I accommodated myself perfectly in the hammock; my novel to my right, my drink to my left. I reclined to the caress of the cool ocean breeze and the pounding of the waves on which I’d been playing all morning and peered at the sun attempting to pierce through the palm fronds of the palapa.
I took a sip before reconnecting with the protagonist who had just discovered that her betrayer was actually her best friend.
Could anything ruin this picture?
I took another sip before delving further into the alternative reality of fiction and the subsequent choices of the protagonist in reaction to her betrayal. Just as I raised my eyes to consider the merits of her decision, however, I saw it.
A painful thrust back to reality.
A violent jolt out of serenity.
A naked, wrinkled, old gringo strolling along the beach without a care in the world.
I’d seen it. I couldn’t avoid it. I couldn’t avoid “it”. Swinging freely, up and down, left to right and this time it wasn’t the answer that was blowing in the wind. By now, it was too late. Too late to rid my mind of the image that had been burned into my subconscious.
Thus he strolled, happy and free, bien agusto, and on full display.
I plunged back into the novel hoping to be distracted by the main character’s self admonishment at failing to read the signs preceding the betrayal and the internal dialogue which led her to the realisation that she had always been too trustworthy and naive. I pondered, very deeply and very, very deliberately, if the author was offering a social commentary on society’s treatment of the world’s gentle souls.
But still I couldn’t purge the image.
I took another sip.
I went for another swim, striding purposefully across the hot sand, “eyes right”, hoping the cold water would douse the mental flames.
I walked back to the hammock, “eyes left” and devoured chapter after chapter of the novel. Just as the heroine was about to confront her nemesis in the climax of the narrative, I made a fatal mistake.
I looked up.
He was back.
He was on the return leg of his daily constitutional.
Now I had no chance of deleting this shot. The apertures were open and the photograph was being involuntarily processed.
But at least the naked, old gringo had retained his dignity.
During the entire meander, he’d left his hat on.