The island nights are strangely hotter than the days. Night falls like a curtain over the sun and yet no reprieve for us. We walk everywhere, hoping each time will be different, leaving the house sleek and groomed and arriving to our destination unkempt messes. If we’re lucky, there’s a strong breeze to cool us down; if we’re super lucky, there’s a light rain shower.
Last night we had both. Stacy and I stepped out for a bite — we had no specific destination, just a gnawing hunger — and that’s when Nilo pulled up on his scooter, carrying — of course — two sixers of Heineken. Dinner plans abandoned.
“You girls,” he said, popping open two bottles in the blink of an eye. “Come see the house.”
If we’d attempted to say no, Nilo would’ve found a way to lure us anyhow. Resistance is futile. Plus, I’d missed the old guy. He’s got swagger. Stacy doesn’t share my affinity for strangers, but I have a history of moving to foreign places and living beside charming men who help me adjust to my new life. (A Bostonian named Tex plied me with rides to the grocery store, homemade chili, and even weed when I relocated to New England.)
Nilo unlocked the door to an empty white room with beautiful high ceilings and a checkered tile floor. No furniture, just a staircase leading to the rest of the house. A wooden cross hung over a fireplace.
“You meet my daughter,” Nilo suggested. “She’s fifteen.”
“Victoria!” he called, and out stepped Nilo’s beautiful daughter, not even batting a lash at the site of her papa with two random American girls. His son even materialized minutes later too, and showed us the new Converse he’d just purchased.
We sat out on the open-aired veranda and talked. The breeze was nice and Nilo was on fire with the audience he so craved. “I told you about Isla Mujeres,” he said.
I nodded. Isla Mujeres and Holbox, two close islands, are in the midst of whale shark season, and during our last meeting with Nilo he’d suggested taking us. “Whale sharks?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “My other work.”
“What do you do?” I asked.
“I paint the pictures for the presidential candidate on the boat,” he said, handing us t-shirts and posters of PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto.
Mexico’s national election is a mere two weeks away, and all over the island are pictures plastered of Pena Nieto. Most of the folks I’ve talked to will be voting for dark horse Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, but Nilo will vote for Pena Nieto “because he pays me.” Stacy is going to cast her non-existent vote for Pena Nieto, too, because she, and hordes of other women, appreciate his handsomeness more than his politics. Stacy thinks he resembles a Mexican JFK Jr.
“You come with me to the mainland,” he told us. “I do my work; they ask me what I want, I tell them a hotel, we stay there for days.”
It began to rain and we headed indoors. Nilo’s kids readied for a night out and pleaded with their papa for money. He handed Victoria $100 pesos and gave her a strict curfew of 11.
We prodded Nilo to show us his Olympic memorabilia, and he emerged with a bag of medals, which we appropriated for an impromptu photo shoot.
A little drunk and even hungrier, we bid Nilo farewell, and he held onto Stacy a little too long. It was her last night on the island and despite his pleadings and charms, she’d refused each one of his marriage requests.
I promised Nilo I’d see him when he returned from the mainland a few days later, and we’d do it up cantina-style at Las Tortugas.
We hoofed it to the Oxxo to buy beer for Stacy’s goodbye party at the condo. Without enough time for a sit-down dinner before the party, we lit the pilot in the oven and cooked a frozen pizza in despair. It was just the right amount of post-Heineken grease to carry us through the next several hours of fiesta!