The late sun, still strong, kept him in the cool shade of the beachfront bar. Joe’s bar. Joe built this bamboo and leaf bar. Damn nice really.
This heat made it hard to know if you were drunk or delirious.
Around five a group of young local girls met at the bar. The poetry of their lingering language danced through the open room, up through the palm fronds, up through the hot sunshine, up to the heavens.
They all noticed the stranger immediately upon entering.
There had been whispers. Cupped-hand communications, flashing eyes, and giggles. The conversation grew more stern for a moment or two. Then one of the girls broke from the group in order to approach the stranger.
Young and shy, she paused a moment to compose herself. To try on the new layer of life.
Looking up, over the rim of what seemed and was a table almost full of empty glasses. The one he was looking over happened to be ½ full. Joe had wanted to clear the empties but the stranger insisted he leave them. Physical evidence of his existence, of the damage.
She thought about how small the distance was from the bar to the corner. The biggest distance travelled was from her village, her family. Like most of the families around here it was a large family. 7 or 8 siblings were born, but not all survived.
She had dreamed of being a doctor. And there had even been a chance. A scholarship being donated by the village doctor. But she was too young to go to university. And the village couldn’t wait the 6-7 years it would take for her to finish secondary school and then complete her degree. The old doctor wanted to retire. The scholarship went to an older student.
And now she was crossing the floor. Eyes softening, mouth up-turning into a smile, her body beginning to move like one of the girls who had taken so much pain and effort to teach her.
The stranger lowered his gaze a bit to look at his reflection in the nearest glass. Is there a target on my forehead? Am I a mark? Of course I am. No matter how native you go you will never assimilate. Non-native is non-native and it doesn’t matter where you are.
The stranger glanced around quickly and realized he had always been a stranger. School was a textbook nightmare of the new kid syndrome; a mark, a target for the bullies. Seven schools in ten years before he realized he might as well pack it in for all it was worth. And here, even here, tucked away in paradise in his linen suit he still stood out.
Perhaps this will be different.
The sun’s rays now slanted across Joe’s almost horizontally. The stranger looked up to see a silhouette, shift, blinding light, shift, a silhouette… with a smile. The summer cotton dress played lightly over the girl’s body. It was a fine body.
There was a moment. Two people, face to face, unknown to one another. The expectation of meeting, inevitable. The tone is set, the stage ready. And time still stretches; and when it’s just about ready to slip off the scale the stranger nodded his head. One slightly perceptive movement that opened the path.
She sat, delicately. On the edge of the chair. They looked one another over exchanging body measurements, physical scars and beauties.
The stranger sat still, eyes travelling. – Am I dreaming? – Time was all he had and he liked the prospects of the future.
She sat stiller, eyes travelling. – Why doesn’t he speak? – Waiting to see how her future would unfold.
The stranger’s eyes stopped on hers. He tilted his head to indicate whether she would like a drink or not.
“Yes, thank-you. A drink would be nice.” her English was slow and with little traces of an accent.