The boat was blue. As was the ocean and the sky. I was glad I had a fistful of Vicodin thrown into the bottom of my bag. Every time the boat’s helm hit the top of a wave, the center of the 30 passenger (currently at half capacity) water taxi to Yelapa, Jalisco, Mexico gave a little yawning, cracking sound. I finally had the headache I knew was going to come and had therefore prepared. I had managed to survive a twelve hour layover, a flight full of margarita tipsy honeymooners, a taxi from the Puerto Vallarta airport to the Los Muertos pier (the pier of the dead, anything but) and the company of American men who bought my friend and I a lobster lunch.
I watched as the Mexican man getting our lunch emerged from the ocean a few yards out, carrying the lobsters in a trap. When he got onto the shore he pitched the little red devils onto the fire pit that the café used for cooking. Along with red lobster, there is always in Mexico an endless supply of Pacifico and Corona beers. The American men introduced me to a local mota dealer who met me in the bathroom with a half ounce in tinfoil and a complimentary pack of orange Zig Zags mashed into the middle of it for twenty USD.
Mexico, is, as always, bienvenido.
From the Americans at the pier, my friend and I learned that the next day was El Dia de los Marineros in Yelapa. It is the biggest holiday of the year for the hardworking Yelapans, who, finally, in June, have their village mostly to themselves. In summer is when most of the tourists and ex-pat gringos are gone for the yearly summer drought. In Yelapa there are 1,000 year round residents.
A small fishing village in Bahia de Bandera, it is one of several villages that dot the coast, surviving thousands of years in obscurity until the seventies when artists like Bob Dylan discovered Yelapa for himself, and would escape there from time to time to write and relax.
So, most people leave Mexico in the summer, but this is when I went. I was running away, it’s true. There are other places I could have gone, but this place, this place that Cortes had laid his blessing upon, was where I wanted to go most.
There are no cars, because there are no roads. No roads leading in, no reads leading out. The boat’s wake disappears into the ocean, I couldn’t leave bread crumbs for someone to come and find me.
I needed to go someplace where no one knew me. I needed to go someplace where I could be myself, true to my core, where I could write, where I could dive into the ocean on a whim, where I could ride horses along the beach or up into the mountains, jump off of cliffs, spend hours relating to hermit crabs and orphan dogs. The people in Mexico in June are the hard cores. I am a hard core. I belonged there, for that moment in time, and I needed to be there. And everyday I want to go back. As the years pass I wonder if I will.
I was married then, and I wanted a separation, but my husband refused to give me one. I understood where he was coming from, that I might use the time to indulge my senses in other men was true and he could not bear the thought of it, even though he himself wouldn’t touch me. But I thought that if he really wanted to save the marriage he would give me a chance to be myself again.
At the time, it had been over four years that we had been together, married for a year of that. Things were far from perfect, I believe we had fallen out of love with each other.
But he didn’t see it that way. He told me everyday how much he loved me, he gave me jewelry, credit cards, new cars, a $50,000 re-model on the house located only a mile from Lake Michigan. I had anything I wanted, all the things maybe he thought might put a band-aid on the issue or maybe a blind-fold over my eyes, make me blind to the fact that my own husband couldn’t understand that I needed to be loved.
But had I married for money I would have been happy, but that’s not why I married, so why did he try to give what I never said I wanted? Why did he think that a diamond tennis bracelet would take the place of his hands cupping my face? Why did he think a stainless steel kitchen would make up for the absence of a warm embrace?
I tried to tell him, but he wouldn’t listen. So, I took my leave without permission. I had to.
As the boat neared the shores of Isabel’s beach it is 100 percent true that my headache suddenly disappeared. The Vicodin that I had been taking every day for two years for my chronic and mysterious headache went untouched the entire time I was in
As we got about twenty feet out I stood up on the sides of the boat and held onto the frame, when I could see the water was obviously shallow, I leapt in and grabbed the line to help guide the boat in.
With the boat pulled in, I looked up into the craggy cliffs, saw the natural and man-made haphazard stairway leading to the palapa hut where I would be staying for the next couple months, perched 30 feet up and built so as the back inside wall was the rock face.
My friend and I were the only ones getting off at Isabel’s beach. Less than half a mile up shore was the little beach and then the main beach after that was where the rest of the passengers would disembark. This was Isabel’s beach, a retired art dealer, professor, author and eighty-plus-year-old matron of the palapa villa where I was coming to make my home. This was the beach a terrible storm had made the year she first paid the lease, twenty years ago.
Isabel was not there to greet us. She was in Puerto Vallarta on a two-day supply trip and would be arriving back on the last taxi several hours from now. When I met her finally, she was carrying arm loads of packages up the long winding steps to the main house.
The drought had begun to settle in awhile back, she explained, as we helped carry things up the mountainous slope.
Soon, some of the Mexicans Isabel employed at the villa came to help and the six of us about twenty feet apart from the boat to the front door formed a line to get the packages up to the house
Later at dinner, Isabel explained that no one doubted the drought would end naturally, but just in case the Huichol Indians were going to come down off the mountain and out of the jungle soon to do the full moon peyote rain dance ritual on the cliffs overlooking the bay. They were already on the way, making their way through the thick jungle, it would take days, there are no roads.
The trip to the current location of the Huichol village is by foot and it takes a long time. The people are almost completely untouched by the modern world and have remained thus for thousands and thousands of years. They are direct descendents of the Aztec.
Isabel explained that as little water as we have now, would be as much water as they would have later. That great torrents of fresh water would fill the two rivers to overflowing, that sheets of water would come rushing down the mountains, tumbling hermit crabs and pebbles, rotted mangoes and coconuts that would heap along the mountain-side perched palapa houses.
She told me for the first time then, and over and over for the next several weeks that when she left in September, that was when the rain would come. She told me about keeping the drainage holes free of leaves and other debris so that the water would have a quick escape to the sea and not swell up and fill the place with water ruining everything. The whole affair was of great concern to her because it happened that last year’s caretaker didn’t do a good job keeping the drainage holes free and it was a disaster.
I left before it started raining. I left too soon. It was months before I told my husband our marriage was over, but I came back from Mexico wild again, and he must have known from my dirty toes and the look in my eyes that it was over. He let me go easily, and I still love him for that, because it showed me I made the right choice. They say marriage is a leap of faith, but so is divorce. No decision that changes a persons life is easy and I was waiting for a sign. Maybe one of my biggest signs is I didn’t have to take the headache pills while in Mexico, but had to start again as soon as I got home.
Or maybe my biggest sign was how, as the boat came to shore that first day I hiked up my white skirt and leapt into the ocean, feeling the warm gulf waters envelope me up to my thighs, wading to shore with one of the crew, helping him to guide the boat in.
I guess this was when I knew the uncomfortable truth of me having to leave my marriage. Because I knew I was being defiant, and I didn’t like having to feel as though I was being defiant at thirty years old. At thirty years old I should be able to leap from anything I wanted to leap from, no one should have that power over me to tell me what I could and could not do.
In the back of my mind as I leapt from the boat I heard my husband telling me to get down off the sides of the boat, I saw my husband turning red with embarrassment when I hopped into the water, my skirt up, grabbing the boat line in one smooth movement as I hit the water, pulling the boat in like I lived there and did it everyday. In my mind I could see that if he was there, I would be beside him, only wishing I could do what I did.