One spring, a blue-eyed painter fell in love with me and swept me away to the shores of Isla Blanca. Pure yet severe chemical bonds thrust us into a union of sudden filth. His bleach white hair, aesthetic rigidity, serious fashion sense and precious philosophical authority forced me to eat fancy frog legs, barter hard like ugly Americans for cheap trinkets, eat the worm at the bottom of the bottle and roll on the beach in a sandstorm with his drunken friends. He spoke of imagination and the poetics of mad love —but mainly he spoke of himself. After a wild night of lust, sand and body fluids, he professed his undying love for me, but firmly suggested, so that I didn’t offend the group, that I go take a shower.
After my body was clean, I became obsessed with a choice of fabric. I really knew little of the blueeyed painter save his favorite colors, obvious conservative preferences and seemingly contradictory love of the baroque. The difficult decision was between a quilted polyester pink robe and a vintage, coral red chenille. While I peeked out of the bathroom door and watched him lying naked on the bed, snoring, the sun flickering through an empty tequila bottle on the nightstand. His friends were asleep on the floor. I sighed, time to reconsider. Perhaps the coral red robe was too loud, while the quilted pink would bring a soothing innocence to the morning light of love.
I emerged from the shower refreshed and confident, for a brief moment, as the blue-eyed painter awoke. “What are you wearing?” He sat straight up, powered by beads of sweat and hate. “Nothing,” I nervously laughed, glancing down in shame at the pearl buttons and lace, then, blue-eyes started to scream.
“How could you? How could you do this to me? Everyone knows my mother wore a robe like that. Just like that. Exactly like that. Quilted. Pink. Polyester. Pearls. Then, she hung herself in the kitchen. You think that’s funny? Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you, FOREVER.” he threw the tequila bottle at me, ripping at the robe and clawing at my face. I twisted out of the polyester pink, grabbed the coral chenille and ran out the door toward the beach.
My feet sunk into the sand as I squirmed nakedly into the chenille, stumbling toward water. The ocean would save me from the blue-eyed monster. I knew it. The waves hit my feet with the surge of escape. I dove and paddled, floated and kicked—making my way out to safety. I soon found myself sailing alone in the sea. Although, one is never really alone in the sea. There’s the rub. There’s the sting.
The Physalia physalis, also known as the man-of-war or floating terror, is a colony of creatures that includes a gas-bladder and nematocysts—tentacle thread-like structures that deliver painful, sometimes fatal, stings. There was no gas-bladder in sight, but a renegade, stringy glob of polyps snuck up and jabbed my leg. I screamed and then, hobbled and floated back to shore. There I lay alone in the sand, crying, as venom raced up my leg. A throbbing paralysis consumed me. Frozen yet still wrapped in chenille in the hot morning sun, I cried—quite sure I would die. Pain. Death. Desertion. And all this over some ugly pink-pearled polyester robe. I closed my eyes.
I woke up in a hole. Baby blue eyes was dancing in the ocean, while his drunken pals pissed on me and covered me with shaving cream. Tears streamed out of my eyes, but I couldn’t move my face. The cackling laughter of torturing clowns shaved my swollen legs and danced with shadows on the surf. Why were they torturing me? Teasing me? Shaving me? I had known nothing of his polyester mother and a kitchen rope. Nobody told me. I AM SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS BLUE-EYED MAN. I was innocent. I was dying. I tried to move my lips to beg for mercy, but my nerve endings were swollen and too slow to speak. Suddenly, I was covered in sand up to my neck and left on the beach of Isla Blanca to die.
My body began sinking into the sand—down, down, down—until I found myself floating under the beach and carried out into the gulf by a river in the sea. I clutched the chenille robe around me for protection from stingrays and sharks. One shark had tiny teeth and gleaming blue eyes—just like the painter. A transparent blob floated by, whispering in my ear, “See him? His mother never wore pink polyester. He’s a liar.” What?
The coral-red blended me in with a singing school in the redfish run. They seemed to say, “Don’t look down. Don’t look down.” Of course, I had to look down. Below us, a deadly brine pit, known locally as the hot tub from hell—the jacuzzi of despair—sucking creatures big and small into a certain salty death. The humming currents of Gregorian chants led the way up and out. A fish hook caught my hair and I was lifted up into the back of a jeep—to be skinned and decapitated.
When I woke up, I still had my head. I was laid out flat in a box like a sardine with no shock absorbers, not a hearse, but a lively ride back home. A book on my lap showed pictures of jellyfish and man-o-war -—scientific illustrations with medical advice. “We’re sorry.” the drunken friends wore sober horn-rimmed sunglasses and were so sorry they had urinated on me, but that’s what the first aid book had said to do. And shaving cream. Shaving? It was part of the routine treatment for man-o-war stings. I could still feel the toxin in my legs releasing odd chemicals from the ocean into my brain. Squiggly strings dangled in front of my eyes and something was missing.
The blue-eyed painter? Wow. I just now had realized that he was gone. Vanished. The chemistry of love had obviously been replaced with something else entirely. “Lost. We lost him. He wouldn’t listen to us and he got caught down in the brine pool. You know, having a hammerhead can really drag you down.” They turned their heads around and smiled together at me with giant fish faces. OK, I had lost my love and lost my mind. I closed my eyes and floated in a bumpy sea.