THE END OF AN ETERNAL DRY SPELL: Sea of Love – Phil Phillips
Twenty-six days. Twenty-six days I’d been on the road. Just me, myself, and a Van that valued silence far more than my sanity could tolerate. I stopped for gas outside of Guerrero Negro. While a short, stocky man filled my tank, I got out to stretch my legs, and exercise my freedom of speech.
“Buenos tardes! Como tu llamas?”
“Chelsea. Y tu?”
“Is that right?”
The man nearly burst with laughter. A small amount of gas bled from my tank.
“I could be, no?” He sucked in his pot belly and blew his thick, dark hair from his face with an exaggerated huff. His free hand placed itself lazily on his hip like a Gap model from the 90’s, while his hip jutted to one side, jovially.
My smile feigned agreement. We continued to talk in and out of English and Spanish.
“You hear good. You speak not so good.”
“Ha. Constructive criticism. I like it.”
“When you come back, you will be good.” I had not told him I was coming back.
“You will be.”
I looked at him and he suddenly seemed serious. He hit the side of Van twice with his delicate actor hand and sent me on my way, waving exuberantly in the frame of my side mirror.
Check point and match…
More desert. Dry desert. Dusty desert. Too much desert. Please god, no more desert. Anything but desert.
Be careful what you mockingly pray for.
Though still in the desert, my redundant scenery had now been jazzed up by the unforeseen sprinkling of military men; my second checkpoint.
Once again, I rolled up slowly to meet a small handful of soldiers and their guns. They asked where I was coming from and where I was going, then inside Van Morrison we went.
“El es tu novio?” The investigating officer pointed to a photo pinned to my bookshelf.
“My boyfriend? No, that’s my best friend. He likes boys. Yo no soy un hombre.”
His eyes went wide, then settled. He nodded with aloof acceptance.
“Quieres un novio?” The indifference in his face quickly turned to that of mischievous arrogance.
“Do I want a boyfriend? No, gracias. Very much no.”
“No gustas hombres?”
“Do I not like men? Ha! Nope. Big, giant lesbian. Can I go now? Puedo ir?
His haughtiness deflated into an odd mix of pout and confusion. He waved his men away from the door and let himself out.
Once again, Van Morrison and I were free to pass, pockets still full of money and a supposedly new sexual orientation.
Sea of salvation…
And so the desert road carried on, and I along with it. Through mountains, around mountains, over mountains and away from mountains. My four wheeled future had become grim and I was genuinely beginning to believe I might never see the end.
Until, that is, we climbed yet another mountain, and as we rose above the rolling hills before us, they slowly gave way to blue. Small at first, this patch of shimmering sapphire quickly spread across the horizon. My heart beat vigorously against my sweaty chest. My dry lips trembled in disbelief. Could it be? Was it possible? Oh, but it was.
Never in my life had I felt such pure elation. Never had a body of water brought with it a sense of relief, and repose. As we glided closer and the blue got bigger, I felt my eyes well with tears.
The sea was finally beside me. And it followed me all the way to Mulege.
Mulege’s green guiding light…
Mulege is nothing less than a tropical paradise, and exactly what a doctor would order after enduring weeks of relentless Mexican desert.
Entirely juxtaposed from its dry, brown counterpart, Mulege is engulfed in luscious greenery. Sky high palm trees and emerald green grass line teal green waters. If I thought Catavina was a mirage, then Mulege was a sure sign I’d died and gone to heaven.
I drove along the Mulege River and came to a pristinely kept campsite called Huerta Don Chano just outside the village. Each site was made perfectly private by walls of more palm trees and a palapa covering a picnic table. I was told by the owner to park wherever, pay later, and stay as long as I wanted.
Van Morrison settled cozily amongst the lush brush, looking far too pleased with his surroundings. So much so that I momentarily worried he may never start again. Though, on second thought, being forever stranded in this hidden oasis was hardly means for worry.
It was late afternoon and my stomach was beginning its chorus of grumbles; my glands, like clockwork, salivating for cheap tequila.
Two children chased each other around the empty campground. I asked, in Spanish, where the owner was. They did not know. But they knew where Chuy was. The little girl took my hand and led me to a wooden boat a few lots down from mine. Inside the boat was the backside of a man with a handful of tools. Inside the boat was Chuy.
“Chuy!” The little boy yelled and Chuy turned his beautiful, brown face in our direction. He smiled and I felt my reproductive organs flutter.
“Hola!” His voice was soft and made me want to hug him. I suddenly forgot what it was I was even after, or how to form sentences. In english or otherwise. And so I smiled, in silence. For an uncomfortably long period of time.
“I like your boat.” Good one, Chels. Go back to not talking. He laughed and thanked me. His hands were greasy and I was beginning to nervously sweat. The little girl pulled away from my clam hand and off they ran, leaving Chuy, his boat, and my mute self alone together.
“Store. Tienda.” I nearly choked out the words. He laughed again and told me of one about a 15 minute walk from here. I thanked him and then vowed to drown myself in the river. I never saw Chuy again. We could have made the most adorable children together, and become the Von Trapp family of fishermen. But my inescapable charm had alluded me when I needed it most, leaving beautiful Chuy to forever be the one that got away.
I found the tienda exactly fifteen minutes later. I purchased some tortillas, avocado, lime, cilantro, and a five dollar bottle of tequila where by which I would conclude my evening with leftover Newport tuna tacos and freshly squeezed margaritas.
As I walked back along the river, the sun was setting and with its departure came an influx of rampantly jumping fish. They were everywhere. Dozens at a time flopping about the surface of the water. I briefly thought of Chuy and our lost love. Then I thought of my fishing rod, lying dormant under my bed, n’er to fulfill its one and only purpose in life. It was settled.
Tomorrow, I would fish.