This story has been on my mind for a long time, and instead of publishing it in a book, I thought I’d share it here on my website. Rocio and Jax’s is a love story between a local Mexican woman and an expat from New Zealand, taking place here in Los Cabos, my hometown.
It’s a tale of two damaged souls finding each other, common misconceptions about societies that are different, and a clash between two cultures. I first wrote about Rocio in the short story Searching for Pearls in my book Tales from Los Cabos. In Searching for Pearls, Rocio, only sixteen, arrives in Los Cabos with her then boyfriend Gustavo, broke and heavily pregnant.
After I published Tales from Los Cabos, follow up stories were born in my mind, and one of them was Rocio’s. I always planned to share Rocio’s follow up story in my second installment of Tales from Los Cabos, Volume 2 which will come out this year, in 2020, but I decided to publish Rocio’s follow up story here on my blog.
Reaching for Pearls
Today was February 4, 2018. Frigging’ February 4 …
Rocio sighed while she stacked the wine bottles on the shelf behind her. It wasn’t her task, but her colleague had conveniently taken a lunch break when this delivery came in. White wine to the left, red wine to the right. The names on the bottles didn’t mean anything to her. She didn’t drink wine, she had never tried it before, but she knew that it was a popular drink with the foreign customers.
February 4, 2018 … Ten years ago on this day, she had left Acapulco and arrived in Los Cabos with Gustavo, heavily pregnant with his child. Four years ago on this day, she had left him, no longer willing to put up with his drinking. One year ago, on this same day as well, her son had been hit by a motorcycle and taken to the hospital. She wondered if today had anything planned for her or if it destiny’s hand would skip this year’s 4th of February.
After she stacked the last bottle, she turned and saw a tall man at the register. He was ruggedly handsome. His blond hair fell in messy waves on his shoulders, and his eyes were turquoise blue. She didn’t know how long he had been waiting there. Why hadn’t he just said something to get her attention? A six-pack of Tecate beer and some salt chips were on the counter.
“Es todo?” She asked. Is that all?
“Si,” he said, not once taking his piercing blue eyes of her. She was sure that that was probably the only Spanish word he knew, but she always appreciated it when foreigners made an effort to speak the local language, even if it was just a little.
She pointed at the computer screen which indicated that the price was 89 pesos, and she said, “ochenta y nueve.”
He handed her a hundred pesos bill and she noticed that he was still staring at her. Then he pointed at the thin scar on her forehead and asked, “How did you get that?”
Of course, her damn scar … Her friends always told her that it was hardly noticeable, but this gringo had seen it … She hated talking about her scar, but she realized that he didn’t mean any harm, he was genuinely interested. Rocio spoke a little English, but she wasn’t fluent, and she had no idea how to explain the accident that had burst her forehead open to this stranger.
“Accident,” she said, “long time ago.” She smiled and added, “it no look good.”
“You can hardly see it. Don’t worry. I was just curious.” He took the change from her, grabbed his beer and chips, and said, “thank you … He looked at her name tag on her uniform, “Rocio.”
She nodded and already focused on the next customer in line. The stranger walked out, but before the glass door fell behind him, he looked back, and saw that she was busy with a teenager.
Pretty lady, he thought, and went to his car, knowing that he would be back here tomorrow for another purchase. And that scar looked good on her, a straight narrow line in the middle of her forehead. She was obviously self-conscious about it. He should have thought of another ice breaker. He hoped he hadn’t messed up. Tomorrow, he thought, it will be another day, a new opportunity.
One day later
Jax parked his Toyota pick up truck and grabbed his key. He locked the door before walking to the store. About ten years ago there had been no need to lock the car, but nowadays that safety was no longer a part of Los Cabos. Many people had come to live in this town, and with the sudden influx, a lot of bad apples also found their way here. It was still a beautiful place, but it wasn’t what it used to be, he mused.
The door opened, and Rocio walked out, still wearing her uniform. She didn’t look at him, she went straight to an old, beat up VW Jetta. She seemed to be in a hurry. He wanted to talk to her, but now didn’t seem to be a good time, so he just stood there, watching her get into her car and wondering what it was that made her so special. She wasn’t his usual type. She was pretty, but she was short and a little thin. He usually went for taller women. She had beautiful eyes, though, and her scar intrigued him. She wore her shiny black hair in a thick bun, one strand fell loosely on her neck.
The car didn’t start. He saw her swear in frustration, then get out, and open the hood. Leisurely, he walked over. She was standing in front of her car, staring at the motor, not knowing where to look or what to do.
“Need some help?” He asked.
She turned to look at him, and he was pleased when he saw a glimpse of recognition in her eyes.
“No sé que le pasa,” she said. He understood what she meant, she didn’t know what was happening with the car. He wasn’t a mechanic, but he had been able to fix small issues on his Toyota.
“Let’s see,” he said, bending over the motor. Everything seemed fine at first glance. Water, oil, anti-freeze, it was all good. Perhaps it was the battery …
“Me tengo que ir” She suddenly said, looking a little impatient – “I have to go.”
“I can give you a ride,” he offered. She gave him a look. “Come on, I come here all the time, you know me, you can trust me. Where are you going?”
“School, I pick up my son.”
“I’ll take you.”
Rocio was unsure. If she let him give her a lift to the school and then to her house, he would know where she lived. She didn’t want him to see her run down neighborhood. He was probably a rich gringo and he would be shocked when he saw the poor hovel she called home. It was embarrassing. But her son was only nine. She couldn’t let him walk home by himself, she had to pick him up. Swallowing her pride, she nodded and said, “Gracias.”
“Great.” He walked her back to his Toyota and held the door open for her. As soon as he got in beside her, she glanced at him nervously, wondering what she had gotten herself into.
Making conversation with her was not as hard as he thought. Although she spoke little English, she understood more than she let on. He was the one asking the questions while she answered politely. She didn’t ask him anything, but he credited that to her basic English knowledge. She told him that she came from Acapulco and that she had a nine-year-old son called Luis. She didn’t mention the father, but it was clear that she was no longer living with him.
When all the questioning was done, they arrived at the school. Many cars were lined up at the curb, awaiting their young charges.
“Ahi está,” Rocio said, “there he is.” She jumped out of the car and ran over to her son. She hugged him and regaled him with a lovely smile. The boy started chatting and his mouth didn’t stop moving until they got to the car. He looked a little confused when they stopped at the Toyota.
“Y tu carro, mami?” he asked. She explained what had happened, and then helped him into the backseat. Curiously, Luis looked at the gringo. The blond man turned and said “hola” with a big grin.
“Hola,” Luis said, smiling back. “Quien eres?”
“He ask, who are you,” Rocio explained.
“I’m Jax, from New Zealand.”
New Zealand? Rocio had not expected that. He looked like a gringo, tall and blond. But then, she remembered this one blond lady who had walked into the store one day and who had spoken Spanish fluently. It later turned out that she was from Germany. Rocio had to get over this notion that all blond people were gringos. There were more countries in the world. The thing was that Los Cabos seemed to have mostly Americans and Canadians, so encountering a foreigner from another country was a rare occasion.
She took her seat next to him and closed the door.
“Where to?” He asked.
“I show you, it is difficult.”
She dreaded the arrival in Lomas del Sol. Although there were some nice properties there, fenced in after high walls, the stark contrast with the wood and aluminum shacks was a constant reminder of the poverty that reigned throughout Los Cabos and which was hidden away from the tourists. Every day, she saw her neighbor come home in his hotel uniform. After serving cocktails at the exlusive pool bar all day long, in the evening he returned to his shabby hut which he shared with his wife and two children.
Now, Jax was going to see her little shack … Her home had never embarrassed her before, but it did now, because she was convinced that Jax had a lot of money. All foreigners were rich, weren’t they? What would he think when he saw how she lived?
As the car turned into her street – a dirt road with half of if washed away in the last rain – she nervously glanced at him. He looked calm, unimpressed by what he saw, as if this was nothing new. His gaze was fixed on the road, making sure he avoided the treacherous potholes.
“There,” she said, pointing at the second last house on the left. Only half of one wall was made of cement blocks while the rest of it was finished with aluminum. The remaining three walls were built with plywood, and an aluminum roof covered the feeble dwelling. Unlike some other houses, she had a real door, and not a simple curtain. With her own money she had bought a metal door and she had paid her neighbor to install it for her. She felt safer with a real door.
Jax stopped at her place and got out to open her car door. He took her hand to help her out.
“Gracias,” she said.
“It’s a high step, and you’re a little short,” he remarked, grinning, but she didn’t seem to understand. He opened the door to the back seat and made to help Luis, but the boy waved his hand away and climbed out by himself.
“Mami, se va quedar con nosotros?” Is he staying with us?
“No, mi vida,” she said, horrified at the idea of letting Jax in and showing him her sparsely furnished house.
“I gotta go now,” Jax said. “I’ll probably see you tomorrow at the store?”
“At the Oxxo, the store,”
“Oh, yes, tomorrow I am working.”
“Great,” He smiled and stepped back into his Toyota truck. “Looking forward to it,” As he drove off, he wasn’t sure why he was looking forward to seeing her again. She was unlike any woman he had ever been interested in, and she didn’t seem happy about getting a ride with him. Perhaps this was a lost cause. Then, why did he feel full of hope and was he anxiously awaiting tomorrow?