After a week spent tethered to our little hut, venturing out only for forays to the potty beach with my sister or mom, I felt ready seize my relational destiny and strike out to find my new best friend. I knew some Pidgin, mostly gathered from our village living stay in Papua New Guinea, and felt confident that a new world of friendship was waiting just beyond the next pandanas tree.
So with these high hopes, I stepped out of our hut one fresh morning into the sunshine, which fell like a benediction on my skin, blessing me and commissioning my purpose. The path that led from our front door skirted the village church. It was a solid and airy building, with its painted white cinder blocks rising only half-way up to the tin roof, left conveniently open for the little daydreamers who fidgeted on its pews every day, and twice on Sunday. In front of the church was the requisite crushed coral yard, hemmed in by flat reef stones, and then beyond it a large open space of packed white sand, used as a gathering place for church functions.
This I crossed with some trepidation, trying to squelch the creeping paranoia I felt from the empty black openings of the surrounding huts. It was hard not to think of all the Islanders hiding there, peering out at the white girl as I crossed the exposed space. I kept walking, though, drawn by the beach beyond and its promise of companionship. Here the houses thinned out, and under a cluster of coconut trees sat a group of girls.
They lounged on the packed dirt like a pride of young lionesses, leaning against each other languidly, their bodies liquid and supple. The breezes coming off the lagoon saw them and loved them, sending their hair and lava lavas fluttering. One had a little ukulele, and it sang a background for their gossip and jokes as they sat there in the shade.
I realized, as I watched them, that I had no plan for what to do once I actually found some girls my age. Never one to be daunted by lack of a plan, however, I forged on, walking right up to them and plopping down on the dirt. I addressed the biggest girl in Pidgin: "Hi, I'm Danica. What are you guys doing?" A short silence followed, leaving my words dangling from the end of the question mark.
The girl I had spoken to widened her eyes at me, gave a glance at her friends, and said something to me in the native language. Everyone started laughing hysterically, their mirth rising up into the air like a flock of pigeons in a town square. Completely unseated, I jumped to my feet and beat a quick retreat back the way I had come. I could hear them shouting after me words that I didn't understand. I picked up my pace, my feet pounding the dirt path across the open meeting area, around the church yard, down the side of the church and to our front door.
I burst through the front part of our hut, a common area for eating, cooking, and visiting. Our home was divided into three areas; the front, and two back parts, one of which my parents used as a bedroom, and the other had four little pallets laid out on coconut mats, with mosquito nets hanging over each. Mine was the furthest back, tucked in a corner where the leafy roof nearly met the floor. This is where I dove, headfirst, to seek refuge and lick my wounds.
I sat there, writhing inside in embarrassed agony as the scene kept replaying itself before my unwilling mind's eye. In that shadowy corner I buried my little rainbow dream, and resolved myself to a life of relational celibacy.