My family and I are lined up on a pier at La Parguera, one of three bays in Puerto Rico where bioluminescence blooms. Within this sphere of yellow-washed lamplight, a bubble of people isolated from the island by thick night, it feels we could be anywhere. We could easily be waiting to board the dolphin watch at the beach closest to our home. The same saline air travels from nose to throat to lungs in deep drags. Except we took two planes to get here, from South Texas to Borinquén where my husband was born, and everything is saturated in a Spanish slightly foreign to my ear. Our tour boat is running behind which is fine except that it is already so late (not that I can fault that either as it’s the best way to experience the blue-green glow of the famed phytoplankton), this section of the earth doused in the darkness of new-moon sky. A black blanket that recalls a word I’ve recently taken to, anochecer, which encompasses much more than nightfall for my mind. It is transformation: a becoming. And as I think on this concept it begins to feel as if we’ve been swallowed by some great fish and this filtered fluorescence above us is sourced from a pair of eyes—giant lenses inletting light. I blink the slink of sleep from my face.
On the boat now, my son wrestles wakefulness in my arms. He is not quite one and so I should have expected this, but he was born a night owl, has always avoided sleep at all costs except of course when said wakefulness would be welcome. I was hoping he’d remain alert like the nights earlier in this trip when we thought the time change and active days meant we could turn into the hotel early only to find ourselves walking rounds through halls and lobby. I wanted to experience this with arms free but when he is in this state only mine will do. I catch peripheral glimpses of bright brume in the water before my son says enough is enough. He is latched on to my breast and clutched close but is an expert at twisting out and away, completely exposing me despite any attempt at cover if I am invested in an activity apart from him. I relax back into my corner seat tucked away from the cool wind and listen to drifts of explanation about the brilliance of dinoflagellates activating with disturbance in the water and observe the exclamations of those around me about the sight. I close my eyes and conjure lights of my own making.
I imagine the world below the bow of our boat. Algae scattered like so much stardust; a multitude of moons, orb-like jellies whose movements make pressured space seem a near vacuum; fins of tropical fish flashing as they travel constellations; remoras the clinging comet tails of loggerheads in propulsion. Whale sharks swimming celestial bodies, expiring galaxies beneath us, because who is to say they aren’t? Who knows for certain the deep ink beneath us doesn’t extend outward, so far beyond us? Like a creature that creates its own shine outside the sun—setting cells alight. It would be just another thing we can explain in so many words but never fully contain, fathoms from our realm of experience, mystery as some mark of magic.
Melissa Nunez lives and creates in the caffeinated spaces between awake and dreaming. She makes her home in the Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas, where she enjoys observing, exploring, and photographing the local flora and fauna with her three home-schooled children. She is a column contributor at The Daily Drunk Mag. She is also a staff writer for Alebrijes Review and Yellow Arrow Publishing. You can follow her on Twitter: @MelissaKNunez.