The tropics are filled with saturated hues of color; the homes, painted mustard yellow, vermillion, bubblegum pink. The sea, with its shades of turquoise, azure, indigo, and, infrequently, charcoal. Palms clatter, showing verdant spears of light, and there are the phallic cacti, a dusty, desert green. Every color is intense, like the sun, and against this background I see the people: silhouetted in the glare, haloed by a ray of light as it penetrates the belly of a passing squall.
I am one to focus on landscape, on weather. You know this about me. But there are people here, passing through my journey, splashed across my photographs, snatches of their conversation peppered through my thoughts. My interior world is deep and I’m often lost in it. But, like the turtles, I do come up, occasionally, to the surface, and am always fascinated by what has appeared around me.
In this world people shift like a kaleidoscope. I walk down the street: in the parking lot of the Yacht Club there are the locals with their ropes of dreads piled into leather or knitted caps. They call to each other in the lilting sway of their Caribbean English. Three men are always sitting under a palm, by the fruit stand that is sometimes there. They drink lager all day and stare into the distance; their skin is glossy dark and their eyes are bloodshot red.
Up two blocks the yachties are parading up and down; decorative women smoking, with disheveled lovely children, and men with paunches. Scattered through them are the young crew that keep the superyachts shiny, ready for the one week a year they might be used. White shirts, brown skin. They are beautiful, young, capable of withstanding enormous amounts of tedium and alcohol. One is towheaded, mannered, with a posh accent (British) and I can see in him the watchful, tiny lad he was, and the tired old man he will become. His face is fascinating. He looks exhausted; his eyes are the palest, searching blue.
When we pass the basketball court, shining black, freshly asphalted and painted, there is a loose crew of island boys playing futbol. Assorted sizes, one tiny with a curly little man-bun. They are loose-limbed and barefoot. Careless of themselves, they dive for the ball, and are skillful in a casual way. The game is not that serious; they are delightful to watch, like dancers. I like the little one, with his shorts too big, as he is learning from the older boys. Where are the girls—they are braiding each other’s hair, or dancing in doorways, walking along the walls pulling at their school uniform skirts.
One man on the beach has a little champagne colored dog who I talk to, and he gives us some local fruit from his pocket; another man, wispy knots of nappy hair texturing his head, rides a donkey sidesaddle, bumming cigarettes, looking at the dark night through huge women’s sunglasses.
Later it’s drinks; we see another nice boat—this one has a washing machine. Women discuss laundry, cooking, keeping things clean. The men: solar panels, battery charge, engines. One-on-one it’s snatches of life: this one is a base jumper—“sometimes the guy jumping ahead of you dies, you just have to push it aside”—and plans his cruising schedule in the US around Dead & Co. shows; that one was married twice too, recounts the painful divorce and how we’re all on our second, third, down here. The boat life is relationship proving ground. Someone describes the death of her sister-in-law, how she cried every day for a year.
The essence of people, it comes unexpectedly and you see it if you happen to be looking, like the tarpon that arrow up and fly, fly, fly in a silver arc through the air. You just get a moment to see, and they are back down, under the surface. I like to look at people, the lines around their eyes, what shines out, or not. Catch them jumping.
Can I know them? Be known? How did I happen into this slipstream, this current? There’s nothing to hang onto, like the gleaming fish in the surge below, we drift, rise, disappear. We pass; the horizon remains bright, the houses gleaming, the palms chattering in the ever-present wind.
ps: I know, I don’t have any pictures of people . . .