Swimming with the fishes

Timar was brutally drawn into a nightmare. This was the first time he’d been out at night in Libreville. Everything was unrecognizable under the moon.

— From Tropic Moon by Georges Simenon.

* * * *

Similarly, another traveler found himself in Port-au-Prince. It was 10 p.m. on the main street, which was broad but without lights. Only the moonbeams of Haiti.

Hundreds of people lay in the sidewalk shadows, lined up like corpses but not dead, simply asleep or nearly so. All was quiet and poor.

They were homeless in the capital of the black dictatorship.

Twelve hours earlier he had taxied to the dock, passing a shoe-less soldier carrying an antique carbine and wearing a ratty uniform. Guarding God knows what.

Our traveler stepped onto a small boat full of whites in swimsuits. They chugged toward the coral reefs off the coast. Then, with snorkles and masks, they swam with the beautiful fishes. But he swam alone. All alone with the fancy fishes.

A decade later in a smaller boat, a skiff really, he headed toward the coral reefs off Isla del Espíritu Santo in the Sea of Cortéz.

Just him, a woman and the kid steering the skiff from La Paz.

Again, with snorkle and mask, he swam with the beautiful fishes. And the woman who was later to leave him. To her regret.

After a few hours he stood alone on a high desert hill, naked but for the swimsuit.

The woman was down on the beach, and the boy was watching the boat bob on the blue waves. The desert island next to the sea was pure white sand and cactus.

The sky was clear. The breeze was perfect.  He stood on that hill, knowing it was the most wonderful place he had been in all his life.

Advertisements