The Karma of the Human Starfish
Sometimes there are these moments in life where it feels like the inevitable conclusion that Karma will, in fact, avenge you.
My Dad, as you may remember, was a philandering misogynist hypocritical bigot. That is putting it politely. Like lots of sociopaths, he lacked human compassion, empathy, and understanding of many of life’s emotional nuances. Much like Donald Trump, he would double down on his bad behavior and often convince you that you were wrong and he had the right to be angry.
The stage is set: Ixtapa Mexico. Somewhere around 1990 and we are staying at the El Presidente Intercontinental designed by Legorreta (a famous Mexican architect). Like most of our family trips, it’s laden with tension, bickering, and extravagant meals.
On this particular occasion, my mom had run into an elementary school friend and decided to go eat brunch with her: leaving my brother and me to occupy my father’s time. So let’s remember that my father stood 6’4 and over 350 pounds. He was a mountain of a man that was only overshadowed by the enormity of his personality.
The beach of this hotel is quite unique because it is entirely private. Like in the US, Mexican beaches are all public, but this hotel controls the access. Therefore, you get an exclusively private beach without vendors or distractions from the majesty of the waves and stunning farallons.
With my mom occupied at breakfast with her friend, my brother and I went to the beach with my dad. Eventually ending up in the ocean past the break of the waves the three of us floated. My dad was deep into one of his diatribes about the rest of his life:
You know I am tired of going to Cozumel. There’s no beach, just SCUBA diving, and boating. I want to buy a house like that one and get some wet-bikes. Your mother and I are soon going to split and I’ll get a new little honey to take care of me.
This type of monologue happened regularly when my brother and I were alone with my dad. He would complain about my mom and speculate on his future. All of this was fruitless and insulting.
Exhausted from the endless complaining and monologuing, my brother and I pretended fatigue and were about to head to shore. My Dad, without listening to us, decides that he is definitely going in. In spite of our boredom of treading water, the thought of continuing the conversation on land was more than my brother and I could take. We decided to stay back in the ocean, floating over waves.
The waves at this beach can be quite treacherous. I have seen dozens of people get rolled in the large aggressive surf. You have to have skills to dive under the wave or swim quickly past the break if you want to avoid being pummeled.
He starts making his way out of the ocean; he’s not a particularly agile man. As my brother and I are floating back, we are caught off guard from the size of an incoming swell. My eyes turn immediately towards the beach; my father is waddling out of the water, the water level is still mid-thigh and no clue of what was coming up behind him.
It happened in slow motion: the wave breaks and hits him right at the base of the neck. Despite his enormity, he was no match for the power of this wave. In an instant, he is gone. Swallowed up screaming into the shallows. In shock and disbelief of what I just saw, my jaw dropped when I saw an arm-flailing, a leg surfacing, even a desperate attempt to take a breath (the sound of gasping over the splash).
Then there was nothing. The foamy water racing up the crescent moon beach to the hundred or so onlookers resting in their palapas and chaises. You could hear the latent excitement of the Canadian tourists at the size of this wave and children relished in the hiss of the wave as it drew back into the deep.
And then, a shape began to surface. A massive starfish spinning in the water over the shallows. It ran-a-ground and stuck to the heavy wet sand. Like a slow-moving dinosaur, it rose up. It was my father.
Ayudenme!!! (Help me!!!”)
He screamed in our direction. It was then that I noticed all that was going on. My brother had dove underwater to hide his hysterical laughter and avoid being seen. My father was beaten and pummeled. And just then I saw his bathing suit around his ankles: Mr. Luna’s full moon was on display for the entire beach to see.
In an instant I begin to swim, fearful of the aftermath that was inevitably coming. And yet as I tried to swim, I was pulled backward. Another rogue wave passed me by and stalked towards my Dad. With the speed of a cheetah and the force of a rhino, it found him.
He was, like a gimpy gazelle, staggering out of the water with his back to the ocean. The massive wave hit him in the middle of his back and this time I heard the wind knocked out of him as he was swallowed up a second time.
I saw an arm-flailing, a leg surfacing, even a desperate attempt to take a breath (the sound of gasping over the splash). Then there was nothing. The foamy water racing up the crescent moon beach to the hundred or so onlookers resting in their palapas and chaises. You could hear the latent excitement of the Canadian tourists at the size of this wave and children relished in the hiss of the wave as it drew back into the deep.
And then, a shape began to surface. A massive starfish spinning in the water over the shallows. It ran-a-ground and stuck to the heavy wet sand. Like a slow-moving dinosaur, it rose up. It was still my father.
This time he was facing the beach and all of its tourists. His bathing suit nowhere to be seen and his Johnson out for all the bird watchers to enjoy. Incapable of yelling, he moved like a wounded animal towards any form of safety he could find. He’s clumsy and disoriented. I am still too far into the water to reach him in any type of helpful way.
As the last of the wave drew back into the ocean, the force of the water overcame his legs tripping him onto all fours. Thrilled that he was in the shallows of the beach, he crawled and slithered out of danger.
Because I was mid swim towards the beach, my brother not far behind, I did not see how he put on his suit or if he just walked out naked amongst the snowbirds delighted by the show.
When I made it back to our palapa, he laid there immobilized and breathless. Unwilling to speak. Not long after my mom made her way back to the beach and we ran to meet her and inform her of what had happened.
In utter disbelief, my mom began to giggle and crack. My father had no choice but to begin to laugh.
In the end, my father was black and blue all over. He could barely move for three days. All the snowbirds got a free show: I’m guessing only exciting to those who were chubby chasers. Sadly, my father lost his anniversary gift from my mom, an antique Roman coin billfold from Bvlgari. And although a precious item was lost to the sea, the exquisite retribution from Mother Nature was my first taste of schadenfreude. Perhaps it was just karma. Whatever it was, it is one of my most beloved stories and places in the world; I do all my beach yoga retreats on this same beach.
Today’s Musical Inspiration: Rolling in the Deep by Adele
This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 at 11:30 pm
Posted in: Blog Stories