STRANGERS IN PARADISE
Prologue to Strangers in Paradise
I remember my beloved clearly, as though he is standing in front of me. His black hair was long, cut back from his face, hanging straight down his back. He was much taller than me; the top of my small head came only to his massive shoulders. He would often pick me up to kiss me.
“My little bird,” he called me.
I loved to touch his arms and smooth, hairless chest; he would flex his muscles to make them jump. His dancing eyes were dark like mine, open and trusting. I could sometimes see myself mirrored in them, like the clear pond near the waterfall. He had a cleft in his chin, as if the gods had an afterthought when they finished sculpting his face. He was, without a doubt, the most handsome man in our village.
We had grown up with each other, inseparable friends since we were small children. We had played together in the sand, picked papayas, and swam in the warm, blue ocean.
As we grew older, our play became more intimate. I was still a young wahini when we began our touching games. Often we would swim out beyond the breakers, and turn over, floating on our backs. The brilliant sky above us was thick with clouds, which would form and reform into fantastic shapes as we watched. Then he would dive underneath me, pretending to be a shark. He would nip at my firm behind and swelling hips, or run his hands over my developing breasts, making gooseflesh rise on my skin. Or he would tickle me around my ribs, making me laugh and sputter, as I swallowed sea water.
Then we would race back through the waves to the sand, where we would chase one other around the palm trees, biting and tickling, fighting and punching each other in mock battle, as those in love know how to do.
I was older when we coupled for the first time. On the cliff, in the wide sacred circle of black stones where the grass grew thick and green. We laid down and gave ourselves to each other. Joy and satisfaction intermingled.
His young manhood erupted after only a moment the first time he entered me, but we would learn how to extend our pleasure. I didn’t know what felt better, my enjoyment, or giving pleasure to him.
We took turns learning how to delight each other with our hands, tongues, and bodies, during the long, gentle tropical nights, concealed from the village cooking fires and prying eyes. I thought I could never be happier. And yet I was to learn that I could be much happier.
Our families decided that we should mate. His family and mine had been friends for many generations, but he and I would be the first to blend the blood lines. My mother sent my sisters out to comb the island for white orchids to make my wedding lei. She and my female relatives spent days preparing the food for the feast. The wild pigs had cooked all day in their underground oven.
Hungry guests could find the special event by their noses, but they would have to wait until the ceremony was complete. The sky was swirled with pink and lavender as the day was coming to an end.
My love and I stood together, hand in hand, glowing in that pink shimmer of light.
The village people gathered around us on the beach. I could hear the lap, lap of the waves, gently patting the shore.
The Kahuna said his special words that joined the two of us together forever, wrapping a long tapa cloth around us and tying it in a knot.
Our families cheered and kissed us. Then the dancing and feasting began.
Joy is a hard word to define. If you’ve never experienced it, then I cannot tell you how joyful I felt. If you have felt joy, then I tell you that I felt joy, and more than joy. I felt the bliss of complete union of souls. The knowledge that our hearts would now beat as one made me happy, as a bird that flies without tiring. Like the wise and playful smiling fish who leaps from the ocean.
I don’t remember anyone else that evening, although I know the whole village was there, including our family and friends, noisily talking, laughing, and eating.
I only remember him. My husband. My one great, true love.
A soul had been divided into halves and had taken up residence in two homes, my own feminine body and his solid, masculine one. We had become one entity. When he was happy, I was happy. When we joined our bodies in love, I felt the complete merging of our joint soul, as the separation of our skins dissolved in the ecstasy of love-making.
I recall how we lay together all that night in our new hut, listening to the sounds of the drums. We didn’t sleep but touched and caressed each other with newfound exhilaration. Tickling and laughing like the children that we still were. Time became motionless.
Before my wedding, my mother had advised me to always bring happiness to my husband, as though this would be a difficult task. Bringing delight to my beloved only brought great joy to me. For effortless days and nights we cuddled, and talked, and made love again and again. When we made love, we talked often of the children we would have. Children to further our blood line. Children to share our love with.
When we parted for even a moment, I felt pain. The pain of as-yet unsatisfied hunger. The cessation of bliss. The awareness of our temporary separation.
Our private world was our hut and the sea. Fortunately, during that first week, our friends and loved ones left us food outside the flap of our new home, so we never had to fend for ourselves, never had to leave each other.
The temperature was getting hotter. The ocean, only a few feet away, was meant for us to swim in together. To refresh our bodies in the glistening water.
One day the sun shone so brightly that my husband felt compelled to swim, to cool the intense heat from his brown body.
But I was lazy and told him to swim without me and I soon fell asleep.
My nap was disturbed by wailing outside my hut. I woke up and went to the entryway. The sun was low in the sky. I had slept all afternoon. I peered out of the flap.
Some of the men from the village were gathered in the water. Making a great commotion. Thrashing around. Calling anxiously to one another.
I slipped on my sarong and went out. When I appeared, I saw women weeping. When they saw me, they turned their faces away.
In the crowd, I could see my father, who was taller than most of the men. He stepped out of the sea and came up to me, still dripping with salt water. He grasped me firmly by my shoulders as though sensing I might run away. “My daughter.” He stopped and gulped twice. His eyes were moist with feeling.
I turned my head to the side, refusing to look at his eyes, cold chills running over my skin, terrible premonitions engulfing me.
“Mano, the shark...”
“I don’t want to listen! Let me go!” I cried.
He continued relentlessly. “Mano has taken your husband to live with him in the deep,” he said simply, but his face was contorted with emotion.
“No, you lie...” I started to cry out, but I knew what he said was true, and stopped resisting, my body turning to dark stone, like those at the sacred circles.
“Little One, I am so sorry.” My father let go of me, and his arms sagged to his side. Suddenly he looked old, his wrinkles well-worn paths woven deep into his face.
The warm air had become chilled and I shivered. I put my arms around myself to get warm. My body was as heavy as the sacred stones and my mind was blank, as though I didn’t know myself anymore. Everyone seemed far away, like the holy mountain behind me, shrouded in misty clouds. I held my mouth so tightly that my jaws hurt.
I looked out at the ocean. The waves were coming in, one after another the way they always had. Always would.
But now the sea was my enemy. It didn’t care it had stolen him from me. I was torn from my essence. Adrift in a suddenly alien world.
Strangers in Paradise
copyright 2016 Lauren O. Thyme