Temporary Sunshine

Grand Anse Beach, Grenada – October 1992

While Hans and his assistant, Nueng, finalize the arrangements for the sailboat, I let the sun seep deep into my bones. The beach is nearly deserted. The only sound is the rippling of the hesitant waves as they brush the shore. A local man approaches me. He’s selling charms that are as smooth and shiny as onyx. They are carved from a seed and polished, he tells me. He does not smile, even after I buy one from him.

I lie back on my chair and try to process my situation. I met Hans and Nueng for the first time in person last night. Months ago, I had answered an ad for a travel assistant that my sister had sent me from the Bangkok newspaper. Last week, after I had long since forgotten about it, Hans called me. He had already found an assistant, he said, and was getting ready to sail through some Caribbean islands to look for a place to buy property. But there was room on the sailboat for one more.

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I have a return ticket and my mother has a photocopy of his passport. Just in case.

This is the second time in my life that I’ve been the recipient of such generosity. Once in a lifetime is incredible, but can I be so lucky again? Bad things have happened to me, but only when I’ve allowed smiles and smooth words to obscure my intuition. And always when I’ve been on my home turf and thought that I was safe.

Anyway, I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m twenty-four years old and, after five years in California, I’m back in Michigan, living in my mother and stepfather’s basement. My job is serving beers and burgers in a dive bar that’s frequented by former classmates who now have respectable jobs. When I look into the future all I see is a void and all I feel is despair. This trip is some temporary sunshine in the abyss.

I hear my name called. Hans and Nueng wave to me from the hotel’s balcony. I gather my things and walk towards them. When I met them last night, my anxiety subsided immediately. Hans has a cherubic smile and the top of his perfectly round head is bald. He would look more at home in a friar’s brown robes, pruning rosebushes in a cloistered monastery. Little Nueng’s eyes sparkle. They joke and laugh with each other like old friends. They have opened their circle to welcome me.

But you never know.

A couple of hours later, we set sail for Carriacou. I watch the coastline of Grenada slip away. Whatever happens now, I’m on my own.

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