Whenever I arrive in Mexico, I always enter through customs in a state of delirium after 15-16 hours of no sleep, crappy aeroplane food and hardly talking to anyone except to say “excuse me” in order shuffle past them into the aisle. I’ve physically arrived, and throughout security and baggage collection I’m aware of my surroundings, but in my head I’m still elsewhere.
I walk into arrivals with my suitcases, eyes darting this way and that for a friendly face. This time I am especially desperate for a hug after having my bag searched in three countries and being grilled by every customers officer I encountered – is it that unbelievable that I have friends over here? Our eyes meet and the first wave a of relief rushes over my body, accompanied with a barrage of hugs whilst I babble in English, stumbling over my words I’m speaking so fast, about my terrible journey and how glad I am to see everyone and damn, I’m hungry. Warm embraces, a kiss I’ve imagined a thousand times over and a friendship bracelet are exchanged in an awkward bustle of excitement and exhaustion.
We never know what to do after that. No body wants to go far for food and airport prices are extortionate so we stand around whilst I hand out presents of chocolate fingers and marshmallows, unable to talk very much for the weight of my weary head. This part never feels real, despite the interlocked fingers and kisses on cheeks and el ruido del idioma que no es mio. My spanglish is messy and sleepy, but little by little, it starts to flow more easily again.
The car has the familiar smell of tortillas and on the way home, I look out of the window at the city lights. We’re so far from the centre, but that isn’t what I fell in love with. I fell in love with the people, the food, the smell, the chaos and the dancing. As the lights whizz past in a drowsy haze, reality starts to sink in. We go for tacos in the nearby hole in the wall and I savour the flavour that I love so much. I eat meat here for the sake of ease, but really it’s the taste of real tortillas that I crave the most. That, and the smells that are impossible to recreate at home; freshly made tortillas, my friends’ cologne, the dusty air. They are all happiness to me.
It’s not until the next morning, when I wake up in a bed that’s not mine. I open my eyes and do the mini “where the hell am I?” panic. I look around and it dawns on me.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
Wave of relief.