Warmer Waters

T   he climate crisis cannot be ignored. Every Friday, Milk will be focusing on solutions and stories from the environment’s biggest supporters; through essays, photo stories, updates on the latest technologies, and tips to combat the climate crisis, we’ve got you covered. This week, NY-based writer Lyzbeth Lara pens an ode to the waters of Nicaragua.

I’m underwater, curled into a ball, waves rolling over me. I’m clutching my stomach. I can feel where the wetsuit jacket lifted up, where the tentacles grazed, where the welts will raise up. 

I am a very average surfer. I stuck with it because paddling through the waves made me feel powerful, but then again, the ocean makes me feel small. Anything that happens here is compounded by an indignant, I could have drowned! 

D tells me about the Canadian who was pierced through the eye, by the spear of some sort of flying fish, and he tells me about the time he lost his nipples to the sea (rashguard, brother, always wear a rashguard). We find this all very funny. We sip beers, safe on the sand. We watch the sunset, a ravenous orange, devouring our horizon, leaving us in soft, powdery dusk. The dark will envelop us soon, stars whispering, small, so small.

Doubled over, I walk out of the bay at Remanso. Playa el Remanso used to be called El Sucio, meaning the dirty one, but it lacked lyricism. Now it’s el Remanso, and North Americans perch up at the beach bar, drinking the local beer, burnt red and peeling, blissed out in the tropics.  My surfboard hangs from my left elbow, and my right arm clutches my stomach. The boys working at S’s beach bar step out, curious. The skin is angry already. Raised purple-pink marks, like watercolor splotches, wrap around my stomach, hug my right hip, wander down my thigh. The boys observe. “Do you want me to pee on you?” says the oldest boy, with the curly hair, bleached at the ends.  “Que no, just no,” I insist. “But –” he protests, then I cut him off again.

When I arrived in Nicaragua, it was January and the road to el Remanso was a deep brown, not red and saturated, like during the rainy season, but the trees were still green and full. Now approaching the Easter holidays, the road was chalky, nearly white, and bare tree branches stretched against a bleached blue sky. The waters were warmer. With warm waters, the jellyfish flood the bay. Malas aguas, the locals call this. Bad waters. The waves roll with them. I left Nicaragua right before the start of the stormy season when the waters cool down. And so, for the remainder of my time there, when I tossed myself into the ocean, I was resigned to the stings and burns.

Later that summer, in Paris, our Ocean Science professor struggles to engage our class. It’s heatwave temperatures again, and without air conditioning, most everyone nods off while he describes submarine volcanoes. When he replaces a class with a museum excursion, we all breathe sighs of relief in the air conditioning. We come across the jellyfish hall, a black room with tanks, lit up with luminescent jellyfish. Electric pinks and violets, as well as cool blues,  sway across the room. The jellyfish cast neon glow upon our faces.

That fall, I read an article about the jellyfish apocalypse. I become obsessed with the jellyfish apocalypse. Rising sea temperatures, the article warns, will be the end of the #beachday. Our beaches will become overrun with warm-water loving jellyfish, and become hostile environments for us, pleasure-seeking humans. And the tone implies certain doom, but I can’t stop thinking about it, and the loveliness of it.  I can’t stop dreaming of the pinks and violets, and the cool blues, and of that universe beneath the surface. 

Image Courtesy of Lyzbeth Lara.

Stay tuned to Milk for more climate crisis solutions.

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