for how spoiled I am here, but at this point – and with this view – I’m not going to dwell on it until after I bid Cancun “adios.”

Within 20 minutes of unpacking our belongings in the hotel room, Felipe and I went swimming in the pool, kayaking in the Caribbean, exploring the day spa, and inventing our own smoothies. I’ve been using my Spanish non-stop and getting compliments on it. After all these years, I still ge ta kick out of surprising people. I am blazing the trail for all other non-native-speaking Asians who speak Spanish fluently! I’m still working on an acronym for the cause. Bear with me.

One two-hour session with the concierge and the week schedule filled up to the brim. Here’s the itinerary:

Visiting the beach at Playa del Carmen (leave at 8am) / shopping at 5th avenue

Day trip to Cozumel (leave at 8am), island off of the Mayan Riviera coast

Day trip to Coba, Mayan pyramid / shopping

Visiting Chichen Itza (3 hour bus ride there), the Mayan ruins (all day)

XCaret: underwater cave diving, beach day, night show (all day)

Spa day: facial and aromatherapy massage (9am) / Swimming with dolphins (2pm)

Departure 😦

Even a week doesn’t feel like it’s enough time to be here and do everything!

My favorite moment so far is one that I shared with Felipe earlier tonight. We walked out to the edge of the resort between the swimming pools and the actual ocean. We sat watching a storm miles off in the distance. Each time the lightning pulsed, it exposed the nimbus clouds in the sky like a negative photograph. We didn’t need gaudy props or staff members putting on airs or mariachis serenading us with songs to help us find peace. In a place like Cancun, peace seems to find you.


Impatience is an irritating side effect of excitement. I’ve suffered from this disease of the mind since I was little.

Let me illustrate.

Normal people begin packing for trips a few days before they leave (unless you’re my mother, the trusty frenetic, who begins packing a few hours before the plane is supposed to take off). I start packing not three, not four, not even five days, but a whole week before departure. I fidget and fluster around the house, making lists of things that I need and separating them from things I could do without. Once an item makes it into the suitcase, it remains there until I leave. Never mind that most of my underwear and my only good pair of jeans would be quarantined inside. It’s called sacrifice, dammit. In the name of travel!

This inane habit followed me into adulthood. Exactly a week ago, I began packing for my trip to Cancun. I compartmentalized my clothes, toiletries, battery chargers, bath towel, bathing suits, books, journals, iPod, camera, and passport so that each category of items was arranged in an orderly fashion. I find unusual comfort in knowing that everything necessary and important is sitting in a 2 x 3 ft. space. If a wildfire were to suddenly break out near our neighborhood, all I’d have to do is run out of the house (or jump out the window, depending on how fast the fire is spreading) with my suitcase in hand. I’d be ready for anything.

I dream of a life on the go, which is why I’ve managed to perfect my talent for packing. While some people strive for stability — salaried jobs, mortgages, good credit, a family, an early retirement, etc. — I unabashedly yearn for mobility. Once I thought that I could straddle the fine line between both worlds, but it became apparent to me earlier this year that feeling stuck in one place (whether it is an actual physical place or a state of mind) drives me to depression. I need newness. I need adventure — even if it means driving an hour out to the desert just to be in a different setting. Spare me life’s cubicles, copy machines, and tax forms! I want to be jettisoned off to the next destination and I don’t have time for (nor interest in) bureaucratic conventions!

In a matter of hours, the contents of my suitcase will be the only traces of home. My feverish impatience will break into a cool sweat as soon as I arrive in Cancun. Then, I’ll eagerly await the next affliction.


I wrote this poem over a year ago about a place that changed my life.



by Lilian Bui
January 2, 2010

When I’m feeling old and settled
And my dreams begin to strain,
I put my foot onto the pedal
And thrust myself to Spain.

In Spain, they understand me,
Los castellanos never fail
A Spanish breeze, the rarest candy,
Arouses hunger long curtailed.

It was a plaza in Toledo where
My journey did embark.
Senses fed, indulged, ensnared —
I opened up my heart.

I heard my spirit sing
Through los gitanos‘ whitewashed caves
It soared past tilted windmill wings
Where Quixote fell, upstaged.

The sangria pitcher’s brimming,
So why not pour a glass?
They say results are slimming
So sip, friend, unabashed!

Discover castles off the highway.
Stand and marvel in their shade.
Stand, too, in hallowed temples,
Where prayers oft’ were said.

Moorish fountains cascade freely
Evoking Paradise.
Send me off, adrift, and easy,
Humming Spanish lullabies.

Vosotros sois…” y “Vale!“
Pour from the native tongue,
But los cosmopolitanos, they
Don’t care where you came from!

Aboard a train I learned
From a man bound toward Madrid
Where Mind failed with the words,
Picked up and saved, Heart did.

Speak from the heart where you should go.
You will be understood.
You will connect (and at the soul).
You will be changed for good.

Deep down I know I’ll always be
That girl inside the train
Wide eyes watch through window
Absorbing Life’s terrain.

An Andalusion illusion
Will tease a wanton brain.
My biggest fear
As departure nears
Is to never be here,
Like this,

When I’m feeling old and settled
And my dreams begin to strain,
I think of far-off places.
I often think of Spain.

Mi Buena Vista del Buena Vista Social Club

Omara Portuondo is more than a woman. She is a demi-goddess. The only reason why I ascribe her the status of a demi-goddess instead of a full goddess is that I, a mere mortal, selfishly still want her to share some kind of connection with the rest of us down here on earth.

I had the privilege of watching her perform live with la Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club last night at the Hollywood Bowl. Up until last night, I only knew of this singular musical group through documentaries and songs that my high school Spanish teacher thrust upon me when she realized I had both a penchant for the Spanish language and an inclination toward Spanish music. I have never been more grateful for her eagerness to share their extensive discography with me than last night when I was seated among 5,000 others who came to see this group perform live.

The Buena Vista Social Club began as an actual club in Havana, Cuba, circa 1940. They hosted dances, parties, and musical shenanigans. It was as much a community within itself as it was a musical epicenter in the region. Although most of the original members have passed on, the music has survived through time, immigration, and political oppression.

Their distinctive interweaving of Afro-Cuban flavors with Latin jazz automatically evokes la madre patria. It summons the spirit of Cuba onto the stage through syncopated trumpet riffs, punctuated percussion solos, and conversational-style vocal performances. The rhythm sways like palm trees on tropical shores and conjures impressions of Cuba’s Golden Age — a long-lost but not forgotten era.

The orchestra played a set for half an hour, opening with a rendition of “El Carretero,” complete with improvised dance numbers during songs.

And then…Omara graced the stage.

At the tender age of 80, she is sexier, spunkier, and spicier than ever. Charisma seemed to emanate from her modest and slightly arthritic stature. You could sense the audience clapping their hands a little harder, swinging their hips a little wider, and letting loose a little more, taking their cues from Omara. She closed her set with a version of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” endearingly sung in her Cuban-English accent.

La Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club is a relatively small troupe in the jazz world, and they seemed almost dwarfed by the colossal Hollywood Bowl, but they are a seismic force to be reckoned with once the music starts.

As if hearing them play as the headlining act at the Bowl wasn’t enough excitement, they were preceded by none other than Arturo Sandoval and the LA Philharmonic Big Band itself! Making a fashionable entrance by way of revolving stage, his big band performed crowd favorites including “Besame Mucho,” “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas,” and “Mambo.” The cast of characters on stage was anything but mundane. Surprise guests included Natalie Cole, with whom Arturo shared a heartfelt moment in which he professed his undying adulation for her father; Nicolas Reyes, the lead vocalist from the Gipsy Kings; and Andy Garcia, who apparently is a phenomenal bongo player and percussionist! Sandoval knew what we wanted before we even knew what we wanted, and he served it to us on a revolving platter.

Arturo Sandoval

In all, it was an unforgettable night and the perfect kickoff to my vacation next week. I’m headed south of the border and will be doing so with more music in my heart.

the formers

art by Nancy Ekholm Burkert

Every relationship that I’ve had has left some sort of mark in me. For my own purposes, I imagine little human-shaped parts of my heart that my Formers forever inhabit.

I can’t explain what compelled me to do so, but I started reading through old e-mails that I’ve exchanged with boyfriends past. What’s that, you ask? Why do I keep things like that? The answer is simple: I’m sentimental.

(I’m also too lazy to go through and delete everything on rampage like a hormonal school girl.)

I call them Formers because to brand them “exes” seems too banal. As if “X-ing” them off a list is all it takes to move on. Relationships may be fleeting, but memories are not such ephemeral things.

For example, I remember little things about my Formers. Idiosyncrasies that are unique to that individual. I remember how one used to pretend that he could blow at stoplights to change the light from red to green. Another used to drag his feet when he walked.  I once dated a guy who was diabetic, and he used to tell me I was bad for his health because I was so sweet. Every once in a while, a synapse will fire while I’m doing something mundane, like opening a box of cereal. I’ll recall a Former’s favorite brand of cereal or a time that I had breakfast with them. These memories always make me smile.

My favorite part of a relationship is the beginning. You can’t stop talking to each other, absorbing each other, thinking about each other. Every minute you have together is a gift from the divine. Each ambrosial kiss sends you floating in mid-air and every word exchanged is a star from which you hopelessly hang. Inevitably, beginnings end, and these sensations evaporate into a gaseous form of memory to be sensed again only when the emotional temperature is right.

Trust me — I’m fully aware of my tendency to live in the past sometimes. There’s no pragmatism in reminiscing. Then again, there’s no harm in it either, as long as you’ve got your feet rooted in the very real present.

I bear no shame in remembering, smiling, and even aching for these otherwise impermanent moments. Only when we genuinely miss something do we truly grasp how beautiful it was to have had it in the first place.

catching up

So much has happened! I’ll have to write more in-depth about other stuff later, but this is an abbreviated version of what I’ve been doing lately.

Went on a hike to Sturtevant Falls in the Angeles National Forest. We got there at 7, and the road gates up to the mountain closed at 8. Saw a deer along the way, but it was too elusive for a photograph. Climbed over rock bridges, crossed creeks, conquered steep inclines.Passed some old cabins that were built in the early 1900’s and have been standing ever since. Bulwarks against time. Quick dash through the trail (almost 4 miles total) in and out, snapped some pictures, and made it back to the van. The gates were closed (scary) but fortunately (for us but not for her) the passenger in the car in front of us had twisted her ankle. The police considered it an emergency and came right away.

That same night, we thought it’d be a good idea to drive out to the desert to watch the Perseid meteor shower. We drove out to Palm Desert to find a good spot. My parents had their honeymoon in Palm Springs at the Lawrence Welk Resort and would take us there for vacation when we were little. I have fond memories of driving the golf cart around for my dad while he played. We walked into the local Food 4 Less, where my mom and I would go grocery shopping for food when we stayed at the resort. What a transportation back in time. The moon was too bright for stargazing, but it was a beautiful trip nonetheless.

Tired from our hike and driving and operating on zero sleep, we finally rolled back into my driveway at 6am.

That same day we came back from the desert, we played a gig at Cafe Viento y Agua in Long Beach, CA. Great turnout, played a good set. Everyone went to eat at Lucille’s afterward.

Dinner at Monsieur Marcel’s at the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles. We had a spread of olives, chorizo, gazpacho, bread, and strawberry-infused sparkling wine.

Hemingway’s Lounge in Los Angeles, CA. The drinks are themed after Hemingway’s books, and the champagne is served in French champagne glasses. There are old typewriters hanging from the walls. There are pillars all throughout the lounge that double as bookshelves. Reading is welcomed and encouraged.

The Hollywood Bowl. I watched the LA Philharmonic perform Fantasia live as they projected the movie on multiple screens. They threw in extra sequences that were started but never completed. Among them were “Destino” (collaboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney), Debussy’s “Claire de Lune”, and Freddy Martin’s “Bumble Boogie,” a boogie woogie version of “Flight of the Bumblebee.” The Bowl was lit up sensationally and there were fireworks for the final pieces, which were selections from The Nutcracker.

And next, off to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico!

water, water…nowhere


When I got home last night, the water was gone.

I had just watched The King and I in Costa Mesa at Segerstrom Hall. It was part of a special summer series of movies outdoors. Unfortunately, sitting outside means dirty palms and feet, not to mention the light sweatiness that comes from staking out for long hours, while the sun was still out, to ensure getting a good spot. I was in dire need of a shower.

I pulled up to the driveway to find my mom walking outside in her pajamas. Her sandals were flapping against wet yoga pants. She wore a furrowed expression on her face, illuminated by the blue glow of her cell phone.

Uh-oh, I thought. What could have happened now?

“The sprinklers have been on for 3 hours,” she grunted at me through my car window. No eye contact. Just her style. She flip flopped onto the sprinkler system dial through the open garage door. I made my way inside and stripped as soon as I got to the bathroom. It felt good to be free of my clothes. When I tugged at the knob, I heard the pipes choke behind the wall. The shower head dry heaved.


I found my mom downstairs with a flashlight pushing random buttons on the sprinkler system dial.

“What happened?” I asked, trying not to let my irritation get the best of me. I was wrapped in a towel, and my eyes were burning from my contacts having dried out. I couldn’t even wash my hands in order to take them out.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Well, I am kind of worried because the water’s not working in the house.”

She barely flinched.

Wonderful, she was going to play the silent game to avoid admitting that she had somehow turned the water off. 

“Where’s Dad?”

She avoided the question by leaving the room.

My parents fight constantly. It’s complicated. They currently sleep in separate beds and converse only when it’s necessary. We keep up appearances but are internally split. Like those chocolate oranges that seem to be whole but easily break into slices when you apply enough pressure.

I live in a house divided, and now there was no water in it.

I went back upstairs and sat on the toilet seat lid in my towel, turning on the faucet every 2 minutes to see if the water would come back on. No luck, I was forcing the pipes to squeeze out something that simply wasn’t there.

“You’re going to have to go to the gym to take a shower. The water’s not coming back on tonight,” my mom said as she wiped her hands with a rag.

“It’s 1:30 in the morning. Can’t you turn the valve back on or something? I have work tomorrow morning and I don’t want to drive out to the gym right now.”

“Well, you should have come home earlier then.”

“How was I supposed to know you were going to shut off the water supply?” I was more than irritated.

She gave me the silent treatment again and disappeared into her bedroom. I stared at the light leaking out of the edges of her door frame and remained in the bathroom, as if waiting it out would turn the water back on.

Suddenly, I’m jolted awake. I didn’t even realize I had fallen asleep, but some faint impressions of a dream about my mom waltzing with the King of Siam convinced me that I had dozed off. By reflex, I tried the faucet. Water! Glorious, smooth, flowing water! My mom had probably gone to war with herself about dealing with it or not and headed downstairs to fix it herself.

Without waiting for the water to get warm, I jumped into the shower, grateful to rinse off the day. I decided that after I finished, I would go and give my mom a big wet hug.