At the tip of Baja California, where the Pacific Ocean curves around to meet the Sea of Cortez, Col. Harville read the text of a telex he had transcribed onto an index card: "To understand the curse of God's Hostage, you must pass under the arches of San Lucas del Cabo." Harville could not remember whether or not the telex had ever existed or if it had been simply a dream. Too much time had passed, and the physical telex message was nowhere to be found. The day was hot, but the breeze merely warm. Harville sat on the balcony of an old hotel overlooking the water. In the distance, a whale surfaced.
The day before, Harville had hired a van which also doubled as a taxi. There were no small ones in this part of Baja California. So, he was stuck with a 12-passenger van with room for luggage, with "Taxi Gremio" stenciled in gold gothic lettering against a dark crimson field. Inside, the van smelled vaguely of Lysol and strongly of jasmine-scented air freshener.
He drove around the peninsula, not sure of what he was searching for, but driving nonetheless. At a beachside palm-frond hut, he ate scallops and langostino, while haggling over the price of a boat.
Someone stood at the end of a pier. Harville watched the fishing boats going out to catch whatever they could find. The sport fishermen were seeking marlin, or something equally showy to mount on a wall.
The image of the smoothly carved jade Tara he had fallen in love with never wavered in his head. She was a glowing presence - a shimmering, radiant presence - the point of light that gave him the courage to will his heart to continue beating, even when the omnipresent and overwhelming sense of loss and despair had caused so many others to simply give up the fight.
Ambiguity, anxiety, doubt, despair - the words clattered in his head like the Pachinko balls he saw in Tokyo on his leave on his way back from Laos to the U.S. Yes, they clattered with a sharp, empty noise, meaningless without the actual texture of the experiences he had suffered, the tastes, smells, touch of jungle, stone temples, infinitely smooth jade.
The night, with windows open to the warm, dark breezes, a storm somewhere in the Pacific brewed magic for those who loved the crash and spray of sheets of water reduced to buckets and fistfuls of water, or even for those who preferred their water served up fine, in droplets like the tears of a goddess who sees the suffering of her beloved people, and then realizes that even she, with her supernal powers, cannot change the laws of cause and effect and the destiny some call karma.
As the night entered the phase when the stars were like grains of sand scattered on the vast beach head of the sky, the incessant pounding of surf resonated with deeper tones and the length of each interlude was like a three-note cantus - roll, CRASH, splatter - roll, CRASH, splatter. The water dissolved and became fire, with mortars or cannons. What should have been soothing slowly turned into something that unsettled him to the core, even after he shut the windows in desperation.
He tried to block out the noise, but soon realized that his beloved Tara was the only presence that could bring him out alive.
Harville knew that the time to cross under the arches had to be at night. The sparkling stars a million eyes to witness those who dared to approach the water's edge despite warnings that surf would sweep people away to a certain death. Rip tides were strong.
The boat he had purchased from a young guy from Todos Santos was easier to manage than he had expected. He was fully prepared to use the small boat coxswain skills he had acquired at a special skills school. The surf churned and crashed as he approached the rocks, and then the arches that glowed reddish pink or ruddy brown in the daylight hours.
When Harville returned to shore, he heard the voice of God telling him to go to the Oasis and to wait.
In his mind's eye, Tara's light flickered and died.
The voice of God was all-consuming. It demanded rapt and undivided attention.
Harville obeyed. After all, he understood now. He was God's Hostage.