Chanarong crossed the border from Burma to Thailand when he was two and half. His mother and sister took turns carrying him on their hips, passing him back and forth like luggage with a mouth. They left because a military raid put a bullet in their father’s head, and everyone was scared they’d be next.
Chanarong’s only real memories of his father are stories his sister would tell. Long drawn out tales of eating fried dough with banana cream, or holding plastic bags of ice under their arm pits to escape the heat. What Chanarong will remember for the rest of his life are the camps. Little thatch huts in the jungle of Thailand, built on stilts with split bamboo and leaf thatch. Dirt roads bleeding weekly into mud pits. Aid workers, reporters, and curious foreigners descending on them to take pictures and write stories.
The camps are supposed to be temporary, so the Thai government doesn’t want them becoming self-sufficient. It is illegal to make or sell anything, and it is illegal to leave the camps. But entire generations are being born and raised here, and the desire for normalcy overcomes everything else. They build vegetable gardens, sneak into the jungle to gather berries and nuts, and create schools for their children. When his mother decides she wants to make cloth and sell it in the markets, Chanarong becomes her smuggler, and her salesman.
Chanarong speaks Thai and English better than his native tongue, so sneaking into the markets is easy. He hikes through the jungle and mountains that surround the borderless camps, sells his mother’s cloth, and buys coffee and vegetable seeds for their garden.
When Chanarong is fourteen, the rebel army along the border splits, and much of the land that served as buffer for the camps is reclaimed. There are rumors of the military crossing the border and burning down the encampments, massacring refugees, or capturing them. The Thai government scrambles. They combine the smaller, autonomous camps into larger, manageable areas circled by a fence. They tear down permanent structures, like houses on stilts and vegetable gardens.
When Chanarong is sixteen, his camp is slated for relocation. A few days before they leave, his mother finds a Thai man to take Chanarong. The man’s sister owns a bungalow on an island, and needs someone to help her catch fish. She can offer free room and board in exchange for labor; it will get him out of the camps. If he is discovered, he will be sent back to Burma, but Chanarong’s Thai is pretty much perfect, so everyone knows he’ll fit in. His mother and sister insist. They will stay, and move to the new camp; when they figure out a way to leave, they will send for him.
The man, who his mother tells him to call Uncle, writes down the name of the place and a mailing address. He promises Chanarong will be able to receive mail through him, and when they get to the island, the man shows him the post office.
Chanarong has no address to send letters to, but he still writes them. He keeps them in an old rusted tea tin with a temple painted on it in black, yellow, and red.
Jill and Leroy arrive at the Rose Garden Cultural Center after a twenty minute ride outside Bangkok and are dismayed to see two kids standing at the entrance waiting for them in full traditional garb that clearly no one wears anymore. The description of the tour they bought had mentioned the “rural scenery of the Nakhon Chaisri River” and “traditional Thai villagers in their natural habitat.”
Jill has been dubious from the start. Immediately upon arrival they see that a section of the cultural center has been set up as a folk village, complete with mud huts and choreographed positions. The tourists are instructed to pile into the first house to take pictures of the quiet Thai men dressed as indigenous villagers. Jill is annoyed by the staged authenticity. She barely even steps one foot into the hut before whispering to Leroy that she’s leaving, and walks by herself up the makeshift dirt path. She can’t believe she let him drag her here. Soon she comes upon a woman in back of a restaurant.
The woman wears a wide blue skirt and a nearly transparent white cotton shirt with little hand embroidered flowers along the collar. She is bent in half over a large pink bucket, moving her hands around inside of it. Since she is not supposed to be seeing this, Jill considers it authentic. She imagines the woman lives in a small house with a dirt floor and screaming children. She imagines her pulling her tired feet home every day with money from the Cultural Village, angered by the knowledge that businessmen are getting rich while she works fourteen hour days in the hot sun for peanuts.
Jill unravels her digital camera from her sarong and presses the power button, which makes an unwanted sound like a thousand tiny bells breaking apart. Her shoulders tense, and she hopes the woman will not turn around and break the barrier between them. But even as Jill stands there, arranging the view finder, the woman stays bent over, intent.
A few hours later Jill and Leroy hail a taxi and go to their hostel. While Leroy is paying for the rooms, Jill slips off and buys two bus and ferry tickets that will take them to Ko Phangan, an island off the coast which promises to be far more authentic than anything they have seen in Bangkok. This makes Leroy exceedingly nervous. After he does some research, though, with Jill sitting beside him, angrily tapping her nails, he becomes satisfied that it is not so far off the beaten path.
With their backpacks at their feet, Jill and Leroy are having a few beers while they wait for their bus, and watching fat old European men be picked up by teenage prostitutes, some of whom, Jill is sure, are actually men. The only other thing of note they have seen all day, according to Jill, is a woman on the landing of one of the little pedestrian bridges. The woman was so quiet and dark she almost blended in. Jill noticed her only because she moved slightly in the dark, caressing the emaciated body of a two year old boy that might have been dead.
Jill had been so overwhelmed by the image that she hadn’t even thought to pull out a bill. Luckily, Leroy thought of it, putting a ten Bhat note in front of the woman, who was too distracted by her child to look up. Afterwards, Jill feels as if she’s seen a secret in the limp lifeless body of the woman’s child. These are the experiences, she thinks, that put you in your place, and remind you who you are.
Leroy takes a sip of beer while Jill recalls how attractive she used to think he was. How his being South African used to seem so exotic, and important. He is almost six feet tall with short brown hair and thick pink lips. He has a slim build with sharp, European features, and an Afrikaans accent. He rotates the designer leather band of his watch a quarter turn so it is facing upwards, and mindlessly presses his pointer finger into the metal ring on his right thumb. Jill picks up the bottle of Singha to fill their small, clear plastic cups. “That village was ridiculous,” she says.
“It was set up just like a traditional Thai village,” he tells her. “Probably by historians and anthropologists. If you would just relax, you might have learned something from them.”
Jill rolls her eyes. “You want to go to those villages because you think they’re safe, not because you’re going to learn something from them. There was nothing in that village that was even remotely authentic.”
“Really, darling, I think your idea of what’s real and not real is completely false. Those people were just as much a part of Thailand as any other Thai person is.”
She shakes her head and points to a scrawny girl, no more than sixteen, wearing a skin tight mini skirt and too much make up, “sitting here and watching these prostitutes is more real.”
“You don’t think these prostitutes are faking it?” He looks at her skeptically, and smiles. “You should see the women in Johannesburg with their hair all done up and their tight skirts.” He laughs, “at home they’re in bare feet and muumuus!” He takes a sip of beer, and the way he puts the cup down on the table and smiles seems condescending to her. “Everything you see here is an image put on for your amusement. You’re a tourist!”
Jill hates when Leroy invokes the fact that he is South African as some sort of secret access into culture she doesn’t have. “Just because they live other lives at home doesn’t mean that what they do on the street is as fake as the god damned cultural village,” she says. “That place is choreographed by business men! At least these girls pick out their own clothes.”
Leroy changes the subject.
They spend the next sixteen hours on a bus. Leroy takes it as a good sign that Jill is willing to lean her head on his shoulder, and decides, while she sleeps, that he will try to be more adventurous. After the bus they board a two hour ferry to the island. The ferry is packed with travelers in Thai fisherman pants and flip flops, many already taking off their shirts and standing bare chested or in bikini tops. They look crusted with weeks or months of sleeping in hostels, being crammed in buses, and taking cold showers or no showers at all, covering their body odor with oils and scents. Leroy holds the camera out with his arm and takes a picture of the two of them leaning against the railing of the ferry, while Jill reaches over on her tippy toes, and kisses him on the neck.
When they de-board it is to the mania of a large tarmac. Thai men and women swarm the bus, competing to see who can speak the best broken English. Many have binders of pictures that promise the most beautiful view, the best food, the most comfortable bed. Leroy takes her by the hand and leads her out of the mass. They rent two motorcycles from a young Thai girl who speaks decent English and doesn’t seem to care about them one way or the other. She takes their passports and puts them in a rolodex and sends them on their way with a little paper map.
Soon they are riding happily without helmets. It has been Leroy’s mission for this part of the trip to get them as far away from other tourists as possible in order to satisfy Jill. When they start turning down consistently bumpier and bumpier dirt paths, with larger and more horribly placed rocks, Jill begins to believe he just might accomplish it.
When they arrive at the beach Jill thinks it is possibly the most beautiful place she has ever been. There is a long cliff that faces the ocean and wooden bungalows have been built right into the rocks. Each has a balcony with a hammock and a small room with a mattress. They face a private cove, part of which is rocks, and part of which is a flat half moon of white sand that curves like a hip. Sleepy looking foreigners walk up and down the beaches, out of their bungalows towards the open air restaurant. Many of them look Jill and Leroy in the eye as they pass, and smile like old friends.
The next day they put on bathing suits and saunter the ten feet from their bungalows to the beach. Jill sees the Thai man in a colorful sarong while Leroy is still in the ocean. His features are delicate, almost feminine, but his arms and neck are thick. She watches as he guides a little boat in from the ocean, and is impressed with the life she imagines for him. He must understand the tides, she thinks, and how to manage this little boat in a storm. He must be a proficient fisherman too, which would mean he could survive by himself on this island. She decides that he is much more attractive than any other Thai man she has seen so far, and becomes interested in speaking with him.
He jumps out of the boat and ties it to a tree, then unloads a small cooler and two fishing poles. He walks right by Jill, who is lying out in her bikini reading a book. She makes sure to give him the opportunity to make eye contact. He does. He even says hello. She smiles and says hello back after he has almost completely passed, forcing him to turn his neck. Something like goosebumps spread out along her arms as he looks back at her like that.
At lunch, Jill and Leroy go to the little restaurant and she sees the same Thai man handing out menus and cups of coffee and orange juice. It isn’t morning anymore, but she still thinks a cup of coffee sounds good. She is a nice golden color from spending the day in the sun, and knows she looks good. She decides, before the man makes his way to their table, to take her hair out of its tight top bun and pull it over her shoulders with her fingers, spreading out long layers of sun-bleached blond.
Chanarong gives Leroy and Jill the same smile he gives every foreign face he sees in his restaurant. It is a complex mix of relaxed joy and sensuality that has been known to drive the women mad. Because of it, he has had his share of foreign women who seem to want nothing more than to lie in the arms of a local, and pretend they are having a wild and passionate love affair. Usually he is able to enjoy each one for their easiness while they are on vacation, and the fact that they will leave just as unobtrusively as they have come. Recently, though, Uncle has told him about the Burmese invasion of his mother’s camp. He wants to think that they have left for Bangkok in time, but cannot really know this, and lately affairs with the foreign women have become the only bearable form of distraction he has.
He does not blame the tourists for being happy, but lately finds himself bitter about how much they have been spared. He tells himself that they are generally good people, with good hearts. Still, he is shocked at how many of them talk about wanting to get away from home, or hating their parents. It is this difference that makes him understand how alone he is, and it is loneliness that teaches him to enjoy the power of seduction. He can make them feel as if they are the center of the world. Lie with them in his bungalow, and pet their white skin.
There once was a girl he thought about leaving with: Leanne. A white South African with orange-red hair and eyes the color of frozen water. Before he met her he didn’t realize that there were any white people living in Africa. She met his shocked stare with mockery and boredom. She said she came to Asia to teach English because her family lost everything in the revolution. She sent them a portion of what she made each month. He saw a sadness in her that he thought he understood, and she met his gaze with a challenging sort of intensity that was new to him. He took her out on the little boat with him, and on a motorcycle ride around the island. She loved, like most of them did, the backs of kitchens and the inside of his bedroom the best. She fingered the little shells and toiletries and beaded necklaces as if she were holding secrets. He liked to watch her squeeze her own oranges, or help him serve coffee at the restaurant, as if that were getting her closer to him. He wanted to tell her that this was nothing of who he was, that this was something he hated, but could never figure out how to say it.
He told her he loved her on a whim. It was the first time he had tried something like that. When he said it, her ice-colored eyes softened. She gave him her email address, and they promised to see one another again. He started having dreams of moving to Africa. Of opening up a bungalow of their own. Buying plane tickets for his mother and his sister and how happy it would make them. He talked to her about making love every day in a hammock. She never asked about his past, and he never told her about it.
They emailed back and forth for months, and when her letters stopped, he realized he had been expecting it. Now he wonders if he ever really loved her, or it if was simply the dim light of possibility that had excited him. For some reason, she has been on his mind lately, since he heard about his mother’s camp.
When Chanarong hears Leroy order his lunch, he is distinctly aware of the familiar accent.
While they are eating, Jill overhears another couple talking about a secret temple they visited where no other tourists have been. She asks how they found it, and they tell her it was by accident. After hours and hours of being lost in the mountains, they saw a few houses and knocked on one of them. The family that lived there offered them dinner and let them sleep on their floor. The next day, they took them to the temple. Jill listened intently as they told her of old wooden statues, reclining buddhas and enlightened buddhas and paintings of heaven and hell. Of how there was no one there but a few monks.
“Do you think you could find it again?”
“We were really lost,” the girl said, shaking her head.
Later, Jill told Leroy that they should try and find the secret temple on their own.
“Sounds kind of off the beaten path,” he says. “And I bet the locals would be pissed if all of a sudden tourists start showing up somewhere they’re not supposed to go.”
“Tourists come in tour groups and take loads of pictures and buy tickets for the places they want to get in,” she replied, “that’s not us.”
Jill decides right then that she will find the temple regardless, with or without Leroy’s help.
When evening comes Jill decides she would rather lie on the front porch of her bungalow and dream about the stars, have a beer, maybe sit at the restaurant and write in her journal. Leroy doesn’t seem too concerned about it and leaves her there to enjoy the evening, kissing her on the forehead before bounding off. He is going to the full moon party on the other side of the island with the couple they met earlier, and tells her not to wait up.
In the restaurant, Chanarong is mixing spices and milkshakes and vodka red bulls for the various guests. Most of them, though, have gone to the full moon party, so it’s an easy night for him. When he sees Jill he walks over to her.
“Will your boyfriend be joining you?”
“Ah. Well. It’s a beautiful night,” he looks out at the ocean in the distance, “a good night to stay in the restaurant.”
A few hours pass. He brings her three tall beers and some fried fish. Several times, he sits down to talk with her between taking orders. When he isn’t sitting with her she pulls out her journal and writes about the secret temple, and what she imagines it would be like to see a place without tourists. She imagines spending a night there, even, and meditating with the monks. Soon she is the only one left in the restaurant and Chanarong is talking to her more and more. He likes her long blond hair. He offers, once the restaurant has closed, to walk down to the beach with her to where he thinks there will be some ocean phosphorescence.
On their way down the rocky dirt path that leads to the beach, Jill suspects Chanarong might be showing her something he’s never shown another traveler. He walks easily in flip flops over shredded rocks down to the beach where he kicks off his shoes. She follows, downplaying the way the rocks seem to jump up and scrape the tops of her feet.
The beach is dark and quiet, dotted with travelers in hammocks or on towels staring up at the moon. “Is this your first time to Thailand?”
“Yes,” she answers.
“You’re enjoying yourselves?”
“Yes,” she says carefully, “though Leroy and I are very different.” She pauses, choosing her words, “sometimes I’m not sure if we’re good travel partners.”
Chanarong sounds concerned, “Why not?”
“Well, when I travel I want to learn something about where I am. Like, I want to experience the real Thailand. You know? Leroy just wants to take cool pictures. He doesn’t want to see the hard stuff.”
Chanarong is confused, “Were you together long before you took this trip?”
“Six months,” she answers. “We met in Taiwan. We’re English Teachers.”
They are quiet for a moment. The tide is going out and the sand is packed so tight from the wash of the waves that when their feet press into it, they leave neat little imprints in the sand.
Jill is extremely aware of her own comfort level, paying attention to it as if it were a barometer. She congratulates herself on feeling more or less at ease with him. “Why does the moon look so much bigger here?”
“You are closer to the moon on Ko Phangan,” he says in his dreamy, romantic voice, and she thinks it would be nice if it were true. She is watching him push back his thick black hair with his fingers, and stare out into the ocean with an intense look that makes him even more desirable to her. It feels intimate standing like this, and suddenly she wants to know something personal about him. “You were born here?”
She thought how amazing it would be to be born somewhere like this. He takes a moment to smile at her, then points to the water. “Here,” he says, walking towards the ocean and wading in up to his ankles. She follows, but sees nothing until he sweeps his bare foot through the broken waves and dozens of neon green and yellow lights break open like bright stars.
She gasps, “Oh my god,” and wades out until the dark ocean is up to her calves, then crouches down and pulls her fingers gently through the waves as they flatten out and slide across the sand. The black of the water is lit up by dots of light as the plankton are broken into hundreds of pieces at once against their hands. Chanarong is watching her. She likes the feel of his dark brown eyes, and how quiet he is. She thinks about how she and Leroy are incessantly talking about everything, and how nice it is to just shut up for once.
Chanarong does not hesitate to ask her to come back to his bungalow, facing her fully, holding her eyes. Jill seems captivated by him, and he thinks, because of the way she does not laugh or tremble, that there may be something different in her than there has been in the other women. Still, he does not expect much. He doesn’t care if they just sit and talk, or if they make love, though secretly he wants to see what she looks like naked, with all of that blond hair hanging down.
He can tell she is delighted to be in his room by the way she walks around picking things up, examining them, and putting them back. Like a tourist in a gift shop. She even finds the little tea tin with the temple painted on it, and holds it carefully in her hands. When she asks him what it is he tells her it is something he is saving which reminds him of his mother. She quickly puts it back down.
“Is your mother dead?”
He doesn’t know what to say, so he nods, and immediately Jill puts her hands on the base of his neck and kisses him tenderly on the forehead. He feels as if she is pressing herself into him with her lips, blending their skin for a few seconds before pulling back and whispering, “I’m sorry.”
For some reason, with her, Chanarong does not forget his sadness, but holds it in his lips, and kisses her with it. She takes his face in her hands and looks into his eyes as if she wants to see something else in him. Something more than he has ever shown. And he wants to give it to her, if he can.
She laughs as he takes off her clothes, which makes him laugh in return. She is the most beautiful woman he has ever made love to. She is so light in his arms. He thinks, distinctly, that she is actually seeing him. It is not until she is naked under him, looking up, meeting his gaze with an intensity that is far greater, even, than his, that he ventures a guess at what might make her different. When he makes love to the others, he thinks, it is as if they are making love to an illusion. As if he himself were created and owned by the island, like the sand. But Jill is making love to him. Her eyes concentrate so deeply into his that he cannot help but feel fully intimate. The armor he has worn falls away with her gaze, breaking into a million tiny pieces.
A few hours later he wakes, and she is looking down at him. At the contrast of their skin. She asks, “is there really a temple on this island that the tourists don’t know about?”
It is not what he expected, but his eyes are heavy with sleep, and he is happy, so he doesn’t think about it. He gazes at her through the small slits of his eyes and sees her face is unchanged. Her hair is wrapped over his pillow and his shoulder and is engulfing him in an ocean of golden blond. He remembers the local temple that is just for the monks, and nods.
“I’ll take you there tomorrow if you want.” He chooses not to think about Leroy as she slips out of his bed and dresses herself, leaving his bungalow quietly, before the sun peeks up over the horizon.
Recently, Chanarong has asked the woman for a bigger engine to put on the boat so that he can catch bigger fish. He wants to catch more fish than the woman needs so that he can sell some in the market, and save money to leave the island. The idea is to go back to the camps and look for his mother and sister, and if they are not there, to go to Bangkok.
That afternoon, Chanarong finds out that Uncle has spoken with the old woman about the engine, and she has put down her foot. It is her boat, she reminds him, and her bungalow. Chanarong goes through the rest of the day feeling a mix of anger and isolation so thick that he stays as far away from the customers and the woman as he can. He is afraid that if anyone speaks to him, he’ll snap. Many different things go through his head. Maybe he will move to the other side of the island and start selling drugs. Maybe he will take the money he has now and see how far it can get him. A few times, the naked body of Jill runs through his mind, and he remembers the way she kissed him softly on the forehead. These are the only images that seem to calm him. He remembers what she said about Leroy–they are not exactly right for one another–perhaps she would want to come to Bangkok with him. That is what he needs . . . someone to believe in other than himself. This afternoon he will tell her about his plan, and ask her if she’d like to see the real Thailand.
At noon, he pushes his boat past the waves and drives out into the ocean with his little engine as far as he can. He catches some fish, but not nearly as many as he could, then sits for a while by himself, baking in the sun. When he comes back into the cove he sees Jill and Leroy and walks up to them. His heart jumps a little at the sight of her in her bathing suit, because he knows what she looks like without it. Jill smiles weakly and turns her head to the ocean where she pretends to examine the horizon. There is a sour look on her face. Her long blond hair is pulled back into a bun on the top of her head. Chanarong realizes suddenly that Jill is never going to leave Leroy for him. He feels like a fool for having believed, for even one second, that she was different. Leroy stands up, and Chanarong wonders if it is to hit him. Or maybe she hasn’t told him. Or maybe she has, but Leroy thinks of it like she does–another authentic experience.
“Hey!” he is smiling. It is a friendly smile. “My girl tells me you know where that secret temple is.”
Chanarong is not sure what to make of this, and he definitely does not want to talk to Leroy right now. But he nods anyway, because Leroy is a customer. “I can draw you a map,” he says, “later tonight,” he adds, motioning to the heavy cooler of fish in his hands.
“Sure! We’ll find you at the restaurant.”
Chanarong does not look at Jill again.
Later Chanarong is helping the old woman mix up curries in the kitchen. She has only said one thing to him all day, in her usual hardened tone, You need to stop all this dreaming. Other than that she leaves him in his self-induced confinement. Chanarong is careful not to look at her. He doesn’t want a conversation. When he comes out to the tables to take orders from the people sitting lazily around, he is doing it with his normal, placating smile, and none of them know the difference. When Jill and Leroy enter the restaurant Leroy comes right up to him, and Chanarong hands them a map he has already drawn. He hopes it will be enough.
“Have you ever been there yourself?” Leroy asks, studying his pen drawing of the mountains and back roads of Ko Phangan.
“Would you consider taking us to make sure we don’t get lost?”
Chanarong thinks for a moment, “I could take you for three hundred bhat.”
Leroy’s face changes. He considers it for a moment, then says, “That’s kind of steep, don’t ya think?” but he is smiling. He knows it is just business. “Let me talk to my girl.”
Chanarong hopes they will decide it is too expensive. He doesn’t want to look at her face anymore.
When Leroy comes back to speak with him again he is taking a pile of dishes into the kitchen and does not want to talk. He leaves Leroy on the precipice of the kitchen: Leroy knows he is not allowed in the back rooms without invitation. When Chanarong comes out from the kitchen they are gone. He sits on the beach by himself and puts his head in his hands. He thinks about his mother and his sister and how long it has been. He has mostly felt sure that they are alive since he heard about the raid at the camp, though he has had no reason for this. He has been imagining for more than six months that he will get the engine and make enough money to travel until he finds them. Ever since he arrived here, their reunion has always been in the foreseeable distance. Today, he cannot believe how stupid and childish he has been, and curses himself for holding onto such illusions, like a child.
Jill is angry that Chanarong has decided to charge them so much money for taking them to the temple. She is sure it is because she slept with him, and decides that is absolutely not fair. When Leroy opens his third beer and is talking to a few foreigners in the bungalow next door she goes off to tell Chanarong how she feels. She looks in his room, but he is not there, so she goes down to the restaurant, and sees him on the beach by himself. She is softened, a little, by his hunched form, but is still indignant, and feels she is owed an explanation for his sudden shift. Did he really think he could sleep with her, and then treat her like everyone else?
When he looks up, he thinks she looks different. Less beautiful, like her face has been contorted.
“Hey,” she is just a few feet from him now, “Why all of a sudden is it going to cost three hundred bhat for you to take us to the temple? I thought we had an understanding last night . . .”
Her voice is harsh, and Chanarong is angry at her. “Does your boyfriend want to hear about our understanding?” he retorts.
Jill thinks about this for a moment. She sits down. “Look, if you thought that it was going to be just us . . .”
He shakes his head, not wanting to talk about something that seems so trivial to him now. “The price has changed. That’s all.”
The waves lap up against the shore, and the tide is coming in. She puts her hand on his arm. “Come on,” she says, “What if we went just the two of us?”
He is too angry to look at her. He brushes her hand off his arm, and she immediately puts it back on.
“Oh, come on,” she says, and she leans in to kiss him on the cheek. He grabs her by the wrist and pushes her hand off him so hard that she gives out a little scream. “What the fuck?” she says, and slaps him.
Without thinking, Chanarong hits her back, hard.
He has never hit anyone before, and it feels good. Her blond hair flies from the right side of her face over to the left side in slow motion. It makes pretty gold streaks in the night air. He wants to see it again, and wonders if this time the moon will pick up a little more on the gold, so he hits her from the other side, much harder. She falls down into the sand and begins to cry. He cannot believe she has the audacity to seem hurt by him. He leans over her, and suddenly wants her destroyed, right there on the sand.
He is on top of her. She can hear the murmur of the other tourists in the bungalows and tries to scream out to them, but the sound is muted by a mouthful of sand. He pulls up her sarong, and yanks her bikini bottoms down just low enough to push himself in. This time, he is limp, so he has to push hard, again and again. He sees, plainly, that she is hurt, but doesn’t care; it feels so good to unleash his anger, he did not even know how much he had. He feels the lies he told himself peel back a layer of skin. Not one of the women he’s fucked has ever loved him! After a few minutes, the vibrations in her shoulders are gone. Her crying stops and the quiet of it all washes a warm hand over him. A thin wave of water is sent by the encroaching tide over the backs of his feet, and as he backs off, he slumps his shoulders and kneels, like a priest, over the tourist. SLQ