MEXICO, SIESTA BACKPACKERS HOSTEL
“Signorita, it is time!”
Jo turned her head in the direction of the knocking.
“Signorita, you wake up?”
Jo looked in the direction of the alarm clock. Hidden behind a half empty bottle of Johnnie Walker, she tried to focus on the blurry numbers. She eased herself up in the bed and gingerly placed her feet on the floor. A small stuffed koala had fallen on the floor and it was placed in the mesh pocket of her backpack. Pulling back the heavy curtains, she shielded her eyes from the bright Mexican sunshine and headed for the shower.
The hot water cascaded over her body, over a head that hurt and a stomach that felt queasy. She fumbled for the soap and washed her body, her mind travelled back to last night. Alone in the darkness of the hostel room, she had tossed restlessly hoping that the whiskey would eradicate a mind preoccupied with images of the woman who had captivated her mind and her heart.
Fifteen minutes later, Jo sandwiched herself inside the iron accordion-type elevator doors. Fellow travellers nodded to her. A line had already formed in front of the check out desk of the Siesta Backpackers Hostel in Merida, a large university town and capital city of the Yucatan peninsula. She began mentally itemizing her needs for the bus trip to the Aztec ruins of Chichen Itza, when a young voice intruded.
“Excuse me, but ain’t that a koala? “Are you from Australia?”
Jo turned around and noticed a short dark haired girl. She wore fake designer sunglasses and a green and white bandana covered most of her purple hair. Her male companion, with matching shades, looked straight ahead, reluctant to engage in the conversation.
“Where in Australia are you from? We’re from Mobile, Alabama.”
Jo tried to formulate words, when the next question arrived. “Me and Kurt would like to go to Australia, but that’s a lot of money. We decided to go to Mexico. You know it’s cheaper than going to Australia!”
“I reckon it is!” replied Jo. She glanced ahead hoping that the line had moved.
“Have you travelled a lot? I could travel forever, but Kurt thinks we would get bored. Why did you leave Australia?” asked the talking machine.
“Smuggling top grade Vegemite – wanted by the police!” whispered Jo.
“You’re wanted by the police?” said the bandana loudly. All eyes in the room turned towards Jo.
Kurt crooned. “Cool.”
“Your name, Signora?” The young Mexican at the reception desk went slowly through her passport. Jo stared at him deciding against removing her sunglasses.
“Is there a problem?” Jo was firm.
The young man glared and sucked his lips in contempt.
“Please remove your sunglasses. Are you in trouble with the police?”
He looked at her passport picture and then carefully scrutinized the foreigner. Jo could see by the sneer of his face that he disapproved of her appearance.
“Signorita, forgive me, but I thought maybe you were a man!”
Jo shot back, “Forgive me, but I wondered the same about you?”
His face bulged with anger, Jo needed to get her passport. She thought quickly, “I was thinking what KIND OF MAN you are.”
“Kind of man?” He seemed confused.
“Yes, kind of man….clever, nit-wit, handsome, dingo’s ass-look.”
“Hurry up, mate. I’ve got a plane to catch,” someone yelled.
Jo noticed the sneer as the Mexican glanced at her appearance. She was wearing a black akubra cowboy hat, short-sleeved shirt and shorts. Under the hat, he noticed the very short red hair, freckled brow and penetrating defiant green eyes.
He continued to play a power game.
“You’re not wanted by the police?”
“Are you angry with Jose?”
Jo laughed, “Let me explain, Jose. I’m cheesed off and fit to spit nails, but I reckon I’ll be nice to you, Jose.”
“This is good, senorita.”
“Sure, I’m dealing with a wonker whose got a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock, you know the dullest bulb in the chandelier. I’d take you to lunch but I ain’t got any fungus rat’s arse to serve you. Anyway, may you drink lots of beer tonight and puke in technicolor and may your dong drop off by morning!”
The crowd was laughing. Her slang confused the Mexican. Jo grabbed her passport out of his hands. The backpackers applauded.
Jo swung round to find that Kurt had blocked her way. He whispered, “We could negotiate a price for that Vegemite stuff.”
“Kurt, it’s a paste for sandwiches. Aussie kids are raised on it!”
Outside, the sun was getting hotter. Jo was used to blazing sun, but the noise and the smell of the town made her feel uneasy. On her outback cattle station, the sounds were different, less jarring. Jo loved the sounds and colours of Australian birds and the gentle lowing of cattle and horses. She was out of her element, travelling to fulfill a promise.