It was high tide, and the waves seemed to lap over her feet every time she
dragged her cigarette.
The air smelled of nutmeg. It always smelled like that on the spice
isle, and the scent was particularly radiant at times of heightened passion. The night before, as she was crying, and he was impetuously mixing a fresh
drink, the smell had overwhelmed them.
There were at least a dozen others staying with them at the Grand
Anse Estate. Nearly all of them were from America, and each day they
usually sat at the single white table in the large grass courtyard drinking
beer and rum and discussing the night before. After two months, they
believed to have come to know each other all too well.
Each was aware that he had made her cry the night before, and while
they made their ways smoking cigarettes, folding laundry, and collecting
money to buy more liquor and ice, they all kept their eyes on her, watching
her smoke with no emotion through the barbed-wire fence that separated the
estate from the beach. They were also watching him, and he sat down at the
table in the middle of the courtyard.
The only other person sitting at the table was a young man who was to
be a pilot when he returned home from Grenada. The two had shared a room
together during the previous weeks at sea. The pilot reached into a
tableside cooler and held up a bottle of beer. "Only three bottles left,"
the pilot said.
Gray took the bottle from the pilot for his first beer of the
afternoon. Two of the other young men, who were off to buy more liquor,
left the estate through the only door in the barbed-wire fence and left it
The sun was low and hot above the bay and she was no longer smoking.
Her auburn body was motionless in the sand.
"Did you talk to her after the incident?"
"I can't remember."
"The Lutheran girl was having fits about the bruise."
"You can damn near see it on her at the beach from here."
Gray thought hard for a moment. "She fell from the bed when I went
running to make a drink."
"All you wanted to do was drink last night."
"All I wanted to do was to drink with everyone. Tonight's our last
night, you know."
"Yes," the pilot said. "She told the Lutheran she loved you."
Gray put his finger in his beer bottle and watched her light a new
cigarette on the beach.
"What do you intend to do if she, in fact, loves you?"
"Drink and forget about it," Gray said. It was his charm that had
swayed her to confess her love for him.
"The girls planned a dinner," the pilot said.
"The Lutheran, the Ukrainian, and yours."
Gray hesitated. "She's not my girl."
"That's what we call her."
"And we'll see you."
"I'm a man who wants to drink," Gray said.
Through the barbed-wire fence she buried a cigarette in the sand with
her foot. She wrapped a towel around her body and walked toward the open
door in the fence. "I'll enjoy a good dinner with the group," Gray said
with charm. "Let's have shots before I decide if I love her."
The pilot smiled.
She stepped through the door in the fence and locked the door behind
The sun was at edge of the bay. Gray and the pilot and the rest of
them kept their eyes on her as she walked up the white stone steps.
Two young men set several crates of iced beer on the table in the
middle of the courtyard. She crossed the small second floor balcony,
shutting the wooden door behind her.
After drinking for several hours before dinner, and then taking shots
of rum with the meal, all of the Americans were carousing around the estate.
They passed freely through the door in the barbed-wire fence, having drinks in the courtyard and swimming at the beach.
He was particularly drunk, and she was well on her way. He was mixing
a fresh drink and could not keep his eyes off of her.
The Ukrainian and one of the young men who went to get more liquor
had undressed and were floating in the sea. The pilot and a short brunette
girl were laying on the edge of the grass courtyard. The rest of the
Americans were either passed out or smoking cigarettes on the veranda of the
She stood in the doorway to the small foyer on the first floor of the
estate which had been capriciously converted into a makeshift bar. "It's
sickening how you make drinks and look at women," she said to him.
"It's sickening how you keep coming back."
She left the doorway and graciously ascended the white stone steps to
the small second floor balcony. He could not take his eyes off of her and
made his first step. She sat down on a lounger and watched the Ukrainian
and the young man floating naked in the sea. He sat on the edge.
"Do you think that we drink too much?" she asked.
"Tonight? Yes, of course."
"But do you always drink this much?"
"You should be more worried about those who don't drink at all." He
moved to the lounger where she was sitting. "Don't you want to know if I
"Why did you throw me to the ground last night?"
He set his drink on the balcony floor. "I hardly remember it. I
wanted to have a shot with them because I'll never drink with any of them
"What about me?" she asked.
"Well, I'll never be able to drink with you ever again, either."
She turned away, edging closer to the balcony railing so she could
see the Ukrainian embracing the young man in the sea and the pilot holding
the small brunette on the grass courtyard.
"Why do you think I came here?" She was silent for a moment. "Why
do any of us ever come to a place like this?"
He retrieved his drink and put a hand on her shoulder. "Tell me."
"Once we leave, we're not the people who came here at all."
He removed his hand from her shoulder and knew all too well what she
"We'll probably never be better than we are now," she continued. "In
a year we'll still be drinking too much with people we act like we know and
partners we pretend to love. And whether you love me or not, we'll always
He kissed her lips. She had no emotion.
He took his first stride toward the white stone steps. She slowly
walked backwards while watching the moonlit bay and entered her room,
leaving the wooden door ajar.
Before pouring their shots, he walked about the estate to invite any
of the group still awake to join them. The Ukrainian and the young man were
still embracing in long kisses in the sea. As he came back to the estate he
left the door in the barbed-wire fence open for them. The pilot and the
small brunette had gone to bed and no one remained smoking on the veranda.
He poured the rum and ascended the white stone steps to her room. He
shut the wooden door. She had already undressed and was under the covers. They drank the shots in silence and looked into each other's eyes. "A
taxi's been called to pick me up in four hours," he said.
"You should stay up and drink until you have to go." She rolled
under the covers, turning her back toward him.
He undressed, set his belongings on a wooden dresser, and lied down
next to her. "We'll never drink together again."
She passed out while he stayed awake in her bed.
At least an hour later he was still awake, and the wooden door to her
room slowly opened. He thought it must be the Ukrainian and the young man,
tired from their loving night in the sea. The doorway remained dark with
only the silhouette of palm fronds moving in the night. The Ukrainian did
not come through the doorway.
Now something else was moving along the white tile floor. Slowly
appeared the dark figure of a black man creeping across the white tile floor
staying as low to the ground as he could. In one of his hands was a large
machete. He slid up to the top of the dresser and pocketed all of his and
her belongings. He began to creep back toward the doorway.
In her bed, he watched the thief retreating with all of their
belongings. He had already lost the fight. He had had too much to drink.
He had left open the door in the barbed-wire fence. There would be no time
left for his charm to remedy the theft. She would be alone in bed in a few
hours. He would be gone. He would never drink with her again. He would
never drink with any of them again.
The wooden door was quietly shut. She was still passed out while he
remained awake in her bed.
It was still dark when he left her room. The sun was merely
beginning to rise above the inland peaks. At the white table in the middle
of the courtyard sat a man and a woman he had never seen before. They were
Brits who were smoking and offered him a cigarette. He wet his lips and
took a drag. The lights from a taxi beamed through the wrought iron gate at
the front of the estate. He buried his cigarette in the grass with his foot
and walked ahead.
The windows in the taxi were rolled down and he was watching the slow
green morning. With the air that rushed in he could smell that scent of
spice. He could smell that scent of her. It never smelled like that in