He holds me in his arms like a bride. One arm under my thighs, the other around my waist. I hold on tight to his neck trying to put my weight on his shoulders. He lifts me to avoid the bigger waves. I’m wondering why he is not letting me go. I can swim. But I do like to be held like this, and I love that he is concerned about me. He is so protective. It feels a bit out of place, but nice at the same time. I detangle myself from his grip and turn around to face him, still holding on to his neck. I wrap my legs around him and kiss him. The waves knock us about, but Kiri doesn’t lose his footing.
I feel twenty years younger.
All around us, long-haired beach boys dive in the water with their surfboards and paddle out at sea. Tourists are settling in for breakfast at the restaurants adorning the small bay. The day is starting. We have been frolicking in the water for nearly half an hour now, and I am getting a bit chilly, so I leave Kiri free to swim on his own while I make my way back to our towels. I sit down holding my knees and admire the scene around me. The small bay is enclosed by hills on either side. These are adorned by luscious green tropical vegetation, which reflects its colour in the sea below. The half-moon of the beach is covered by pale sand, soft and powdery. The stream behind it is home to all sorts of amazing animals. The sun is already over the hill on the left, and its rays are searing into my legs and arms.
I need a coffee. I catch Kiri’s eyes and gesture to him that I will head to the nearest restaurant. He nods and dives back into the water. I grab my bag, slip into the rainbow-colour cotton dress that I bought yesterday in Galle and head to the empty table in the shade. There are already three other tables with people having breakfast. One hosts a North European family. Mother, father and the two young boys, all white-blond and already getting a tinge of red glow to their creamy freckled skins. Judging by the number of bags, I think they are planning on spending the whole day right here on the beach.
At the table in front of them is a young couple. He is bespectacled with short-cropped dark hair. He looks besotted with his red-haired companion. She is sporting a good tan and a beautifully toned body. I expect the surfboard lying next to her has a lot to answer for.
Next to them, three local lads are sipping tea. They are looking at the bay as if they are planning their surfing escapade well ahead of hitting the water. They look in their mid-to-late twenties, stereotypical surfers, with long hair, arms full of bracelets, tattoos adorning arms and legs and cocky smiles, sure of attracting all the possible attention from the opposite sex.
I look around at the other surfers busying themselves along the beach and in the water. They all look so similar. I don’t think I would recognise any of them if I were to see them again.
I order a black coffee and sip it while watching Kiri’s antics in the water. He has stopped looking over at me. He seems more intent in diving than knowing I am okay. Nothing wrong with that, but I noticed he stopped looking back when I sat down at the restaurant. I find this odd, but I push it out of my mind.
I finish my coffee, and he gets out of the water. He makes his way toward me but then stops to talk to the three local guys at the other table. They seem to know each other well. He looks over at me and spots me looking at him, I smile, he ignores me and looks back to the guys at the table.
He eventually comes over. He drips everywhere, his hair falls into ringlets halfway down his back, drops of salty water run down his well-toned chest. He sits down without looking at me. He then turns to me, a sarcastic smile printed on his face.
‘You fancy them, don’t you? You like young boys.’
‘Who? What?’ What the hell is this all about? We are back to square one again!
‘No, I don’t, and I don’t want to have this conversation. Kiri, I’m with you, I’m not interested in anyone else. Please stop thinking I’ll just up and leave you.’
This man is very deeply damaged. The loss of his parents so young has clearly made him very scared of loving, and he is always expecting to be abandoned again. Much as his attitude makes me angry, I can’t help feeling immense pain for him. All I want to do is make him believe in himself and in me. I want him to understand I’m here for him. I take his hands.
‘I just want to be with you. Get this into your head, please and stop worrying.’
Thankfully, the three guys pay up and disappear. Kiri’s mood lightens and that helps me find my serenity. I’m happy with him. I’m happy when he’s happy.
We spend another half hour sitting at the table. I make sure my eyes always just fall on empty areas of the beach, or of the sea, or at worst, on families or girls on their own. I know he checks where I look and, I don’t want to give him any reason to doubt me. I really don’t want him to get upset.
He seems to have forgotten his previous angry stint. He holds my hands and tells me about his out-of-season work.
‘I prefer working at the restaurant. Fishing is so hard, but we all do it. There isn’t much else to do around here other than tourism and fishing.’
I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like having to fight such a powerful sea in a flimsy catamaran. Hell, I don’t even understand how you can stand or sit in them. They are so narrow, my thighs wouldn’t fit inside.
‘You just sit sideways, for hours, hoping that the glare of the sun and the salt don’t make you blind today.’
We leave our towels on the beach where they are and stroll hand in hand to the end of the bay, where there are some boats lined up, ready for their hour to come at sundown. I approach them, and I really can’t comprehend how people can go and tackle the ocean on these wooden hand propelled sticks. How dangerous can it be?
‘Very dangerous when it’s monsoon season, but that’s the best season. All the fish are out, and we get back with a full boat every day.’
I feel a pang of unease. I come from a completely different planet. There is nothing manual or dangerous in my world. Everything is signed, sealed and delivered under strict regulations, everything is controlled by labour laws, and workers have rights. There is nothing like this here. No support, no benefits, no assistance. If you want to survive, you have to risk your life. If you’re going to eat today, you have to work today. There is no pension plan or savings for the future. You live for today. And maybe this is a lot better than in my world, where everything is projected to the future, and we never really live now. Still, the idea of Kiri out in the ocean risking his life leaves me with a riot of uneasy feelings.