Big things happen on small islands.
There’s a song that I heard all in Australia by a singer named Aneiki. The name of the song was “Pleased To Meet You,” and spoke of seeing someone you used to love, years down the road wondering if that person would even recognize you, remembering what you both had together.
I bought that song as soon as I came back to the States. Parts of the song rang true with me. Especially after I had returned from Fiji.
I met a woman there, and never knew she had eyes for me at first. She sat there, only a few feet away, talking to the others while we ate lunch. I glanced at her only for a few seconds, and in my mind I said hmmm… she’s pretty cute. But nothing more. It was just one of those fleeting thoughts. I initially didn’t pay it any mind, and went on speaking to the Kiwis sitting across the table.
That is, until she plunked herself down next to me! As soon as a seat was vacated, she got up and without further ado sat down. “Been here long?” she said.
“Only a week. I’m here for a little while longer another week actually. I’m staying here through New Years. You?”
“Yeah, so am I. I figured after working for the past year and a half I needed a break.” I looked into her large, deep brown eyes and saw something there. Or was I sure? Maybe I was imaging things.
I stuck my hand out. “What’s your name? I’m Mo.”
A bright smile opened across her face, exposing perfect white teeth. She shook my hand. “Miranda. My name’s Miranda.”
I had no idea when she arrived on the island at first. It was a total mystery to me. I guess after staying on Beachcomber Island for a week I was into the groove of things… the drums in the morning to sound breakfast… the old rust bucket the Tai Tui coming from Lautoka at 11am on the dot, chock full of Indian Fijians. The long lines at lunch, the Beachcomber Boys playing their repertoire of slow music. Then the evening meal, the all-night partying, followed by bucketloads of Kava under a full moon with the locals. And somewhere in-between all of that, Miranda arrived.
I didn’t know when. But I was sure glad she was here.
“So when did you arrive, Miranda?”
“I came yesterday afternoon. Didn’t you see me doing the Bula Dance on the stage last night? The Beachcomber Boys wanted someone new on the island to be the Bula Queen and chose me.”
That got my attention. The Bula Dance was a rip-off of the Macarena, created by the Beachcomber Boys to get everyone in the mood for a good party. It had the same movements except a few strong pelvic thrusts shot in toward the end to spice it up. I got so good at the dance that they had named me Bula King only a few days before!
“Naw, I didn’t. It was so slow last night that I drank a couple of beers and went to go have Kava with the locals on the other side of the beach.” I looked her up and down, soaking this English woman in. She had a very cute face: wide cheekbones, a sharp jaw, small chin. She had smooth, clear olive skin. Thin-lipped, her largest and most attractive feature was her eyes. Dark brown, they were just hypnotic to look into, making me feel like a magnet being attracted to its opposite polarity. Her wavy, dark brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail, exposing small, perfectly shaped ears, pierced by small circular earrings. Her body was well proportioned as well. She wore a black shirt and a Sulu (a skirt worn by most Pacific Islanders both male and female) which painted her curves quite clearly. She really looked heavenly.
But certainly this woman wouldn’t be thinking the same of me. It’s almost never happened like that for me anyhow. Always chasing after the wrong people, my friend Andrew would tell me. Always barking up the wrong tree. Always being too choosy. Continually. Though I felt good about her, I had my doubts. Surely she couldn’t like me that much.
“So where are you coming from, Miranda? I asked. “A backpacking trip across Asia I imagine?”
She adjusted her posture, hands on her knees, interested in my questioning. “No, actually I’m coming from a year and a half on Kiribati (pronounced Kirri-bas). I’m on my way back to England now.”
“Kiribati? Where’s that?”
“It’s in Micronesia. A bunch of small atolls not far from the Marshall Islands. It’s a Federation of some 33 islands or so. I was on a remote one, teaching English.”
“How did you get that?”
“Well, I was in London looking into teaching English somewhere out in Asia,” she said. “And the place I went to couldn’t really find me a slot in the countries I wanted. So as I was leaving the woman said ‘wait a minute, how about Kiribati? We have a slot out there for an English teacher.’ I didn’t even know where it was. But when I found out where it was on the map I said I’d do it, it seemed like a brilliant idea. And it was.”
Wow. That was amazing. Talk about being in the middle of nowhere. “Shit, that’s far out. I’m familiar with that area, I did a lot of reading on World War Two I’m a bit of a war buff. My grandfather was in the Navy. He fought at the Battle of the Coral Sea, at Tarawa and Saipan, and a few other places. So I guess there wasn’t much to do?”
“No there wasn’t. One market, one school, no post office. Just one main road. There was only one bus on the island, you could hear it coming a mile away too. Blasting music as well. No stoplights, no nothing. Not even electricity on a continual basis. Just me, a few other English people, and my little hammock and mosquito net. The beaches were pristine though.”
“Wow, that’s amazing. And you did a year and half in that?”
“Yeah. The only break we really got from it all is when we would go to Tarawa to party it up. It wasn’t too far away, and you could meet Westerners there. The American Navy had a base there as well, and there were a lot of tourists.”
She asked me what brought me here to Fiji, and I filled her in. I also filled her in on where I came from, and some of my misadventures through my years of backpacking. She seemed really interested in some of my wacky stories, the wackiest being my latest one to date which was getting semi nude photos taken of me by Nadine Shaw of Risky (Sticky) Business fame. I could tell by her laughing, her hand gestures and body movements that the flirting I was doing was being reciprocated as well. She liked me. And I was really digging her. It made me think of a quote I had read from Blue Highways:
What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do in other people’s minds.
When you are traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.
And it was so true here. There was no background that really followed me (not that I had anything to hide!). There was no future that was laid out before me. All it really was for me, was that moment, right then and there. The same applied with Miranda. She had no real background following her that I knew of. Neither a future. I could only judge what I knew of her just right there and then. Hmm. I really liked this woman. Have you ever felt that click that split second where you are hitting it off the minute you’ve met someone?
We had that.
The more we spoke, the more I sank into her thick quicksand capturing me. Miranda was fascinating. And there was something about her eyes that I found so compelling to look at! I couldn’t stop staring at her. We sat together talking for over an hour, and all I wanted to do was stare… and stare and stare. And not like some sloppy, scary serial killer. More like looking at a newborn baby. A tiny kitten. Something small, soft and fuzzy. Something that I wanted to hold and care for. It was almost as if everything around me faded away into oblivion. She was now the center of my universe. I was totally focused on her, and her attention.
The talk lasted quite a while. There was a party happening later on in the evening; around 50 Americans from an adjoining island were coming over to party it up with Beachcomber Island. They apparently brought their own DJ with them, who was going to spin a whole lot of house music right on the beach. We made plans to meet up in the evening after dinner.
We met up after eating with other people we knew, the whole while giving each other those fleeting glances that all lovers give. I ended up doing a whole lot of dancing, and she later joined me. It eventually brought us to a table outside on the beach alone, under a full moon, drunken revelers scattered all around us.
Being with her made me feel like a kindergartner again. It brought me back to when I was in first grade with Lisa Pargament, my very first girlfriend. We would pass notes to one another all the time, telling how much we liked each other. One time, I remember sitting across from Lisa, tearing off a piece of paper from my notebook. I tried writing, “You are a beautiful woman,” but couldn’t spell the word “beautiful.” So I asked her. The cat out of the bag, Lisa reciprocated by writing that I was a handsome boy. She was able to spell the word handsome quite clearly though!
I was totally under Lisa’s spell. And she knew it. For when it came time to give out the cookies that Mrs. Behar wanted us to hand out when we were good, Lisa was always number one on the list. Always the first one I’d give a cookie to. Always the first person I’d draw a picture for. Always the first one I’d want to sit next to.
And I felt this way with Miranda. She made me feel as if I were in kindergarten again. Like I was an innocent child once more in love, who wanted to just show how he liked the woman sitting next to him.
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