They eased out of the ice cream cabin. The cosy air added to the vanilla playing with the lines of her tongue and the calm ocean’s breath rained on her, making her wish she could grasp all of it into her tiny hands. Few people hovered around, and fewer stayed in water, swimming, riding, and cursing with the local pidgin, but most did nothing but stare at her as though she was the only white present. Two other white boys—resembling Americans—ate and chatted with a black boy under an open tent.
Vacant loungers lay on the wet sands, broken and upright ones. They eased to a double-seated and watched the ocean ripple and shine. A bunch of children seated at a corner dug up the sands with their hands and sticks. Jide watched them and sniggered.
“You did that when little,” he said.
She watched them again. Nah… she never did that. Never did she dig out sands from the beach.
All she did near a sea was swim and not destroy the poor beach sands. If he imagined someone, it shouldn’t be her. She unzipped her bag and brought out her swimsuit, hoping they still fitted her. She placed her bag on the lounger and made for one of the nearby tents. There was not much struggle in suiting up, disputing every claim she had grown wider.
Coming out, one of the white boys waved at her, the one with a flat-top hairstyle that made him look like those actors who acted the good guys in high school movies and secretly dated the girlfriends of the bad guys. She waved back at him and his two friends, exchanging smiles with them. He approached her and they did minor introductions which proved right that his friend and he were from U S of A. They came touristing.
“You can see some of your people here,” Jide said when she got to her lounger.
She fantasized Newfield having the number of whites present, even as few as they were. How heavenly it would be. “Won’t you enter the water?” she asked, for asking sake. His types were the anti-waters who would only enter the water if there was an office atop.
“No, you go enjoy yourself. It’s your matriculation ceremony. I’ve had mine.”
Except wearing the gown, she would bet a thousand dollars he did nothing on his day. “What about a Jet Ski? Everybody rides that.”
“I didn’t bring a vest.”
“I saw a man selling one behind the ice cream cabin.”
“Do what you have to do, Lau. Don’t bother about me entering the water.”
She grimaced at him and rose. There was no point exchanging words with a stiff mind, stiff face, stiff everything.
“You’re swimming?” he asked.
“No, I’m skiing.”
“You won’t find a ski to rent.”
“I’ve made few friends, and they somehow have one.” She looked to the three tented boys and the Jet Ski lying beside them.
“Can you handle the machine?” he asked with that face her dad carried when about telling her not to do something but didn’t want to say the words, or didn’t know how to say them.
“I can handle a ship.”
He had not finished nodding before she ran and dived into the water. Warmer than most Canadian pool she had tasted and clean enough to avoid the fear of much of it escaping into her mouth.
She flapped legs and kept hands pointed, going deep into the water and getting more of its warmth. When wet enough, she reversed and popped her head up. Jide was staring and shaking head. She dug back into the water and swam to the shore.
“I thought you said you weren’t swimming,” he said.
“Just wanted to have a taste of the water.”
“You’re a mermaid.”
Good compliment. “The water is calm and warm. How about you try? Go get a vest and dive in.”
“My word hasn’t changed. I’m not.”
“You’re afraid of the water or you don’t just want to?”
“Or… you just want to sit and watch me.”
“I go for that one.”
“Then you could use this. The sun might worsen anytime.” She brought out an eyeshade from her bag and offered him. “It’s a good tool.”
On an attempt to fix it on his face, it cracked and its hands broke off. “I should have known your head was too small. I’ll get you a new one on our way back.”
“How will you survive when the sun fully comes out?”
“So better don’t last till then.”
“No promises. Sit, watch, and learn, and don’t get scared.”
She strode to the boys, smiled and pointed at their Jet Ski. That was all she need do, and they even helped push the ski closer to the water.
Her gunning of the engine chased off the nearby children, giving her the freest path to zoom into the ocean and ride deep, deep, deep. She hunched to the steering wheel and gave herself to the splashes that rained on her.
The people watching could watch, providing their eyes were long enough to follow her. She rode further to where their eyes couldn’t reach, and savoured the aloneness. One less alone would have been better, but being alone also had its advantages—however her speed or length, no one would tap her shoulder for cautioning. She looked at her behind. Jide had become a ghost.
Almost everybody had turned into ghosts.
Anyone that’d want to watch now would need a pair of binoculars. When satisfied, she did a U-turn and chortled as the water beat her. She gunned the engine and sped for the shore.
A hand was waving. Jide’s. Some more speed and she saw his dark face, all puckered and crumpled. Nice for him to worry. She rode to the shore and stopped at the wet sands.
She returned to her lounger, expecting a shout, yell, or anything that could push her back into the water. Jide gave her just that, even before she could reach him.
“Are you berserk? What made you ride so deep?” He pointed his black piercing eyes at her.
The shout and scream of a group of boys riding with girlfriends made his voice not so loud, killing the attention, but she had to defend herself. “Did I go deep? I could see you from my maximum. That isn’t deep.” Her reflection rounded the black circle of his eyes.
“If you had drowned or something happened, you think rescue teams will come rescue?”
She hooted, even though he never meant to be funny. A laugh always loosened things up. “I don’t drown in water. Let alone, on a ski? Anyways, it’s good you cared.”
“You didn’t know if the machine was faulty before riding deep; that was a big risk. Next time, think. Something could happen. Always think before acting.” He touched his forehead with an index finger.
She wiped off some of her laughs. Good to know there would be a next time. “And I examined the machine.”
“You checked the externals.”
“All right. It won’t occur again.”
“Next time you happen to be on a ski, ride along where you can be seen. You can perambulate around, but just make sure you can be seen.”
She widened her bag and flung out a towel, cleaned her hair, face, legs and began for the tent. “I’ll be back in a tick.”
As she returned to the double-seated, her thin footprints dug into the sands, her ten toes carving out themselves. “You’re forgiven for missing the matriculation ceremony. But next time, never let a lady enter the water alone.” She picked up his unfinished ice cream and mouthed in a spoonful.
“Lesson learned,” he said, “’cause who knows, they could get drowned. We should start leaving.”
“Few more minutes. It’s my first time here.” She curled up and admired her legs. No string of hair clung to it, unlike some of the girls’ around. Few minutes passed and the sun worsened, making her mourn her broken shade.
To Be Continued…