We finally pulled over off the highway by the beach. “This is it. This is where Yemoja wants us. The tide is still too high though. We will sit and wait for it to get lower.” We sat in silence and watched the waves crash back and forth rhythmically against the rocks. After 20 minutes, the tide finally got low enough for us to reach our final destination. We grabbed our bags and Mirella, barefoot stepped over cigarette butts and broken beer bottles. I kept my huaraches on. Her feet oddly resembled my mothers’ feet. Her second toe slightly longer than her big toe and a bit wider at the end. I thought about the power this woman must truly possess. I didn’t tell her she had the same feet as my mother, that I kept to myself.
When Claudia had her limpia, she too was brought to the beach. She told me how beautiful, serene and secluded their location was. I wondered if what each of us saw represented our inner state.
We finally found an abandoned lifeguard post covered in graffiti and set our bags down. It was freezing, but I took my huaraches off and put my watermelon down in the sand beside them. She cut a hole into her watermelon and filled it with her own coins. She covered them in molasses and instructed that I do the same. “Make a hole big enough to fit the pennies and your wish list. Do not tell me or show me what’s on the list.”
“Ok.” I said as she handed over the knife to me, careful not to touch any of my things. I looked over at how she’d prepared hers and tried to mimic exactly what she’d done. No room for mistakes here. “Stay here, I need to speak to my mother.”
I watched as Mirella stepped closer to the water and prayed to Yemoja. I turned away after a few minutes, not knowing proper protocol. When she was finished she walked back to me laughing, her pant legs freshly wet with ocean water. “She always plays with me! I told her not to get me so wet because it’s cold and look at me. Me mojo!” She laughed and gathered the rest of her tools. She had a giant sprig of leaves, flowers, a tupperware container with a milk bath mixture that smelled heavenly. She cut an onion in half. “Okay, follow me.” She said as she carried everything closer to the ocean.
“Spread your arms out and do as I say.” She rubbed pieces of wrapped meat around my head, arms, torso, legs and feet. These she tossed into the ocean while muttering an offering I couldn’t quite decipher. She dipped the leaf sprig into her mixture and blessed me as she spoke to Yemaya, asking for her protection. With the flick of her wrist, she went across my entire body, front, back, arms, legs, and then spun me in circles while she blessed me some more. “Repeat after me” she began to say. I looked down at our feet in the sand, the waves crashing just a few feet away as I recited back to her what she said to me. I don’t remember what was said. She placed the two onion halves in the sand, cut side up. “Okay, now step on the onions.” I placed a foot on each half as she instructed and turned to face the ocean. She recited some more things to me and before I knew it, I heard her repeating my three wishes out loud. The same three wishes I had written down on a piece of paper that was now sitting in molasses in a watermelon behind us. She repeated those same three wishes to me and Yemaya. How could she have known what I’d written down? As she spun me in me circles, she said to me, “You will be successful, you will be happy, and you will be loved. You just need to be firm in your decisions. Okay? Do not let anyone question your worth and do not focus on your self-doubt. Be. Firm.” I stood on the onions, in disbelief as Mirella told me exactly what I’d written on my note. In an instant, the ocean came crashing towards us and washed over us, bathing us in the frigid ocean water. “AY que frio!” Mirella yelped. I shivered as she instructed me to my watermelon, “Now, give her your offering and tell her what you want. Remember, be firm.” I grabbed my not so small watermelon and waited for the tide to pull back. I watched patiently as Yemaya’s waves picked up my watermelon and knocked it into a bed of rocks not far from where we were standing. I worried the waves would crack it open against the rocks and spill the molasses out, along with the rest of the offering. It came and went rolling along the beach, now I know why Mirella had asked me to bring a small watermelon. “Fuck, I failed already. I should have walked in farther. BE FIRM NICOLASA! She just told me that!” I scolded myself. “Don’t worry, se la va llevar. Sometimes she doesn’t like when we watch her.” Come on, let’s go. She picked up her tools and I grabbed my huaraches in my hands as we walked barefoot back to her car. I didn’t dare look back to see if Yemaya had taken in my watermelon. I had faith it would end up with her. I looked down at my feet and realized the rubbish we’d walk through in the morning was gone. There were no cigarette butts or beer bottle caps to be seen. I looked ahead at Mirella walking in front of me, am I imagining things? When we finally reached her car, she washed my feet and then hers with warm water.
“Here, I made this for you, it’s an amulet, for your travels. Keep it on you at all times, like the 7 coins and your wishes. Keep it in your wallet or in your pocket, somewhere safe. It will protect you from any danger while you are away. And remember, to always have a white candle lit for your mama, along with a cup of water and a cigarette for her to enjoy.”
I put the little satchel in my bag and got into her car. I put faith into the powers of the satchel and of Mirella’s work. I already felt rejuvenated. Lifted. Glowing. I couldn’t pinpoint where the darkness had come from, or where it went to, but it no longer weighed down on me like the creeping, disorienting dense Hanford fog. I was finally ready for the smell of a new home.