Daring to get back in the water

Jeff prepares to get back in the water in Sayulita. Photo by David Lansing.

Jeff is not a happy camper these days. As he says, he’s dealing with a number of “severe issues.” Jeff is a private man so I’m not going to go into what, exactly, those issues are, but trust me, you wouldn’t want to be dealing with any of them. Figuring that what Jeff needed was to get away from his own dark clouds, I invited him to join me in Mexico. He thought about it for awhile and then told me the plane fares were too expensive and, anyway, he was just too busy. Dealing with his life. I told him I’d find him a cheap plane fare, which I did, and convinced him that the best way to deal with all the crap at home was to flee to Mexico. Eventually he agreed.

I figured a guy in his position needed a little break in his life where he didn’t have to make any decisions. So I told him that once he got to Puerto Vallarta, I’d take care of everything else, including being there to greet him the minute he made it through Customs. Which turned out to be a little more challenging than I expected when, the night before he arrived, the Blue Whale broke down on me. I was hoping to get the Blue Whale taken care of before I had to leave for the airport, but this is Mexico and you never know. I had visions of him standing in front of the Puerto Vallarta airport in the heat and humidity, lamenting the fact he’d let me talk him in to coming down here. But, fortunately, I got the Blue Whale fixed an hour or so before Jeff’s arrival and had plenty of time to get to the airport.

When we got back to my place in Bucerias, I asked him what he felt like doing. “Drinking a margarita,” he said. “And then drinking another one.”

I could see how this was going to go.

Jeff is an old Southern California surfer, so the next morning I suggested we head for Sayulita where maybe he could rent a surf board. That sounded just fine to him. We packed some beers in a cooler and set up our beach chairs next to the rental chairs in front of Don Pedro’s. Now here’s a funny thing about Jeff: Despite the fact that he’s a surfer, he doesn’t really like the water. Any water. For instance, the afternoon before, we took our margaritas down to the pool and I jumped in, the cool water feeling good against my hot, sweaty skin, and waited for Jeff to get in as well. Which he never did. He didn’t even dip his toes in the water. And it was hot. Like almost 90. I asked him how come he didn’t get in the water and he said, without even looking at me, “I’m just fine where I am.”

So here we are at the beach in Sayulita and, again, it’s hot and humid. I’ve gone into the surf a couple of times but Jeff, the old surfer, hasn’t budged from his chair in hours. This is not a good sign. “Listen,” I say, “why don’t you go rent a surfboard? That shop next to Don Pedro’s is pretty good.”

Jeff doesn’t even bother responding. He just stares out at the breakers along the beach. After awhile, I go back in the water for another swim. I float on my back, beyond the breakers, watching the frigate birds circling overhead. When I swim back in, there’s a woman sitting in my beach chair next to Jeff. She’s got red hair and is wearing a bikini and has some sort of beaded amulet wrapped around her right ankle. She starts to jump up out of my chair when she sees me approaching but I tell her to sit back down.

The woman’s name is Gisselle. She’s a hairdresser back home in Vancouver but she also has a house down here in Sayulita where, in addition to doing the hair of women for weddings, she also teaches pilates. She’s trim and attractive and wearing a bikini. Jeff is smiling as he talks with her, which is something I haven’t seen for awhile. After awhile, Gisselle goes back to her spot on the beach not far from us, turning around every once in awhile to give Jeff a friendly smile. He smiles back. “I think I’ll go check out those surfboards,” he says after a bit. A few minutes later he’s walking down the beach, past Gisselle, a surf board tucked under his arm. Before getting in the water, he turns one last time and gives a little wave to Gisselle. She gives a little wave back. And then he throws himself on to his board and plunges into the surf. The boy is back.

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