When we get to the jungle gym the girls take off for the slide and I put my stupidly enormous (or is that enormously stupid?) bag, stuffed with magic markers, crayons, notebook, iPad, an empty wallet, keys, and a bunch of other crap, on a nearby bench.
I look down and see the black leather tassel that hangs on my key chain. It's not the first time I've mistaken the thing for a bug or a snake. (Don't ask me why I would keep a keychain that scares the hell out of me every time I see it in my bag.) So I say to myself, "Oh, Emily, you nut."
But as I bend down to pick up my things, there it is. The biggest scorpion I've ever seen, right in the middle of my things.
I tell the girls (in the calmest voice I can muster) that there is something "really cool to see way over there." They don't buy it, but they go anyway. I scramble for a rock to throw at the monster, but all I can find is a poor excuse for a pebble. I don't want to annoy the beast and turn a badass scorpion into an angry badass scorpion, so I find a decent-sized rock and turn to take aim.
Now there is a scorpion the size of my foot somewhere I can't see. I pick up a stick. It's no good. It crumbles in my hand.
It starts to rain.
I find a big stick. Actually, it's more like a sapling, but I can't think about the moral implications of killing a tree right now. For the next twenty minutes or so, while PJ is teaching a group of blissfully ignorant yoga students to breathe and envision peace and blah blah blah, I'm tip-toeing through a playground in the rain, carrying a big rock and poking the ground with a stick. If it were the States I'd already be under arrest.
I jab at the papers on the ground. No scorpion. I shake out my notebook. No scorpion. It's just fucking with me, I know it. It's just waiting to pounce. So one by one, I jab and shake out my things. Jab and shake. Jab and shake.
I'm soaking wet. The girls are slightly afraid … of me.
Then I hear PJ calling out for us. Thank God. I tell him what's happened and he says, "Oh, my God!" (The appropriate response. Smart man.) "How long ago did you see it?" He asks. "Twenty minutes," I say. "Why didn't you call Jose?" He says. Oh, right. José, the hotel's manager and resident creepy scary beast whisperer.
José arrives and, in my very broken Spanish, I explain what's happened. I'm prepared to hear him say, "Don't worry. Scorpions won't hurt you." But he doesn't say that. The man who picks up giant bugs and wrangles snakes on a daily basis says, as best as I can translate, "Yeah, Scorpions. They'll fuck you up."
PJ does a final check of my things and we all pile into the car. I have the heebie jeebies all the way home – because aside from being really scary, scorpions are also really creepy.
I'm not sure what I'm supposed to learn from this, except the fact that it's never too early for rum.
Are there some things that are just meant to scare you? Or maybe things just happen. You know, like, yeah, today there's going to be a badass scorpion in your bag for no other reason than to fuck with you. Maybe.
But then there's this: Vida cried when we left the playground. Guess mommy jabbing at the ground with a stick, hoisting a rock, trembling and mumbling to herself in the rain, isn't enough to ruin a good time at the playground.
Or maybe just because everything works out okay doesn't mean the fear or danger isn't real. It's just that most of the time things don't work out as badly as we think they will. And, more than that, everything passes. Everything. No matter what it is. I was shaking but I was okay. The girls were okay. Nobody got stung. The scorpion went his way and we went ours.
José smiled when he said scorpion stings hurt like hell. The pain hits you and moves through you like fire. He's been bitten. A few times. But he was smiling when he said it. That's one of the amazing things about this place. It's so beautiful and yet there are things that are so scary and hard, and yet the people keep smiling.
Yep, scorpions are mui malo. Mui peligroso. What are you going to do? Pour the rum and move on. Just like the scorpion.
Who's the badass now?