Having discovered that my wife seemed to have disappeared, without reason or cause or explanation, off the face of the Earth, or at least off the beach on a deserted island, I decided to force myself to calm down. Instead of just standing there screaming, “Where’s my Mouse?” or pretending to be Robinson Crusoe building a life in the middle of nowhere, I was now going to pretend to be a detective. This was a deserted island. There had to be a rational solution.The possibilities were not unlimited.
I began with our little home away from home, the palapa. When the boat from the mainland deposited us here, we brought our backpacks to the palapa and dropped them on the floor where five days later they remained. Stuff spilled out of them on all sides—a few clothes, toilet articles, bottles of water, packages of food. We hadn’t brought much.
Was anything missing? Yeah, her swimsuit and her sarong and her sun hat. Her passport was still there, her wallet, our plane tickets home, the receipt for the boat that left us here and is supposed to pick us up in two days. If you’re going to run away from your husband, would you leave all that behind?
Why is the first thing that occurred to me that she ran away? From me, her husband of five years. Her loving husband. “Ran away?” Ran where? Why?
Was our relationship really so lousy that this was the first possibility that I thought of? Not that she had drowned, or gotten lost exploring the jungle or was just playing some game of hide-and-seek with me? Not that she had just fallen down and injured herself? Not even that she had just lain down on the sand or under the trees and fallen asleep or was reading a book or listening to music on her iPod or staring off into space thinking about nothing or everything, her life and mine and ours, or just staring at the birds and the waves, thinking her own unknowable thoughts like she had a habit of doing, retreating from me into her own privacy where nothing else existed, least of all love and hate and all the emotions mixing up the two into a hopeless mishmash of a porridge? Not that she had been killed or kidnapped or hurt?
By whom? A ghost, a hermit, a guerrilla, a soldier, a fisherman, a peasant? None of them were on this island. It was all ours. That was the appeal. That was what the travel agency had told us. “You’ll have the island all to yourselves. There’s not a soul there. The whole world will be yours. You will own the world. It’s a unique opportunity. You’ll never have a chance like this again. Everywhere islands are disappearing beneath the rising sea levels or the floods of tourists. You’d better grab this chance while you can.”
We grabbed. It’s been five days and our grasp has not relented. The world is still ours. Now, it would seem, it’s mine.
Mouse and I met six years ago on another island. I guess islands are part of our karma, our fate. That island, the first one, was big and rich and developed, a city where young people met in real life almost as easily, as smoothly and as unconsciously as they did on television shows. When things, people, come together so easily, a lot of questions never get asked, let alone answered. Two people, a man and a woman, me and my Mouse, come together just because we do. It’s existential.
“Hey, we seem to get along pretty well,” she said to me one day on that other island where people come together all the time, for a night or a month.
“Yeah,” I said, “we’ve known each other three months and we’ve hardly had a disagreement, certainly not an argument, at least not a real one, not a knock-down-drag-out kind of fight.”
“Except we do fight over pizza. I like it and you hate it. You call it high-class junk food. I call it real food for the hoi polloi,” she said. “And you like to mix a little roughness with your sex and I like it all gentle and cozy. And you think your job is a sacred mission,” she said, “while you think my work just pays the bills.”
“Still, we do get along….”
“So now what? What do we do with this thing called love?” It was a joke before it wasn’t.
That’s how we worked it out: we would move in together. And that’s how a year later we got married. The wedding, too, was kind of like a TV show. We did it in the neighborhood bar with the bartender saying, “I declare you man and wife.”
Of course, the bar scene wasn’t any more real than the TV shows because we’d already gotten legally tied together at city hall. And that’s how four years afterward we finally did what we’d been long talking about and took an extended vacation, and how that vacation carried us to a deserted island where we had no one to look at or talk to for five days but each other, and how after five days with two long days still to go I ended up standing on an empty beach screaming my lungs out. For my Mouse. My muse. My lady. That’s not sweat dripping from my eyes or waves splashing my face.
I think I am crying. I’ve never cried, not as an adult, not since I was 10 years old and my best friend Jamie hit me in the face because I stole his baseball. Water running from eyes I’ve passed off as sweat or an infection. Men don’t cry. I was taught that at home when I was a kid. When Jamie hit me, my father was standing right there and said, “Kid, don’t stand there crying. Hit him back.” I did.
But if these aren’t tears, then I don’t know what they are.
END OF PART 2. NEXT WEEK PART 3