This is a story that starts in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. That’s where Arturo, my boyfriend, grew up. He is a wonderful storyteller; he has the big, magnetic personality that makes his audience listen raptly. I’ve heard him tell a million stories, but my favorites are the ones about growing up under the Mexican sun, probably because his face lights up when he tells them. Some of his stories involve an unlikely lifelong rivalry with birds. These stories involve being pooped on, chased and generally harassed by birds in more than a usual number of instances. This is where his story merges with mine.
A few months ago my immediate family went on vacation to Arturo’s hometown for New Years. He came with us, along with my sister’s boyfriend, Nolan. This was the first trip my family has taken as a group of adults instead of two harried, irritated adults herding unruly children through Disneyland. There were one or two fights, one major peanut allergy scare and a whole lot of margaritas. The last full day of our weeklong trip was spent on a beach that is only accessible by boat. This stretch of beach offered a variety of beach-y activities. I paddle-boarded, lazed in a hammock and received the most painful massage I’ve ever had (I’ve only had the one, but I imagine the sentiment will stand until I die). It was time to return to the large boats that would ferry us back to Puerto Vallarta, and as we waited for the crew members to usher us aboard like cattle I walked up to a short, rocky cliff overlooking the ocean and started taking pictures. I took pictures of Kayla and Nolan as they smiled and waved from lounge chairs a short distance away. I took pictures of the ocean, and pictures of the jungle behind the beach; then I inevitably flipped my iPhone’s camera to take a selfie or two with Arturo. Click. Click.
It was no more than a few seconds later that it all happened. Something huge and dark obscured my vision, and I felt pain as my phone – and a fair amount of skin – was torn from my right hand. I let out a short, sharp scream and staggered backward, clutching my hand. It happened so quickly that it took me a moment to understand that an enormous bird, the size of a large eagle, had taken a fancy to my shiny phone and had attempted to retrieve it. Unfortunately for the bird, the phone slipped through its talons and had, to my horror, fallen INTO THE FUCKING OCEAN. At this point I’m standing by the cliff, holding my injured hand and crying from the sudden shock. I would like to say that I don’t ever cry, but in fact I cry all the time. Sad movies, proposal videos (of people I don’t even know) and commercials that may not even be sad or inspiring often make me tear up. Yesterday I cried while watching Eight Below, a Disney movie about dogs. I didn’t only cry when a dog died, I cried when they were being good dogs. I like dogs.
My phone is now in the ocean after falling into rocky shallows. My hand is ribboned with shallow gouges from freakishly large talons, and I’m crying. This is where I might mention that there were several hundred other people there, waiting to board the boats. Many of these people had taken notice, either by seeing the bird approach or by my shriek. So now I’m an adult woman standing in a crowd of bored tourists, crying.
Arturo, having recovered faster and with more grace than myself, ran around the edge of the cliff and somehow retrieved my phone from the partially submerged rocks below. My sister and her boyfriend had seen the whole thing, and they were over in seconds. Surprise, my phone wouldn’t turn on, thus bringing on another wave of tears from me, because I had taken approximately 2,000 photos during the trip. In my defense it had been a long week.
This unfortunate end to the vacation meant that I was stuck, phoneless, on the long flight back to Oregon, during which I enjoyed extreme, sleep-defying neck pain from the aforementioned massage. The phone eventually started working again, and other than a few minor issues it was fine. After returning to my hometown I went to a repair shop to fix the cracked screen my phone sustained during it’s fall. I crack the screen regularly, so I knew the drill. I had to spend a few more hours phoneless, an uncomfortable feeling for a 20-something, and then I returned to pick it up and pay out my decidedly un-Kardashianlike ass for the repairs. The man who fixed my phone emerged from the back room to meet me at the counter. He paused, visibly curious. “Your phone had a lot of corrosion in it. I did what I could but there’s a lot of damage.” So I told him why my phone looked like it had spent some time in the Pacific. “It’s spent some time in the Pacific,” I replied. I went on to briefly explain how it had ended up in the ocean, about how a giant bird had torn it from my selfying fingers and had sent it flying into the sea. Skepticism fell across his face. We exchanged brief pleasantries and I left. I am 70% sure that he didn’t believe me.
The best part of this story, for me, is that I captured the moment that the bird struck me. Even though I knew it took up more storage space, I had been taking “live” photos that day on the beach. It was weeks later that I discovered the photograph, the last one on my camera roll. At first I didn’t think much of it, but I must have clicked on it in some way, and the image shifted. The two smiling faces blurred, and the picture became a swirl of colors as the phone began its free fall into space. Arturo’s Bird Curse caught on camera.
It’s still my favorite picture from Mexico ’17.