Getting Our Bearings

by Christopher Lovejoy on January 1, 2012

I woke up at the usual time, just before sunrise, feeling unusually alive to the world around me.

The gentle, rhythmic swinging of the hammock in the warm tropical breeze lulled me into a kind of complacency that felt deeper and more delicious than mere contentment.

I directed my gaze towards the bed of leaves and smiled. She was still sleeping. Soundly.

In spite of our language barrier, I knew in my heart of hearts that we would do more than merely go along to get along. I had a feeling we would get along and go along, together.

With a bit of inner resistance, I slipped out of my hammock.

I picked up the water bottle, opened it up, and lifted its rim to my lips, but then recalled what had happened the day before. I chuckled. We would sink our teeth into some juicy fruit instead.

I approached the shore with my usual reverence and assumed a lotus-like posture in the sand just beyond the surf, surrendering to yet another blank screen meditation.

I couldn’t guess how long my surrender to the kosmos lasted, but when I sensed her eyes on my back, I broke through my kosmic egg of unity: I raised my hand and waved nonchalantly.

Her childlike giggle made me smile.

Feeling calm, clear, and composed, I arose with a vitality that surprised even me and ran headlong into the sea, swimming as far out as I cared to swim. When I finally turned my sights to shore, I saw her standing tentatively in the water near the shoreline, scooping water and gazing at the scenery.

After what she had been through, I couldn’t question her apparent timidity. As I swam to shore at a relaxed pace, a sketch of a plan for the day emerged, which included a tour of the island.

“Good morning.”

A lovely smile greeted me shyly.

We walked into the shade near the hammock, where we chewed contentedly on juicy fruit.

I briefly surveyed her face, neck, and shoulders. My t-shirt would protect her shoulders, but I didn’t have much to offer by way of protecting her sunburned face and neck, like a wide-brimmed hat.

After we finished eating, I touched her shoulder lightly and indicated that my t-shirt was nearby if she needed it, but she shook her head unassumingly and pointed to the bed of leaves. I then realized that one large palm frond could easily shield her face, neck, and shoulders from the sun’s hot rays.

I skipped my usual routine that morning. Instead, we headed for the pools, meandering at a leisurely pace and making frequent stops along the way to inspect the fruit and admire the flora.

When we arrived at the edge of the cleansing pool, she met her reflection with an agonizing cry of alarm, realizing how burned she was, and threw me an anguished look.

I caught it and returned a sympathetic gaze.

After she carefully examined a reflection of her face in the water, I showed her what I did with what little I had, and after drinking her fill of freshwater, she followed suit where desired.

She carefully scooped water with her hands to rinse her tender face and neck. She combed her long, straight hair in a casual, relaxed manner, though I could tell she would have preferred a brush. She spoke a few foreign words of gratitude, which I acknowledged with a wink and a smile.

I entered the bathing pool, and with a slight motion of the hand, invited her to join me. She casually slipped out of her bikini bottom, slid into the pool, and faced me on the opposite side.

She held my gaze captive in a space of equanimity, arousing me with her presence. I was tempted by my long stretch of isolation on this island to engage her in a romantic way, but I resisted. She followed me out of the pool, taking respectful notice of my body and looking pleased by her effect on me.

Naked, we walked at our leisure under the morning sun, following the perimeter of the island.

I carried the binoculars around my neck and the water bottle in my left hand. In her right hand, she carried the frond that would protect her from the sun when it rose high enough to cause her pain.

At the start, I wondered how curious she would be about how isolated we were, or whether she was even curious. She was. She would lean her body into mine to signal that she wanted to stop and take hold of the binoculars around my neck, to scan the sea and its horizon.

Near the end of our tour, she caught sight of the distant island off shore.

She pointed and exclaimed, excitedly raising the binoculars to get a closer look, but appeared quiet and puzzled when she noticed I wasn’t sharing her excitement.

Beckoning her to follow my lead, I squatted, and with my index finger, sketched two outlines in the sand of the island we were on and the island that we saw. With sketches and mimes, I acted out the sudden appearance of ocean currents, predators of the sea, and choppy waters.

She grew pensive when she realized the dangers of crossing, with or without a makeshift raft.

In a bid to lift her mood, I encouraged her to follow me back to our home base, where I fetched the portable mirror, after which I took it, and her, to my lookout post.

There, I showed her how I used the mirror to send SOS messages.

I had already done this countless times before, often for hours on end, but I wanted to be sure she understood that a sliver of hope for a rescue remained.

That day, under a frond for an umbrella, she sent SOS messages to the island beyond.

In the days that followed, she would go alone to the lookout with the mirror and binoculars to send messages for what seemed like hours on end.


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