Sea Of Cortez  

Copyright © Lee Ann Mortensen 2002



This is where I am.  Itís starry, so starry the light can keep you awake all night from wanting more.  And itís moony, so moony the yellow-white slash of it makes the brown rocks on this island seem to move around us.  And as we walk along the beach, the fish get scared, and their darting makes green glowing trailers in the water, winter algae phosphorescence.  And the sounds I hear are ocean waves coming in with their flowing wash of shells and rounded rocks all lifting, then settling in dull clacks together, like the clacks of marbles we played with as kids, like the sound of hard memories falling.  But tonight all Iím thinking about is this: the stinging cuts on my hands from climbing over lava rocks.  The warmth of my sleeping bag.  The cold laguna below us where pelicans dive for crabs.  The calm, dull volcano just north of our sleeping heads.

This is where I am.  Weíre eating humus and tortillas on the beach as the sun moves down, then low, then gone, as the air turns purple-pink, as the first star just appears, all quiet and unfeeling, but we make it feel because loneliness would push inside us too deeply if we thought the stars didnít care.  And someone says that love is hard in Utah.  And someone says she likes to put out anyway.  And someone says he misses the big-belt-buckle-sound of country music coming out of every radio.  And someone says he likes to smell womenís hair from behind.  And someone says sheís jonesín for a cigarette.  And someone whoís only 39 says her beautiful daughter is about to have her own daughter.  And someone sings a Madonna song.  And someone reads a story about love gone bad.  And someone says an affair in marriage is an awfully hard thing to take.  Or maybe weíre just thinking these things, and the air is really silent and cold.  We eat tortillas hot from the butane stove, and they are burned, and they are good, and we laugh and flirt and think of nothing at all as the stars get hard above us.

This is where I am.  My nipples are cold in the sun.  My back is warm against this warm ocean rock smooth from years of the broken world moving back and forth against it.  My shoulders feel December radiation giving me warmth and melanoma.  Cold drops of surf hit my feet, tide rising for three hours as I watch the sun move slow and right, itís light breaking into sparks over the white-capped water.  I sun my breasts, my belly and itís piercing, here in Mexico, and dream of nothing, dream of forgetfulness as they shovel a foot of snow off their driveways back in the city of God.  But here I dream of nothing.  I look at rocks.  I look at water, at sea birds bomb diving.  I look at black shells and iridescent shells.  I watch sparse cacti, the green skin of each changing to brown and gray in the changing light.  Sometimes I think I see whales or dolphins humping by.  Sometimes I expect men to come to me in small boats because my breasts are exposed, because I guess men like that sort of thing.  But no one is boating here, and no one sees me, so I feel bare and free like when we were all in Torrey, Utah, sunning our naked, beautiful skin in the new May air, drinking and flirting before the world caved in.  But this is part of what Iím forgetting.  In these rocks Iím forgetting all of you.  Iím forgetting desire.  In this conch and itís salty taste, Iím forgetting the warmth of holding you on the cold, desert floor.  Iím forgetting lips and lonely need and crazy dancing under southern Utah lightening storms.  Iím forgetting pulling you tight against me in the bathroom at Chevyís.  And you, Iím forgetting the way you move your hands like a dancer when you talk, and how you bit my finger at that party, and I almost kissed you, a straight woman, in front of everyone.  And then thereís you.  Iím forgetting you were almost never going to speak to me again after all this and the yelling.  Iím forgetting that when I get back, youíll be gone, and the only thing in the house will be my loud, neurotic, lonely thoughts curving thinly around me.  But this is Baja, and all Iím thinking about right now is the December air pouring over my body.  I put a rock in my mouth.  I close my eyes, then open them, then close them again.  The light is strong here.  I throw a shell into the tide.  This is why people come to the desert, and to water, to forget.

This is where I am.  Iím watching the pink-orange sun come up from a flat horizon, and certainly this must be common for some people, but Iím from mountains where you donít see the sun until hours after itís come up.  I almost take a picture, but instead take my shirt off to feel the air begin to heat around me. We pack our tents and our clothes and our drinking water.  We stuff our thin, needle boats for the crossing, and as we pack, the birds go crazy out at sea.  Dolphins, someone says.  Theyíre eating fish, someone says.  The dolphins arc up like black half moons, and beep and squeal, and the birds scream and dive in around them, and the whole feeding orgy gets closer and closer, and only a week ago we were shoveling a foot of snow off our driveways.  We push our needle boats out into the deep Bahia, this bay of angels that separates one Mexico from another, one lifetime of memory from another.  The deep, green black of the water rolls underneath us full of popping, fleshy life.  The salt of this sea splashes into our mouths, itís taste taking us back to our more silent origins.  We hang on and paddle over the wild rolls of water.  We hand on and paddle through.


Copyright © Lee Ann Mortensen 2002