She just stood there.
Staring at me with her amber eyes. No expression. No words. Not a single twitch of muscle. Those eyes drew me in–so beautiful. Calm. Serene.
The harried waiter had brought us our salad, but what we were really anticipating was the pizza. “Wood-Fired Pizza. The Best in Town,” proclaimed the sandwich board on the sidewalk. We’d been lucky to get a table. Their “sidewalk seating” was eight or 10 tables, mostly on the street.
We’d gotten there early enough to swap our quaint, yet entirely uncomfortable wooden chairs for comfy plastic ones from another table. But by the time the pizza came, the sidewalk was packed. Tourists hovered, unsecretly plotting to combine tables the second they were vacated. A three-generation family was already securing tables and chairs; one of the moms, together with her bespectacled son, claimed squatters’ rights at the tiny table behind us.
Unfazed by the commotion swirling about her, she gazed at me, unblinking, unflinching, not even tilting her head to watch the pizza move from the plates to our mouths. She was the embodiment of need—need without shame.
She was obviously a nursing mother. A mother myself, I could see the signs.
After some mild debate with my husband about the “right thing to do,” I offered her some bread with a generous dollop of the creamy salad dressing. She ducked her head, sniffed, and then the bread was gone.
I gave her the second piece.
Behind me, the little bespectacled boy–maybe eight–reached out to her too, gave her a pat. Startled by his lack of fear, I turned and offered his mother some hand sanitizer as she quietly admonished him about getting his hands dirty before dinner.
It was a moment of pure trust. I wouldn’t have let my children touch her.
A bother to the tourists, she’d been shooed away by the waiter a few times, only to return to our oasis of kindness. How else was she to feed herself, her children?
She must have had a litter of puppies hidden somewhere, waiting for her to come back, no human to take care of them except for the less-jaded tourists.
We finished our dinner and walked back up the sandy street to our hotel, the night air enveloping us with its perfect imperceptibility. Womblike.
“I want to bring her home,” I sighed, half-seriously.
“Really?” My husband raised his eyebrows. “It’s nice to see you so being so compassionate.”
I’m sure my jaw dropped as I asked, “You don’t think I’m compassionate?”
“Well, I guess you’re just so stressed at home, with all the kids, the work…it’s good to see you being soft.”
“Yeah, I guess. I’m going to miss this place.”
On the last night, we sought out a beachfront bar, “inventor” of the mojito, hoping to watch one last sunset over the ocean.
Our feet in the sand, we sipped our mojitos—no different from those at home—and suddenly there she was.
The golden pit-pull scampered around the tables, then scurried back out the gateway before the staff could kick her out.
“No, that’s not her. She’s shorter, thinner. She’s nursing too, but she’s not so swollen. Maybe they’re sisters. I wish we could do something about all these dogs.”
Feeling defeated, I sent my husband to fetch the cocktail menu.
“I want something special…hmmm…here we go: the Sayulita Sunset.”
After all, that was exactly what we’d been seeking: one last, glowing sunset; but all we’d found was the gradual fading of light to dark behind the hills encircling the bay.
A good song to listen to now: Wisconsin, by Canadian band Whitehorse: