Wednesday, November 17, 2010

28. Rituals

For weeks I had begged C.W. not to follow me. I was taking my first long vacation since 1974, a cruise to Mexico. I needed some time away from his antics.

Lots of luck.

The most embarrassing thing happened this way. With some schooling in architectural history, I looked forward to a trip to Chichen Itza, the Mayan site. Little did I guess what would follow.

At the site, descendents of that great culture are reduced to selling trinkets to the tourists. They are small people, troublesome and annoying, but hey, they were there first.

Anyway, as we toured the great ball field, I didn’t notice a group of young Mayan boys playing soccer until one of them picked up the ball and wandered over to me.

“Pretty something, alright,” he said, nudging me in the side.

“Pretty something,” I said.

“Did they really chop off the head of the winning team captain?” he said in perfect English.

I looked down at a small, dark boy with black hair and a twisted smile.

Yep. It was C.W.

“Dammit,” I said, “I told you to stay home.”

“Jess,” he said. “Me at home.”

“Aw, man,” I said in exasperation.

“About this head chopping,” he said.

“There are differing opinions,” I said. Some say it was the losers who lost their heads.”

“You people do like your rituals,” he said. “Chopping off heads, eating your gods with a sip of nice Chianti, sacrificing your children. What’s the deal?”

“It makes us holy,” I said. “Now why don’t you go back home?”

“If it will make you feel any better,” he said. “By the way, did they really bounce the heads down those stairs?” He pointed toward the magnificent Castillo, or temple pyramid.

“Piss off,” I answered.

With that he kicked the soccer ball across the field and disappeared behind a temple wall. I thought no more about him until we followed the guide back to the Castillo for a discussion of the remarkable acoustics of the site. I became engrossed in the image of a great ceremony, imagining the costumes and headdresses of the priests and the huge crowds of people. I raised my camera to the uppermost section.

Then I saw it.

There was a blur at first—a figure darting between the uppermost columns. This was odd as tourists are forbidden from climbing the pyramid.

It got worse.

Down the temple stairs came bouncing—if you can believe it—a soccer ball. Not a head, but a soccer ball. I wanted to crawl under a statue, particularly as the entire crowd turned to stare at me as the last one who had been seen near such an object.

Look Closely to notice the alien's Mayan prank

Needless to say, this put a damper on the whole visit. The ball bounced all the way into the plaza and I must confess to imagining a head exploding into the crowd. I eased back toward the entrance.

I had almost made it when I heard a voice behind me. “Pretty neat, huh?”

“Get away from me,” I shouted at the top of my voice.

The young boy looked hurt as everyone turned to look. “Please Mister. You buy?” he said, thrusting a cheap plaster mask toward me.

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