Canada to Mexico: Part I

 The following is part of a series of blogs that will describe how it is that I came to live and surf in Mexico. Along the way, you will also learn about Cabo Pulmo, as promised, oh so many blogs ago.
It was an honest-to-goodness dark and stormy night in November 1999 and I was driving the two lane between Gananoque and Kingston in an old burgundy Chevy van. The van was one of those funky numbers from the 80s outfitted with captains’ chairs, a queen-sized bed and a gas gauge that didn’t work. A friend’s boyfriend who’d been visiting from Tuktoyaktuk lent it to me in exchange for parking while he left for a month to go harvest marijuana in Jamaica. Along with freedom and sanity, my new apartment came with a parking space that I had nothing to park in because my soon-to-be ex was keeping pretty much all our matrimonial assets including the truck registered in my name. When the boy from Tuk said I could use his van in exchange for free parking, I agreed, happy to have temporary wheels and picturing it as the perfect ride to transport my meager belongings between “Broken Home” and “Newly-single-woman-in-her-30s Home.”

So I was driving through the dark countryside, Dido’s Hunter rather prophetically playing on the tape deck, squinting through the rain-splattered windshield and thinking, taking stock really, of where I was and what the future might hold. I wasn’t afraid in my aloneness, which was unusual, and hummed along as Dido concurred that I should “take a chance on life again.” It was excitement I was feeling, mild excitement with a tiny edge of the ever-present WASP angst emanating from the territory of the unknown. I’d just walked away from everything in my life I’d worked very hard for – a home with a big yard, my garden, all the “stuff” we’d filled the house with and, most life-altering, a marriage of 6.5 years. We were partners and lived together most of thirteen years. [“Minus one” I always say, referring to the year we spent apart before I ran back to him, tail between my legs.]  He was all I’d ever known as an adult. We moved in together the January before my 19th birthday and since then I’d only spent that one year on my own – a year filled with acute depression (and the weight gain associated with shitty 90s anti-depressants), insecurity and a sense that I would never find another man who could love me. 

But as I drove towards Kingston, I knew this time was different. After years of agonizing and second-guessing myself, in the instant when I finally decided I had to leave, I knew it was right. An immense weight I’d carried around for years was lifted from my shoulders and I felt a sense of optimism lift me up off the ground like I’d suddenly sprouted wings. In that moment, I knew I made the right decision. And I never so much as peaked backwards.

In the weeks and months that ensued that relationship-shattering decision, when I ran into people who knew us both I’d have to control my instinct to smile and be joyful in the face of what everyone saw as a great tragedy. One of our friends was visibly shaken at the news. He cried like it was his own when he spoke of the end of our marriage. I realized then that people see what they want to see and hang a lot of their own dreams for a perfect and wonderful life on what they perceive others have. The trouble is that it’s impossible to really know what someone else is experiencing. What others saw as a successful partnership and loving marriage was in fact a cold and critical thing lacking any love at all.

But I digress.

So I was driving along and thinking about my future and the boy from Tuk’s trip to Jamaica danced around in my imagination. Whatever it was that made him so free, I hoped it was catching and the van a virtual spawning ground. How nice it would be to go somewhere warm after what had been nine summers in a row working in the Arctic and winters spent in bone-numbing, dreary southern Ontario. I played with the seemingly impossible idea that I could just pick up and take off somewhere tropical. Unbeknownst to me I was infected, but the virus would need to incubate for a few weeks more.