The Magic of El Gato Negro
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. June 2015.
I am mad. I am very, very broke. And I am in love.
Mad, broke, in love. Not necessarily in that order.
My anger comes from a deep well inside of me, the very blood that sustains me rioting against my existence. I am mad at myself, at the world, at everyone I know. I am mad at Nicaragua for not magically healing me. I’m mad at Costa Rica for not living up to the paradisiacal expectations I had of it. This was supposed to be my Eat, Pray, Love! This was supposed to be where I found myself.
After a long day of travel from Costa Rica — a taxi ride, 3 bus transfers, and a mile of walking between border crossing points — the bearded, barefoot surfers are a welcome reprieve for my tired eyes. I take in the sculptured lines of their abs and their suntanned legs. The town smells of ocean and beer and surfer boys and I think that I am in love.
The miles I’ve traveled have put enough distance between who I was there and who I am here and I’m tired of trying to figure things out. At some point, they just are what they are, right?
The funny thing about life is that the harder you try, the harder it gets. The magical thing about life is that it always works out, even if it seems like the foreign language being pressed into your eardrums is just a taunting reminder of how lost you feel.
Despite my efforts to grow my writing business, I’m broke as fuck. I reminisce about the days when my bank account was negative and my fridge was full as I carefully ration out cordobas for a plate of beans and rice. I have to pay for a visa? Shit, I forgot. I mentally calculate how much I have left. It’s not enough to keep traveling for much longer. I look for an ATM, my thighs burning from the damp heat. It won’t accept my card. I curse at it and hold back tears. It’s not like there was that much in my account anyways but I needed something to live on until I figured out where I was going next. Andrea, the most generous soul I’ve ever met, gives me cash and I PayPal her the money. Crisis averted and I learn another travel lesson — stash money in your backpack, just in case.
Mad, broke, in love.
We stumble into El Gato Negro, a bookstore and coffeehouse located just a few blocks from the ocean. Its colorful exterior hints at the magic we’ll find inside. Along each wall are bookshelves that reach the ceiling. There are so many books that the shelves cannot contain them so they sit, stacked precariously around the store. Again, I find myself falling in love.
It’s in this place, after hours and hours of touching the spines of dusty novels, inhaling the musk of books that have gone unopened for too long, that I come across the book that would help heal me, cause me pain, and then heal me all over again. Of course, I had no idea of this at the time. I just saw the cover and knew immediately that “Awakening Shakti” was meant to belong to me. But remember when I said I was broke? I wasn’t kidding. I’d spent a good chunk of change on a Nutella and tahini everything bagel an hour early (it was well worth it, I’d go back to San Juan del Sur just to eat it again). The book was $24.95 and, at the time, felt like a hell of a lot for a book. I sat, flipping reverently through the pages, trying to decide whether or not I should buy it.
After nearly forty-five minutes of deliberation, I decided that it was supposed to be mine and that I would pay for it and worry about where the money for everything else would come from later. What I also didn’t know at the time was that the purchase of that book set a chain of events into motion that would not only help me release my money blocks but also help me create a successful and sustainable writing business.
That book became my Bible. The tales of goddesses — of Kali’s fierceness, of Lakshmi's luck — gave me strength and hope and instilled in me a sense of wonder that I thought had been lost a long time ago.
And two days after I bought the book, I landed a writing gig that gave me enough money to continue on with my travels. This was the first of many jobs that came my way, many of them through synchronistic timing. Every time I begin to sink back into a state of lack or worry, especially about money, I allow my mind to wander back to San Juan del Sur, to the smell of ocean and beer and surfer boys, to the magic of El Gato Negro and it’s dusty shelves lined with the souls of hundreds of writers who, like me, took a chance and put their work out into the world. And every time I am reminded that the money always comes, that everything works out ok, and that it’s ok to be mad, broke, and in love, all at the same time.