Note: I nicked this title after visiting Robert Okaji’s lovely blog and reading his poem of the same name. The title was created by Ken Gieke for the Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge.
It was your idea, after all to go to the beach. I can’t remember now if it was the third day, or the fourth day but it felt like the tenth. Arriving at the hotel had been such a buzz after the long coach trip from the airport. On holiday at last, the sun so bright it gave you red-eye before anyone had taken a photo. I just loved arriving in the room and flinging open the windows to the balcony overlooking the pool. I didn’t even think about the mosquitoes till you reminded me.
‘Are you wearing repellant?’
‘Why? Don’t you fancy me anymore?’ I replied.
But you were busy unpacking and folding the already folded clothes from the suitcase into the drawers and working out how to set the alarm on the hotel safe.
‘Shall we go and get a beer?’ I asked.
‘It’s only three,’ you said. ‘Why don’t you go for a swim? Then we can have drinks,’ and you tossed a tube of sunscreen from the bag into my hands.
The day we went to the beach felt like starting on holiday all over again. I watched the sun bouncing daggers off the sea and the fat local women carrying babies on their brown hips. It was hot and my lips felt dry, but it felt good to be out of the hotel. The smell of fried chicken sizzled up from the street vendors’ stalls. I walked across the warm sand barefoot and felt the grains pushing up through my toes.
A woman approached me with bags of colourful hats.
‘Don’t make eye contact,’ you said. ‘They will only try to sell you one and we will be here forever. These people are like seagulls – throw them a chip and a hoard will descend.’
I bought a hat anyway. I liked the colours and I had forgotten to put sunscreen on before I came out. Then I saw the men with the boats at the shoreline. The chutes lying on the wet sand like giant dead octopuses.
You did not want to go up. You did not want me to go up. You were not sure the insurance covered it, but I had stashed some money in my bikini top and before you could do anything I was standing on the sand with the heavy harness on my shoulders.
They gave me some instructions but the noise from the motor made it difficult to hear, it was something about bending my knees.
Smoke billowed out of the tiny onboard motor and the boat began to pull away. I watched as the tendrils lying on the sand in front of me began to take up the slack and then tighten. Suddenly I was moving, my feet running across the sand as the harness bit into my chest. It felt like being on one of those travellators at the airport, walking like a god through the terminal, gliding past the other people on the carpet with no more effort than a sigh.
As my feet lifted from the beach, I thought of the woman I had seen two days before at the hotel. She had been lying by the pool on a lounge chair waving a little flag. She was holding half a coconut. A waiter approached and filled the shell for her.
‘They are called Love Cups,’ she explained, ‘ you just wave the little flag and they bring you more – delicious! After five, you get a new coconut,’ she added.
‘How many have you had?’ I asked.
‘This is my third shell’, she said. ‘My love cup runneth over,’ and she started to laugh so hard some of the cocktail came out of her nose.
I seemed to rise and rise into the air like Icarus daring the sun. No wonder he didn’t want to stop. Below me, I could see the boat, much smaller now. I was tied to it by a long, thick rope that bent towards earth like a ship’s anchor to stop me from flying away completely. White water spat out behind the boat as it travelled along the coast.
I wanted to scream but my mouth was full of wind, my hair whipping into my eyes, making them sting. Looking down gave me a moment of respite and I watched my feet as I moved my legs, walking through the sky like a god.
The people on the beach seemed so far away. I watched them scattered in ones and twos across the sand like shells. The boat turned around and began its journey back along the beach. Soon I would fall. The rope would no longer be straight and I would float down to the shoreline.
As we made our way back, I looked for you among the dots on the beach. From high above, still floating in the sky, I looked for your face from the end of the rope as I flew, but I could not see you at all.