I was at a seaside resort in Mexico with my father’s family when my cousin Chris suddenly remembered it was his mother’s birthday.
Chris came to my hotel room and asked me if I would come downstairs to the hotel’s gift shop to help him pick out a silk scarf for his mother.
Looking at a clock I noticed it was only two o’clock so I told Chris the shops would be open for another few hours so there was time to walk into town and look for a gift.
We walked down the cobblestone road that led to the village from our hotel and when we reached the bottom I suggested rather than buying a physical gift—probably something my aunt wouldn’t really need or use—that we could buy a gift voucher for a spa treatment which she was sure to enjoy.
Chris loved the idea and as I’d been coming to the resort for years, I knew many of the shopkeepers and service providers in the village.
As we walked up to the salon I had in mind, I noticed a sign on the door that said the establishment was closed for vacation.
I then proceeded to walk inside the main market building where I knew the porter, who I found sitting at his table in the small porter’s “closet.”
Speaking to the porter in Spanish, I asked him if he could recommend a reputable salon where my aunt could get a spa treatment that included a facial and pedicura.
He told us to go upstairs and see the curandera, a word meaning “healer “ or “shaman.”
While I was a bit surprised that the porter would send us to see a healer for a spa treatment, I trusted him and his recommendation.
Chris and I walked up the steep, winding stone staircase that led to the shops and suites upstairs.
On our way up, we ran into quite a few shady characters such as drunks and prostitutes, one who was wearing a tight grey dress that revealed she was heavily pregnant.
Once we reached the top floor, we saw a long line of people—mostly those with severe mental and physical disabilities—waiting to see the curandera.
Chris anxiously looked at me and I convinced him I was certain that the treatment for his mother would be conducted in a private suite inside specially designated rooms.
Just then, a man standing a few feet away from us started staring at me and a few seconds later, I could see he was becoming quite agitated.
The man began slowly walking towards me with a very angry look on his face, and to avoid a confrontation, I took Chris by the arm and hurriedly started walking back to the stairs.
On our way back to the hotel, we noticed we were suddenly being followed by a number of stray dogs and cats until a woman who was walking her dogs appeared and she shooed away the stray animals.
Hearing the cathedral bells chime the half hour, I told Chris we still had plenty of time to find a nice gift at the hotel gift shop.
Then I woke up.