When my friend Alana called and asked me to be one of her bridesmaids, I said, “Oh my God, totally!” But what I was thinking was: “Wait. Really? WHY?” Sure, we’d known each other since we were fourteen, but we just didn’t really know each other. I felt I was an odd choice. I felt I wasn’t qualified. But I had said “Oh my God, totally!”
So I was in.
Alana was going to get married where her father lived, in Puerto Vallarta. He was going to pay for the bridal parties’ accommodations and there was all kinds of excitement about the destination-ness of it all. Alternately, my father was horrified, and totally convinced that I would step off the plane and be instantly kidnapped by the Mexican Cartel. Common knowledge was that conditions weren’t fantastic. Violence was up. Tourism was down. But I had already said oh my God totally and bought the dress. And the shoes.
In retrospect, I would have traded all of my dresses and most of my shoes to not end up in a Mexican hospital by the end of the weekend. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.
When my boyfriend, Reid (who was acting as both date and bodyguard), and I arrived in Puerto Vallarta, Alana showed us to our beachfront casita. A set of doors opened onto the shore and the sound and smell of the waves lazily wafted toward us creating an instant sense of calm. It did not suck. The next day, the bridal party was taken out on a boat. The weather was perfect. We sailed to a beach — which was empty save for waiters who served us a lunch of fresh lobster. That did not suck either. We swam, we sailed, we soaked up the sun.
The day of the wedding was when things started to get less relaxing.
Alana was clearly frenzied, and when you asked her what she needed, she would start saying about three different, unrelated, fragment sentences and then run off abruptly. It became apparent that a catering team had not been hired to put on this wedding. They had some very authentic looking cooks, someone who dropped off some flowers, and the rest was, well, up to us. The casita, the boat — let’s just say they went for frills instead of basics. I found some empty salt and pepper shakers and kept busy filling those (they were never used). Then I was asked to wash dishes, arrange flowers on the arbor (?!), and for God sakes, find the maid of honor!
It really got me thinking about the role of a bridesmaid. What was the criterion? Was it simply someone that you’ve known a long time? Someone who you trusted? Was it about symmetry and an even ratio of bridesmaids to groomsmen? Or was it just someone who you thought would be good at arranging a centerpiece should your father not spring for that?
I guess there is something sort of beautiful about having the “whole village” put the wedding together, but maybe just let the village know beforehand? And maybe, let the village know sooner than six hours ‘til show time. One of the groomsmen’s wives went into I-used-to-be-a-florist-stand-back-I-got-this mode and was really doing an awesome job barking orders and multi-tasking. But she was wearing a bathing suit and was like albino pale. People kept telling her that her back was getting really burned. “I don’t have time… there’s nothing I can do about it now… where’s the tequila?!” Was her response.
Naturally, the wedding went off without much of a hitch, except that it started about a half hour late. And, five minutes into the ceremony, all the groomsmen sweated COMPLETELY through their long sleeved white dress shirts. Oh, and about a hundred thousand dead fish washed up on shore just in time for the “you may kiss the bride.”
I guess they call that a red tide? I mean thousands of fish. A thick ribbon of dead fish up and down the beach as far as the eye could see. It was great for pictures.
After the buffet dinner, the slideshow, the speeches, and most of the “adults” had gone to bed, a group of the groomsmen dove into the pool, sweaty clothes on. It was very festive and had a total domino effect on the rest of the guests, including, eventually, the bridesmaids as well. And then the groom. And then Alana disappeared for a while.
I joined forces with another bridesmaid, Sarah, and went looking for her. We found her in her room and when we, dripping in our dresses, told her she was missing the best part of her wedding, she threw herself back onto the bed, wailing that her “wedding was ruined” and that her new husband was “such an asshole” for joining in the pool fun. I was a little buzzed and soaking wet and completely stunned. THIS is what ruined her wedding? Guests going into the pool at the end of it?
Sarah and I did the bridesmaid thing of talking her down (which is really what I thought bridesmaid duty included — bride therapy, not washing and drying). And eventually she came out of her room and smiled and got in the pool too. And soon the whole thing was over and the next day it was time to go home.
But that was the day things started to really get weird.
And when I say ‘things’ I mean lower intestines, stomach, and probably upper intestines while we’re at it. I started the day with a hearty vomit and about three poops; it wasn’t normal. Then, when we opened the doors of the casita, the smell of ten thousand fish rotting in the sun was so over-powering that we decided to leave for the airport two hours early. It was unbearable.
The taxi ride to the airport was also unbearable, but only for me. I was sweating, headache-y, nauseous, and really wanting to get the fuck out of Mexico. Getting to the airport felt like a win, but only until I realized that the PVR is the longest airport OF ALL TIME. Football fields upon football fields long. Or so it felt that way. Reid had my bags, as I was carrying way too much constant nausea to handle anything else. I stopped to vomit and/or poop at almost every bathroom we passed. Count the bathrooms next time you’re in an airport. There are a lot of them.
Once at the gate (win!), Reid suggested I put on my sunglasses, as sick passengers are not allowed to fly. I just wanted to be home so badly. And Reid had a gig early the next morning. So, sunglasses on, I sweated down the jet way toward the plane. Until, climactically, I turned and ran back into the airport, only to barf in a dramatic explosion scene — right in front of the ticket counter.
They wouldn’t let me on the plane.
A nurse showed up, determined that my blood pressure was super low and gave me a card that said San Javier Marina Hospital. Reid and I looked at each other and we knew that was where I needed to go. Eventually a wheelchair came, I was pushed back through the football fields of airport, and then overcharged by a taxi to get to the hospital.
Let me just take a moment to note that no one I encountered in Mexico had any sense of urgency. San Javier Marina Hospital was no different.
La-dee-da as could be, a very kind, non-English-speaking doctor greeted us. Reid later told me that said doctor gave him a bro handshake (more than once). Like a handshake, grab-the-thumb, back to handshake deal. A super sweet nurse translated while Doctor Bro asked me a lot of questions about if I could possibly be pregnant. WHAT. I mean the only way that what I was experiencing was a result of pregnancy was if Satan himself impregnated me with a thousand dead rotting fish. Sorry. But it felt that ridiculous.
Another doctor showed up. He spoke more English, but with a Mexican accent and a lateral lisp. The two doctors both sort of started taking care of me. It was kind of like that awkward thing that happens when your server at a restaurant is training someone and you’re not sure who to ask the question to as they both just hover over you.
Dr. Bro and Dr. Lisp needed blood and stool samples to make their diagnosis. I knew I could give them blood, but I was sure I had no stool left to give. A few minutes later, however, my nausea and need to poop spiked yet again. The bathroom was five feet away (an eternity) so I grabbed onto Reid and made the trek.
This is where things spiraled out of control.
Convinced I might expire at any moment, I pulled Reid into the bathroom with me. AND I POOPED IN A CUP IN FRONT OF MY BOYFRIEND. Then, I handed my boyfriend the cup so that I could turn around and vomit into the place where I had just pooped. He set down the cup to hold my hair as I puked all but my guts out in front of him. And I’m telling you, in the moment, it was the only logical thing to do.
Back in the hospital bed, tears streaming down my face, I begged for an IV. The doctors determined, together, that I was probably right. As I lay there with the IV in my arm, I remember saying things to Reid like (very seriously) “do you think I’m going to make it?” and “put the heart monitor back on my finger, I’m going to sleep now and I want you to know if I die.”
When a diagnosis had been reached, Dr. Lisp and Dr. Bro approached my bedside. They were then joined by a third doctor, who said nothing the entire time. Dr. Lisp took the lead and told me that they determined it was a case of dyspepsia. Let’s take a moment to imagine Dr. Lisp, with his combined accent and lisp, saying the word “dyspepsia.”
Anyway, dyspepsia is an infection of the lower intestine due to eating or drinking something “really, really bad.” (Wedding buffet?) The bacteria levels in the stool were high. I needed to spend the night in the hospital. I needed to sleep cuddling with my IV while my boyfriend slept crunched on a three-foot couch next to me. And so it was.
As the IV slowly brought me back to life, I was able to make a few observations about a Mexican hospital: there is an exorbitant amount of stilettos worn by female hospital employees. I mean, the lab technician who took my stool sample was in stilettos. Obviously, the poop in a cup went poorly with her outfit. I felt bad about that. Also, when the nurse gave me slippers that said San Javier Marina Hospital on them (which I did NOT keep as souvenirs), she called them “night shoes,” which must be the literal translation. Reid and I found this interesting since we usually wear slippers in the morning. Different strokes for different countries. Last, and maybe the most useful: the translation for pee and poo in Spanish is (with a Spanish accent) “peepee” and “poopoo,” FYI.
After the three amigos docs went home, my case was taken over by Dr. Rio, who was the head of the hospital. Dr. Lisp had told me previously that Dr. Rio was “how do you say? Badass.” And he was. He really was. Dr. Rio was the one person in Mexico who had a sense of urgency, and I loved him for it more than I can say. He’d seen this a million times. He spoke perfect English. He had somewhere else to be. It was wonderful.
The next day at about two PM, I left San Javier Marina Hospital forever.
Reid and I went back to PVR airport. It was so much shorter this time. Reid had missed his gig at home. He was such a sport. While we waited for the plane, I ate a side of mashed potatoes and Reid had two beers and a burrito that he so desperately deserved.
Back at the ticket counter, everyone remembered me from the day before. I was quite famous. And I was proud of myself. I was the girl who had survived bridesmaid-ing a wedding that was poorly-to-not-at-all planned, the smell of a thousand dead fish cooking in the sun, ingesting some of the worst bacteria Mexico had to offer, and a night in at San Javier Marina Hospital.
And my dad was worried about the cartel.