The moment we crossed out of customs and into Tijuana, something lifted from my shoulders.
It was as if my body was remembering something that -- in all the hullabaloo of friends and family sending us media articles and confessing their deep concern for our wellbeing in Mexico and beyond -- my overactive mind had somehow misplaced and forgotten.
And rather than kill this sentiment by trying to explain it (a compulsive human drive that I am constantly advising clients to transcend);
I will instead illustrate it, with a story...
It's around 1pm in the desert, somewhere in the mountainous inland between Ensenada on the Pacific side and San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez side, and Bruce and I are baking -- searching desperately for a scrap of shade that isn't also a tangle of cactus thorns.
After several failed siesta attempts involving bushes, Bruce nods his head toward what appears to be a house, a dozen meters off the road; but which, upon closer inspection, looks more like an abandoned 2-room shed made of cement.
Pools of darkness beckon from within.
I don't question, just nod and follow.
We go around back, and laugh with delight to discover a four-foot strip of shade.
We park our bikes, and sit in the doorway.
Eventually I move inside, and sit with my back against the cool cement.
After a few minutes, Bruce follows suit.
We try and fail to fix our sputtering stove, which still manages to boil the mac and cheese we opted to skip last night, when a family out searching for their lost cow gave us a scare with their flashlight after dark.
Then, out of nowhere, a policeman appears.
Oh no, I think.
He asks how we are, where we're going, how long we've been here.
But it's friendly, relaxed, more curious than anything else.
Then he asks if we've seen a little girl, around twelve years old, wearing a gray shirt with a monkey on it. Her family is looking for her, he says.
We promise to call 911 if we see her. He turns to go, wishing us suerte.
Alone again, we eat, and sigh with pleasure.
Bruce lays down for a cat nap.
I pull out a loose-leaf manuscript to review for a client.
A lazy hour passes.
Shouting voices. Getting closer.
Bruce and I tense and exchange a look.
"Time to go?" I ask.
We shift into gear.
I pull on my socks and shoes, start packing up the mess kit.
The shouts are getting louder.
It's clear they are headed our way.
There's no way they won't see us now.
Then, through the doorway, I see a brown horse.
Followed by another brown horse.
Followed by a gray dog, trotting alongside.
Next, a red pickup with two men in the cab, whooping and hollering at the horses.
We greet them tentatively, unsure if they'll care that we're here, on what is clearly their property.
To which they respond by thrusting cold cans of Tecate into our respective hands.
Arturo and Alvaro, as they come to be known, are in charge of bringing the horses to pasture. Everyone else is back at the house with the piñata, and do we want to go there and have dinner with them?
The two caballeros hang out for half an hour, telling us about the 30-hectare ranch we're on, the local fauna (which includes lynx and bighorn sheep), their hometowns in Baja and Chiapas, and places we should visit while we're en route to La Paz.
Arturo asks about Los Angeles -- the only place he'd be interested to visit in the US, which is too uptight, in his opinion.
Repeatedly, they assure us that it's fine for us to be here, that no one cares, that it's too hot to do anything until the sun goes down, that we should hang out with them until the sun goes down.
They assure us, with one hand making a snaking motion, that once we hit the pueblito down the road, the riding will be easy-peasy.
By the time we've waved and pedaled off, with a page of my Moleskine notebook filled with their handwriting and the sun blissfully low in the sky...
I've remembered, clear as day, what it is that I'd forgotten.