by cheryl santa maria

I’m scurrying down La Quinta Avenida in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, a shopping area that is teeming with tourists. I zip in and out of the crowds of people, past the colorful booths and the shopkeepers inviting me to check out their wares. I’m on a mission. Ah Cacao is two kilometers down the road and I’m trying to get there as quickly as possible.

Artist: R.E.M.
Song: Try Not To Breathe

There’s a man aimlessly walking in my direction. He’s dressed casually in blue jeans, a white shirt, and he has a green backpack slung over one of his shoulders. He’s tall – but then again, everyone is tall compared to me. As I brush past him I look up and catch a glimpse of his face. I stop.

“No way,” I say out loud. “No way.”

He looks down at me and he opens his mouth. Then he closes it. Then he opens it again. Then he slowly walks past me and into the closest shop, looking behind his shoulder as he goes.

I want to march into that shop and say something witty, or funny, or intelligent, or whatever. I duck behind some blankets and peer into the store, trying to get another glimpse.

By this time my friends have caught up with me.

“Let’s go,” they say. “Hurry up. Chocolate is waiting.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” I say. “Michael Stipe just walked into that gift shop.”

“No he didn’t.”

“Yes he did!”

“Michael Stipe is not inside that gift shop.”

“Yes he is!”

“No he isn’t. What the hell would Michael Stipe be doing in Playa Del Carmen? On La Quinta? Is he alone?”


“Then it definitely isn’t him. The real Michael Stipe would probably have an entourage with him or something. Come on, let’s go.”

And then he walks out of the store.

“There he is!” I screech. “Michael-freaking-Stipe!!”

I want to walk up to him and say, “Hi there, you look thirsty. Would you like a drink or something to eat? My treat – in exchange for some of your stories, of course.”

But all of the sudden he has completely disappeared and the next thing I know I’m sitting at Ah Cacao grudgingly eating my chocolate bar, which doesn’t taste as good as it normally does because I just passed up the opportunity to introduce myself to Michael Stipe.

When I get home I visit R.E.M.’s website and it looks like their most recent tour wrapped up on November 18th.

In Mexico.

As I sit there, staring at my computer screen in disbelief, I decide I really need to develop some whimsy or confidence or backbone because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life writing stories about how I almost met interesting and amazing people.

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