From the Oxford English Dictionary: rejectamenta, n. [‘Seaweed, debris, etc., washed up by sea or tides or floodwaters.’]
On the shore of a Caribbean cruise ship route, my friend owned a diving resort that sat on a half mile of beachfront. As if never to be seen again, all ship trash was conveniently dumped overboard. I expected to have to tiptoe across paradise through the sands of rejectamenta, but disembodied doll parts, dead toothbrushes, de-thonged flip-flops, torn beachwear, broken toilets, and worse, went on for otherwise empty miles.
This was in the Yucatan, about an hour above Belize, isolation that attracted a community of lost or crooked souls: a Norweigan baker who couldn’t buy decent wheat from a culture that lives on corn; the maniac builder of the resort who sold it to John. Rumor had it, the builder took a couple, his co-owners at the time, on a boat ride. When they returned, the husband was not with them, nor was he ever seen again.
An excellent chef did all the cooking for guests and staff. Young and strong bodied when I met him, his lungs were compromised by untreated tuberculosis. He’d tried to procure the necessary treatment drugs but they were not available to the average citizen in Mexico, and he’d accepted his fate.
John hired two girl cousins from Guatemala to help in the kitchen. While freely practicing Catholicism and tropical herbal medicine, the novelty of living amongst a bunch of bohemians was fine with them, until one unknowingly ate pot brownies baked by the chef. How many were ingested was unclear, but she loved sweets and ended up on a bad trip. Suspecting a spell placed on her by a jealous housekeeper who denied the accusations and threatened to quit, full disclosure would have been a simple cure. Inconsolable beyond the duration of a normal pot induced high, telling her meant possible arrest or losing her help so no one confessed to the cause.
Upon her insistence, John drove her deep into the jungle to a curandero, a shaman. She explained to the healer that an evil curse left a live snake in her throat. As if a common complaint, the remedy was immediate: raw eggs in their shells rubbed all over her body. After the egg rolling, she was driven to her uncles’ to convalesce. Those guys refused to let her return to the resort unless a ransom was paid. That did not happen, and in spite of really needing her, she was gone.
Of all the members in this community, the most enduring was an expat named Suze. Her hair and vocal force were styled after Janis Joplin. She originally arrived on scene in search of her father, a local, who impregnated her vacationing mother in the late sixties. Suze lived in a pair of bent trailers near the beach. For a couple of dollars a night, she rented rooms to stragglers and every penny she made was spent on tequila and beer, the lubrication for her nightly parties.
One afternoon while walking on the beach with her through the minefield of trash, so many stories cycling through our conversation, she said, “What are you doing down here?”
“Spending time with John,” I said, avoiding the details of our complicated history of love-gone-by and the uncertainty of finding it again. “What about you, are you planning to stay?”
“It’s not about making plans,” she said. “The reason people end up here is because they’re either wanted and unwanted.”
Photo of rejectamenta by Marissa Bridge