One evening, while visiting a dear friend who lives in the Yucatán, I drunkenly confessed that I had been experiencing panic attacks that made my heart beat like a deranged bongo. “It makes no sense,” I said. “Nothing bad is happening in my life. What the hell am I afraid of?” Karson poured me more tequila and blithely suggested we pay a visit to El Negrito, a spiritual healer much praised by the local Mayans. I smiled, skeptically, but she persisted: “Would you prefer a prescription for Xanax?”
The next day, in Karson’s tiny red VW, we drove deep into the jungle, often through great agitations of yellow butterflies. I felt a low level of anxiety, but nothing like the fear that woke me in the middle of the night, back in my real life. This was almost pleasant. Why, I wondered, did the unknown take on a more pleasing shape when I traveled? And why, when it appeared in the rooms and cities where I lived, did it frighten me?
It was late when we arrived in the village of Dziuché.
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