It was like a bad breakup…you know how it goes. The arguing, the silence, the threats, the longing, the tears. In the end, you’re shattered and left alone to pick up the pieces. You’re afraid you don’t know how to survive anymore without it in your life. How do you start over?
Sometimes you think about it, like, maybe you didn’t appreciate it enough while you had it, so that’s why you lost it. When the sun shined, you didn’t stop to absorb it. When it rained, you didn’t let yourself become drenched. You let the passing clouds drift by as if it were normal, instead of blessing them and thanking them for their shade. You didn’t honor the ground on which you stood.
Maybe you were too self-congratulatory too soon. You thought that you were special because you did something no one else you knew had ever even attempted. Maybe your confidence was really arrogance in disguise. Maybe you dismissed the challenges instead of taking them as warnings. Maybe this loss was your fault. Maybe you deserved this.
While you’re flying over the expansive, jewel-toned ocean, you think about destiny and the thing you never told anyone: you dreamed of this place when you were younger. You saw yourself dancing, swaying in the night surrounded by palm trees doing the same dance as you were. The steel pan played in the background. You were wearing this black dress that flared at the waist and stopped mid-thigh. You were barefoot. You were dancing.
As you got older, the vision became a little clearer. Sometimes the color of the dress changed. Sometimes the rhythm of the music changed. Sometimes, the style of the dance changed. Usually, you were surrounded by people, but you were dancing alone. But it was clear that wherever you were, you were in the Caribbean.
And one day, you finally made it. You felt the beating sun, breathed the thick, heavy air, danced to its rhythm. It was the epitome of joy.
You also knew exactly when it was ending. In hindsight, you felt it long before it actually happened. If you could pinpoint the day, it would have been the day you filmed the little league baseball story. You were supposed to meet him early that morning in town, but as you drove through, you happened to see him walking on the street and stopped to pick him up.
You hadn’t spoken to him since your blow up a few days before, and similarly, in the car, there was silence. Until his phone rang.
“Yeah…” he said, his voice dropping an octave. “Okay, I’m going to a video shoot right now, but what time do you get off?… Okay, I should be finished by then. I’ll swing through.”
And immediately you wanted the day to end. He spent the rest of the morning trying to be nice, smiling occasionally, offering you water. You spent the rest of the morning trying to avoid eye contact, and only speaking when it was absolutely necessary.
When you were finished with the shoot, you dropped him off at a bar and sped off. The winding, curvy roads on the island cliffs usually made you nervous, but driving them that day was relaxing. Looking out at the surrounding water, slowly and calmly rolling beneath, something hit you that you hadn’t felt before.
“You better hold onto this moment,” you thought to yourself.
As soon as you found a roundabout, you turned around and headed back toward the ocean.
You parked by a hotel and walked over the gravel lot to the sandy and rocky beach.
You left your shoes by the rusty guard rail and walked toward the water. The sand in your toes felt different than at other beaches. It was fine, soft. Your feet sank in a little deeper than the last time. The warm water rolled up past your ankles. You started to worry because this dress was not meant to get wet, but soon you push it aside.
You hum a song you’d heard on the radio. An old reggae song, with a smooth-voiced singer, promising to always be there for his lover. The warm breeze blew, and you felt your body swaying. You look around to see that you’re alone on the beach, and you allow yourself to dance a little to the song in your head.
You let the water get to your calves. You let your feet sink in a little deeper. You begin to let go of your cool.
And as soon as you get back to your place, all hell breaks loose. That moment in the water is completely forgotten.
You were in love with the cobblestone streets, the tin-roof shacks that barely held on when hurricanes came. You were in love with the idea of spending euros instead of dollars, and holding the heavy coins in your hand made you feel special, somehow set apart.
You loved walking through the aisles at the SuperU, and trying to translate the French labels.
You liked guessing what was what— was this cereal a version of Honey Nut Cheerios? Is this spinach? Isn’t it called epinards? You were in love with their customs, the kiss on each cheek whenever you greeted someone you knew, being called “Tati” as if you were part of the family. You loved greeting people with a “Bonjour” or a “Bonsoir” or a “Ça va? Ça va.” You loved how the women were emboldened by their femininity, and how no matter if they were fat or slim, tall or short, they loved and embraced their bodies at all times. You added an extra twist to your hips when you walked down the street.
You wished you would have hit the spliff when they passed it to you.
You wish you would have hugged him before you left instead of being silent and keeping your distance.
You wish you could curl up again with the other him—in the dark, under the air conditioning, flicking away the mosquitoes buzzing around your ankles. Shedding your clothes and giving into his soft kisses. You wish you could have a few more moments like this.
You remember when you found this place, filled with excitement over the first chance you had to leave your native country and visit this exotic isle. You remember the night you didn’t sleep but chose to go to the water with him. You remember sitting oceanside watching the sunrise, and watched the elderly nudists walk across the ocean’s edge. You remember going back to your room with him. You remember crossing the thin line.
And you remember the promise— that you would return, and that this would be your home.
But nothing turned out that way. You came back, and you stopped speaking to him.
You came back and you left again. You came back and achieved nothing. You came back and had nothing, you lost everything and had to leave. You went back to the States. You were ashamed and heartbroken.
You remember when he told you to stop playing the victim. And you told him to go fuck himself.
Now, you’re back flying above the ocean, your island home long out of view. You put your hand on the airplane window. You look around at the vacationers—skin red and blotchy, eyes closed, snoring. Flipping through magazines. Holding hands. Nothing is happening in their world. They are used to going back to reality. And you silently envy them.
And you wished you could do it over.