“Write one good sentence,” wrote Ernest Hemingway in A Moveable Feast. I’m reading this book now as I lay on the white sandy beach of the Carribean sea. I came here for a week on the prodding of a friend, also a non-drinker, who needed a break and knew I did too. She put it together, the trip. We decided on Mexico and I know Mexico, so I told her the places in Mexico that would be the best to go lie on a beach away from the crowds, at least, not Cancun, and she did her research and I paid her 1/2 by Venmo and packed one suitcase of light things and two books. I have found a different Yucatan than I discovered 25 years ago, 22 years ago, 20 years ago. I came here on my first honeymoon, my first marriage, a marriage, in retrospect, that I wish I wouldn’t have gone through with, but also, I am grateful for it as it set in motion a series of events that snowballed long later into my son Huck. The best thing that has ever happened to me. My first husband is a wonderful man, a forgiving man, a man who has found true happiness with a wonderful woman I call a friend. I had forgotten the good things. Maybe I knew them but I was so ugly in the first marriage that it was easier for me to blame myself for the rotting of the relationship as my husband was trying to hang on, that I’d painted the whole thing as a mistake. It was not. Being here under this blue sky, I remember the good things, that he was kind, that he was generous, that he was up for adventure, that he tried to make things work, moreso than I did, and when it was time to let go, he let go with grace.
I remembered all of this while eating breakfast at Zamas in Tulum, an arc of a beach with colorful chairs in a semi circle and a small restaurant under a thatch roof. The cabanas were $30 a night when we were there. They start at $250 now. Tulum is no longer my Tulum. Things change. We move on.
I am in a season of uncomfortable change, a change I don’t want, challenges I don’t like. I am deeply deeply uncomfortable. I do put on a good face, in the way that you do when you don’t want to drag down your friends or be a broken record, stuck in the story, asking the same questions, getting the same advice over and over in different sentences. Trust the process. Stay out of the results. Let go. You’re protected. Trust your inner knowing. Sometimes I just want someone to tell me the worst is going to happen so that I can be prepared. I’m the person that wants to read the end of the book. I’m 3/4 into Hemingway in Paris and I’m waiting for the 2nd wife to show up in a cafe, when Hemingway ditches his long suffering Hadley for the richer, more glamorous woman and runs off to have an affair that wrecks his marriage and starts a longer one. But he keeps talking about F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound and keeps criticizing the lesser writers and critics and even the stoic, enigma that was the false autobiographical Alice B. Toklas. I want the end to come with a bang so that I can steel myself for the crash.
I am steeling myself. But at the same time opening my heart to what I know to be true.
This is enigmatic autobiography. I know. But it must remain so. It isn’t what it was, like a solitary beach that was once populated by backpacking hippies and now invites the rich and frivolous who costume themselves in what we really once were.
Yesterday I went for the second time in my life to Chichen Itza, the monumental Mayan city deep in the heart of the jungle. Unbearably hot, built up like Epcot, last time I was here I climbed the steep small stairs and got a terrible case of vertigo and had to bump down on my ass. This time it is roped off. Hawkers of mayan calendar refridgerator magnets, wooden carved monkeys, pot pipes carved out of the local limestone all promising to be cheap and made by ‘mi familia’. Fellow travellers with selfie sticks, instagram ready poses of skinny young girls with tanned skin and peekaboo tops. But still, the stones are ancient and otherwordly and hold a history of blood and war. There is a rectangular building, untopped, lined with carved skulls, where the citizens displayed the heads of enemies, rule breakers, and those who lost the games in the grand pelotaria, an ancient form of soccer and rugby, throwing a ball through a high circle, using hands and hips. Bloody heads on stakes like flags, like signs. Carved into the walls hundreds of skulls to scare or worship or remember the dead. Like a sloughed off skin. Like a memory forgotten then uncovered. Like a sea change.
I believe in sea changes. I believe in sudden storms that churn up the ocean bottom, bringing dead shells and fish and algae that tangle in knots along the white sand where the blue blue sea becomes clouded and white with rough waves that crash under grey clouded skies that, within minutes, hours, push by like a slow train, pushing the silt and the salt to another ocean, another beach, leaving the blue blue waters calm and warm and the ocean bottom is washed clean and new, fresh shells, fresh fish, fresh sand.
I believe that people are capable of sudden moments of insight and enlightenment, burning bush moments of clarity, seeing the damage of their own storm, in a milisecond, and without thinking spinning into a shift that would never have happened but for the wreckage. I believe it takes these moments to really change a person, not just the change that is the slight attempt after the post war apology, flat and half hearted, obscured by rationalizations and pity. I believe in the rising of the dead after staking the bloody skull on a stone slab for all to see as a warning. I believe in the slow amends rather than the begging apology.
Hemingway said to write one true sentence. I have changed. It is not for you to understand or for you to accept or forgive or congratulate or deny. I know it like I know God is in the stillness. Like I know memory can shift like the sea over time darkening the sky and crafting a clean chapter that suits the story but that in retracing steps memory can open like the blue sky and uncover the forgotten as a peace offering. If I believe in anything, it is that good does come out of the uncomfortable. And that love is God and if God is love than there is no need to crawl on knees across broken glass anymore.
Write one true sentence.
Love. Noun. Verb. Adjective. Adverb.