The sun has dried my tears. I am facing our favorite spot, which you will never get to see again. The magic is untouched: the tall, majestic palm tree swaying in the breeze in caressing embraces, the tiled roof of the Aztec-style haciendas in rich yellow and orange adobe peppering the resort. My eyes blink as hey fall on Apartment 5-104, where we stayed on our last trip, and which allowed us the view of the sparkling turquoise water of the Pacific bordering the high hills of the Sierra Madre.
I am trying to capture every angle, every view of the Bay of Banderas, watching the waves as they rush toward me, crushing noisily in a silver foam, lapping my ankles with their biting tongues. I wave at the seagulls over me, howling as loudly as they do, not forgetting to greet the dolphins and the whales hopping out of the water from time to time in the distance, I am especially trying to recapture your smile as we entered your favorite restaurant Daiquiri Dick, where the staff always greeted you personally, the terraced garden of the Café des Artistes, or as we stepped to admire the awesome trunks of the trees of the River Cuale island dividing the town of Puerto Vallarta, all parading what looked like a protective maze of sinewy muscles and nerves growing over the old roots as if refusing to die, an ultimate defiance to nature. I keep hearing “Historia de Un Amor” and “Cucurucucu Paloma”, which had become your favorite Mariachi tunes – and mine.
While you were never the traditional eye-catching, expressive type, our various trips abroad – and Puerto Vallarta in particular – helped you to open up and to express yourself more freely and creatively, perhaps because you were out of your usual element, with its confining boundaries. You, in turn, validated my enthusiasm and joie de vivre and became the ideal enabler. Together, we got to explore a new side of my Paris through the Bateau-Mouche on the Seine River and starred restaurants like La Tour d’Argent and Chez Toutoune, You helped me to discover a part of Provence I had only heard about: St.Paul de Vence, Picasso’s Vallauris, and, of course, Les Amandiers de Mougins. And remember how you loved driving through the Swiss Alps and helped me to discover the oddly shaped Matterhorn – one of your favorites as a former fervent skier – with its unforgettable cemetery in nearby Zermatt where those who never made it to the top are remembered in a lovingly decorated garden. And how can I forget how you grabbed my hand when we came to face the spectacular Corcovado and the Statue of Christ towering over the mountainous landscape of Rio..
You have been a good sport all along. For someone who was not a born dancer (who thought I would ever fall for someone untouched by the sound of the tango or that of the rumba?) you did walk me through the dance floor in Buenos Aires, and agreed to try the sirtaki at the Plaka in Athens. But perhaps one of the most memorable encounters occurred at the yearly get-together of the Gypsies we had the joy of witnessing in Saintes-Maries de la Mer, near Marseilles, one summer. People with their own history of uprooting and persecution, haunting melodies and catching rhythms, they celebrated human bondage and survival in their own way.
But it is in Puerto Vallarta, our last retreat and discovery, that left the most unforgettable mark on us, with its colorful Malecon, where locals and tourists amble along the shore, and where we met Minerva, the native young lady selling pareos, a mother of ten, who timidly asked me to teach her some elementary English to help her approach the potential buyers, an encounter which ended up in a stunning photograph I took of her, holding her dresses around her luminous face – now decorating our den, right over your easy chair. The same Puerto-Vallarta where a 4 year-old girl spontaneously offered me an unsolicited hand as I stepped out of the pool.
As I am going over these landscapes of my memoriy and watching the reddening ball of fire in the sky sinking slowly into the horizon, I am joining in mind the legendary Petit Prince on his planet as he moved his chair no less than forty-four times to prolong the spectactular sunset..
Yes. I will forever miss your voice and the touch of your hand, but you will always be a part of my landscape – magical, untouched.
(Please note that Jeannot is the French term of endearment for John)