Once in the year that my marriage truly failed, my then spouse and I traveled to Cabo San Lucas for a vacation, the kind that we might call last ditch, last hope. Though at the time, we thought of it as the coming-back-together vacation.
It was near Christmas, and we beat the rush of tourists by just a couple of days, the brand new hotel empty and echoing for those first two days. By the end, it was loud and full of children. The beach also filled up, so we decided to take the local bus and go down to a beach less crowded, more scenic, and better for snorkeling.
We went out together, having brought our snorkel gear from the bay area. I'd learned to snorkel on a vacation in Hawaii, and I loved it. I was an air breathing creature but below water at the same time. In Cabo, the water was clear, and I would go down for long stretches examining things. Down under the water, I was free from the pressure I faced above, the pressure that seemed to beat and push at me all the time. In the water, I was sure and lithe and free. Above, I was heavy and sad and full of despair about what I was doing.
On our last dive of that day, I found the most perfect sea urchin. I passed over it, a ray of sun hitting on it's beautiful translucent Shell. It was white and purple and perfectly whole, and I kicked down to it and pulled up it and the up above water. Taking off my mask, I stared at it, the ridges and bumps perfectly formed, the dead animals skeleton a perfect architecture of calcium.
When we left, taking the cab back to the airport and then flying home, stupidly, on December 23rd, the idea of actually getting anywhere on time during the hoiday a miracle, I had the sea urchin wrapped in my purse. I watched it carefully during every leg of the journey. When we arrived home, I gave it a special place on my bookshelf, next to my Shiva and Quan Yin and Virgin Guadalupe and Ganesha.
When I left my husband the next time, I carried the urchin separately, keeping it out of a box, placing it on the same bookshelf in a different home. And then doing that twice more.
I'm looking at it right now, this dead sea urchin armor, this reminder of my marriage. I don't think of it as the end of my marriage but the wholeness of what we had, the beauty of it, the necessity to carry it with me everywhere, protect it, and honor it by looking at it every single day.
There it is. Whole, dead, and beautiful, on my shelf next to me.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org