Being here, in Ahe, is like being beneath an umbrella in a world without shade.
New Years Eve is a splash. It‘s fish and fireworks and a dance floor full of florescence. Everything is decorated in palm fronds, and the moon wears her silver halo.
A boat of nine is here. Together we make 17; including 11-month-old twins. Each face, sun-kissed. Each hug, warmth. Captain Beadle and I have many Californian friends in common and the world feels small and squeezable.
We are surrounded by heavy winds and walls of rain and the waves are a roar. Juniper plunges and pitches and she is a rollercoaster tethered to her mooring, so I sleep ashore. I love the sunsets and rises after a good squall. The clouds make the colors pop.
I dive in and swim through New Year’s Day. I chase butterflyfish, hoping to kiss one, but there is still an ocean between our worlds. I pick up a sea cucumber the size of my leg. It squirts a stream of juice at me. Maybe everything is afraid of my pink eye.
The day my eye went pink, was a tragic day for all. Someone dropped a lava boulder on their toe. Another, age 21, got smashed against the reef and snapped their shoulder out of place.
We sit in an aluminum dinghy, at the pass, trying to get the bones back together again. Hours rush by. None of us did a lick of good, so we drug them and search for someone who could.
Nobody else knows how to fix it. Not the village nurse nor the nearby masseur. We call a chiropractor. He talks us through motions over the phone that lead to nothing but agony.
More drugs are given. It’s moments like this when I realize how remote I am. But that’s what I came for, the turquoise nothing. The slow life. The reflections upon reflections of reflections.
I call Luc on Bad Kitty. His girlfriend, Verro, is a radiologist and maybe she can do something? She is out paddleboarding, somewhere on the lagoon. Josh motors all over, until he finds her. He used to have a website called Joshcanfindit.com, he lives for this type of hunt.
As the radiologist pulls the body back together, I have a sensation that something is in my eye. So, I rub it. You know how people always say, “Don’t rub your eye,” but that’s the natural thing you want to do. It’s like tripping and putting your hands down to catch your fall, but breaking body parts along the way. Why is the thing that we are triggered to do in moments too fast for thoughts, the wrong thing?
Anyway, don’t rub your eye! I awake the next day as Cyclopes. I put warm green tea bags on it. Everything burns. A woman offers to squirt breast milk into my eye. A man tells me to put coconut water in it. All I want is a deep hole to crawl into.
We motor to the village for a connection. The village is small and sleeps. The heat, inhospitable. If anything moves, it moves in slow-motion. People swim inside the crystals near the shore.
I’m with Celeste, who co-wrote Lonely Planet’s French Polynesia guidebook. We meander. She tells me how the village used to be. We swap stories about sharing beds with large women in remote places. My bedmate in Ethiopia did everything from bed. Including smoking a hookah all day and eating from a plate that rested on her watermelon belly, which was round enough to reach her face. Those nights were filled with moans and the gurgling of indigestion.
I sit on a stump in the village. Laptop out. I sign a contact to work for National Geographic. It’s a small project, but it involves coral reefs and writing and a short film.
To work with them has been a dream of mine since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I realize that my heart has lead me here. If I wouldn’t have followed my heart, and instead did what everybody else wanted me to do in life, this job never would have happened. And I’d be miserable in a house in the middle of nowhere America, instead of on my sailboat in the middle of the South Pacific.
I’ve had to fight hard for what my heart wants in life. Sometimes it means upsetting family members. Sometimes it means ending relationships. Sometimes it means leaving every ounce of comfort behind and starting all over again with nothing. And I’ve been broke 1,000 times, but I’d choose my heart over a pile of gold any day. Happiness is worth more than all the stars in the sky, and sundrops on the water, and gems in the earth. I must always do what makes my heart happy, and I will always be happy.
The contract takes forever to load and I leave the computer twirling on the stump. I walk into the clinic, which looks like a little house covered in wellness posters. The nurse is a giant man with tattoos from forehead to foot. He tells me that he doesn’t speak English, but he does, and we make each other laugh. He puts drops in my eye. I cry blood. Everything goes yellow. I feel like a bee is bouncing behind my eyelid. Where in the hell is the honey?! The nurse gives me the medicine for free. I hug his meadow and drift into poppy-filled dreams.
The contract uploads in the meantime. I press send. We motor back to the pearl farm across the blue lagoon. There’s a rainbow above everything. It’s the size of a galaxy and shines like an opal and I’m grateful that I can see well enough to see it, even if it’s all yellow.