He built a tent from two sarongs and three sticks. It covered about half of their bodies when they lay down straight. Their calves were showing.
“This is great!” she lied, looking up at the tie-dye sarong stretched between the wooden sticks. When she stretched her head back she saw a row of straw huts between palm trees, and flickering candles lighting up the only restaurant on the beach. Their arms were touching. She was afraid to move.
“Wanna sleep here tonight?” he asked, and she said, and really tried to mean it: “Yeah, totally!”
He was twenty-one and she was thirty. She was on vacation. Her parents thought it would be good for her to clear her head after everything she’d gone through. They even helped paid for it. He’s been travelling for a while, a small backpack, a drum and a didgeridoo. He smoked local cigarettes and smelled like smoked salted fish. He rarely showered, his skin felt like sand paper when she caressed him. Once, in the forest, he pulled out his knife, cracked open a coconut and put it to her mouth; thin white juice dripped on her chin when she drank it. Then he carved her a smiley face on the shell.
Truth was she didn’t like sleeping outdoors. She had rented an air conditioned hotel room most backpackers couldn’t afford. She didn’t take him to her hotel room, embarrassed by her private bathroom, the beauty products she had arranged in a neat row on the sink. She had even brought her blow drier.
In the middle of the night, it started to rain, and then she wasn’t on the beach, but in water, drowning. The water was dark and she didn’t see a shore. When she opened her mouth to call for help she found herself calling his name. She was swallowing water whenever she opened her mouth, gulps of thick black oil. She started to choke.
“Relax,” she said aloud. She read somewhere that people drown because they panic, and so they start kicking and flailing like a spider in a sink and they waste all their energy and die. She floated on her back and breathed deep through her nose. Her body became lighter until she was a leaf surfing in a stream of rainwater. When she finds him, she decided, she will tell him. “I’m in love with you,” she’ll say. “I don’t want anything from you; I just want to be honest about it.”
When she woke up she saw the tide had risen and water covered their feet. He was curled into a ball, like a kid, snoring lightly. She touched his shoulder, it was sandy and warm, like a seashell on the beach in midday. She stood up and went back to her room.