Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nuku Hiva

Before coming here I was hungry for news. What was it really like? I wondered, consuming the messages from friends and acquaintances who’d traveled this long way. But no, what was it really like? Of course there’s no singular answer to such a question. Dogs in the street with full udders, hundreds of chickens—huge, mild grapefruits, custard apples and frangipani. It’s laughable to think one could answer such a question on the basis of a week’s acquaintance. In this village of less than two thousand people there are many drag queens, who wear lime green tap pants and kitten heels, who have darkly penciled eyebrows and run the local grocery store and the pension. There’s obviously a different understanding of sexuality here and I want to understand it better.
The money I dispense like brightly colored pieces of paper and shiny bits of metal. On one of the larger bills, some highly decorated guy, some naval officer, sneers as if saying, I’ve tasted the women, and, if I must admit it, a few of the men, and they were délicieux, selon la manière primitive d’une île isolée. His hands come out of the empty space in your pocket holding a small glass of absinthe and a Cuban cigarillo.
The sea is soft, not too salty, and there are plastic bottles and beer cans in the weed-choked stream that flows into the bay of Taiohae. The air blows down over those verdant volcanic peaks like the sweet damp breath of a dragon sleeping on the other side of the island. I like such cheesy similes. I’ve been reading children’s books about mythical figures and I appreciate their simplicity. Clear answers, not too much information at once. Because otherwise, the vivid, hydroelectric force of arriving on the other side of the world, future unknown, might pour in.
At bedtime we lie in the forward berth, the rocking of the boat jingling the cutlery, knocking the books together in the shelf, and rolling the baguettes against each other so that they churn up crumbs across the countertop. The ineffable force of the universe soothes us. We watch the clouds silently obscuring the moon, that sweet dragon’s breath on our skin. In a couple of weeks, we’ll move on.

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