The narrative begins with the author in Mexico, dealing with yet another crowded bus. The end
of a long day of travel, toward the end of a long adventure south of the border.
Excerpt from the book Journey to the Mayan Underworld
(Four Ahau Press, 1989).

Dirty Laundry
by John Major Jenkins

Rolling smoothly down open highway now, I withdrew into revery and recalled a recent dream.

I dreamed I found a long lost friend - she was a primal "she" in the young mind of my childhood, a face I could probably name if I thought about it. A memory of a spirit, original, unfallen, and I thought - oh yeah, how could you forget her, she's always been here, you always have her. Archaic dreams of cartoon purity - no dark shadows of adult anxiety, only step by step discovery at every turn - led by the life process in unfrightened innocence and now, as my weary body screams silently I can't be good enough to myself to avoid pain.

I was ejected from the bus at a random corner in Valladolid and as my numb mind wandered among the faces and buildings my feet brought me to a nameless hotel. As the clerk led me down a drafty hallway to my dark chamber I encountered a young French couple who I had last seen months ago in Antigua. They said, "We're trying to get out of here," spoken as if in some Dante-esque theatre of underworld voyagers. Strange, I thought, we are so different, us four in this concrete hallway, yet all together. I somehow felt each one of us playing out in our lives a script written long ago. It was a rare feeling of deja-vu that tossed up another old memory. As a child I sometimes felt myself being watched with amusement by an old man who was also myself, as if I was actually an old man recalling his childhood - sort of a throw back feeling of the future in a numinous cloud of time lessness. Perhaps the old Mayan notion of time moving in both directions or past and future being a unity in some higher space holds some truth.

Something the Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes said relates to this, in speaking about how modern Latin American writers are forging a new prototype of New World philosophy: "We must imagine the past and remember the future."

I lay exhausted on the flimsy bed of that overpriced six-dollar room and tried to invoke peace. The incredibly loud concussion of truck engines invaded my room, which was well back from the street. And it smelled like shit - a grimy hovel decorated with well-meant curtains and a cracked mirror. The saloon style fan above my head only cooled me slowly, any faster and it oscillated dangerously on its shaft.

The flies, spiders, and other creatures that were out and about when I first entered had returned to their oily caves in the self-renewing ecology behind the dresser. They awaited my restless sleep to descend upon my sweet white skin, to suck away my life force as is their directive. Knowing no better, no higher impulse, I smashed them when I could, to teach them their lesson of stunted evolution - rise up! And only that I would be smashed by one higher, to send me onwards into rememberless sleep, to wring out my aching joints and weary cells. Each cell cries for rest and renewal, even only painless functioning as is their directive. But I push beyond the boredom of function, obsessed with novelty and hurrying to be molded by hardships and the elements to where I look so bad I win the right to lay down striving, give up the search, to retire into a pasture of cud chewing where I am invisible to the young and lost in repose.

Fortunately, my delirious musings faded as I soon drifted mercifully into sleep and the morning sun brought renewal.

I awoke to dim light filtered through scarred window panes and the dream haze of morning that was slow in lifting. Digging into my pack for clean clothes a waft of fragrance beyond words shocked me to reality. Sometimes the demands of constant travel don't allow one to take care of the basics, but now washing my laundry became top priority.

My wardrobe at this point consisted of two corduroy pants, a pair of cut-offs, four T-shirts, three pairs of socks, a thick flannel button shirt, a cotton jacket, and three pairs of underwear. I stuffed all of this into one of the T-shirts and climbed the back stairway to the roof, where I found tubs and waterspickets. Some bedsheets and pillow cases were already flapping in the breeze to dry, and a young woman was kneeding another pile in the concrete washbasin.

"Buenas Dias," I said, "Me llamo es Juan, Como te llama?"

"Muneca," she replied. Though it was early in the day by my standards, Muneca had already washed by hand several baskets of hotel laundry. I claimed an empty tub and began scrubbing.

From the roof, one could see the city-sprawl of Valladolid, the zocalo several blocks away, and the cenote. I learned from Muneca that she was from a Mayan village south of town, and had moved here with her husband. They both worked at the hotel and lived in the rooms here on the roof. Corrugated tin served as a sun shield and roof to their tiny brick dwelling, and I guessed it was formerly used as a storage area. A trellis of vines stretched along one wall of their house and across the patio to the canopied work area under which we laboured. She was typically shy although she sometimes flashed a smile at my confused attempts to phrase a question. She no doubt spoke two languages, Yucatec Maya and Spanish, and to my surprise also a little English which she picked up from travelers.

Washing clothes in a tub by hand is hard work; my arms were aching and soon our conversation waned and Muneca retreated to her room. I was soaping a pair of pants with a bar of Ivory when Muneca reappeared with a little bag of laundry detergent.

A smile, a hand extended. "For you," she said.

This excerpt also appeared in the June/July 1995 issue of "Scenezine",
the monthly newspaper of the Chicago Peace and Music Festival.