Saturday, January 21, 2006

Winter details

I knew the night so well in Nova Scotia. I looked to the glow of the street lamp from my bedroom window to check for rain or snow streaking through the fog, powered by the open-ocean wind. I knew the persistent cling-cling of rope snapping against masts at the wharf.

Often I was the only one awake, unless the rest of the townspeople were laying awake in their beds like me, in the dark. From my vantage point I could see that the rest of the lights were out.

The wind rattled the old windows, and the hot water heaters popped as the pipes alternately expanded and contracted. My father breathed heavily in his sleep down the hall. I heard the television's high-pitched test-pattern screech, and wondered how my mother could sleep through it. I rose from bed to make my way down the winding staircase and turn off the TV. I kissed my mother's forehead and wished her a whispered goodnight, to fulfill my daughterly duty without waking her. Then, before returning to bed, I paused in front of the picture windows, looking seaward and seeing nothing. The old woodstove crackled, the fire glowed orange through its gaps.

I wondered what the rest of the world was doing, outside of this last jut of land before the Atlantic void, then caught a chill and wandered back to my crisp bed sheets, thankful that my mother hung them outside to dry despite the cold weather. They smelled like the wind.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Montreal to Mexico

Barrage of questions:

So that's it? You're just going to drop everything and head south for the winter to learn another language?

You mean to tell me, that you are going to leave a well-paying, resume-padding job on a whim?

What about your boyfriend? What does he think?

What about your classes?

Can you afford this?"

Answer: Can we talk about this when I get back in May? I'm really busy right now with Salsa lessons, studying Spanish conjugation and saving money for paradise.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

An open call for insight

It's exhilarating being on the edge of opportunity (and reason).

Do I give it all up for passion? Is it passion? Or am I following the emerging lines in my skin like a map away from here? The lines are carving their way over my arms, hands and the corners of my eyes as a reminder of where I've been, and where we're all reluctantly headed.

Am I really giving anything up? My boyfriend and appartment will still be here. As will my debt and birth certificate...and the two remaining classes I must complete before earning my second university paper. My stable, well-paying, resume-padding job will be gone before I've been there long enough to make it count. Oh, and my current employer is the husband of my previous employer. I might piss people off.

I am at a crossroads. This life of mine feels like the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books I loved so much as a kid. A cognitive therapist might actually blame those books for the adult I've become.

Do I drop everything for a few months and learn Spanish in Mexico? This is a call for help.

Ever want to influence a stranger's life? Now's your chance. I'm vulnerable.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Si, Mexico

I checked my messages as soon as I walked through the door, and chose to ignore those from credit departments. I opened my mail; there was a cheque in one envelope for more than I’d planned on. Rent. I can pay it.

Alone, in my clean and cluttered apartment, I exhaled: Yesssssssss.

With a quick finger calculation I determined how long it will take me to become debt-free. Another determined how soon I’ll be able to return to Mexico.

Welcome the New Year. My thoughts catapulted back to the beach at midnight.

Unpacking only those items I feared may have broken during my travels (una calaca for Dia de los Muertes, Banda CDs and sacred heart mirrors – yes, now you too can see yourself in the sacred heart of Jesus, even if your soul can’t).

Then, I called my girlfriends, grabbed a bottle of wine and the two Mescal samplers I imported as gifts and packed a clean pair of panties so I could stay at their house that night instead of mine. Mine was uncomfortably familiar. The panties, and the slice of pizza I choked down on the way, are the only evidence of any remaining survival instinct I had upon my return to Canada.

I’d been washing my hair with a bar of soap for three days. I left a little sand on the seat of each toilet I visited. My skin is a little browner, my freckles have gone mad, and my feelings fluctuate between intense excitement and profound loss, distracted only by my itchy scalp and oozing mosquito wounds. I needed to be with my friends. I needed to sooth my soul with red wine, the preferred treatment for moments like this in my home base, wearing more sand than make-up.

Although it was a short trip, a solid chunk of my heart stayed in Mexico, a little bit at each casa de huespedes, at each beach, on each boat and with each person with patience enough to help me learn Spanish and talk to me about Mexican history, politics and love and contradictions. In exchange for an intimate travel experience, Mexico tapped into my core and took a little more of it everyday. Perhaps this is why the Mexicans I met said Mexico has so much heart. They’re stolen from unsuspecting young women – and in Mexico they stay.

The last time I felt like this about a place, I moved to New York for three months.

Zihua, you turned me inside out. Once you have my heart, you can have the rest of me.