Short thing: Boracay Guy and Manila Girl (Words and Water)
Wrote this in February 2017 for April at The Reading Belles. Part of something that isn’t really anything just yet.
Do I even want to do this…?
It took me seven days out of ten to make my way to this place, just a hundred or so steps away from where I was staying in Boracay. Or so, if you count the turn from the beach into the narrow alley, and crossing the street. The establishments and resorts on this side weren’t strictly “beach front” anymore so they had to come up with other ways to lure the guests over.
Diving Lessons. Pool Training.
Seven days out of ten to end up there and I still spent twenty minutes looking at the sign.
It’s now or never. I only had eight vacation days to use and wrapped it around a weekend so I could stay ten days there. Another trip like this was not happening soon, or ever.
The seven days had been good to me so far. February was not the obvious time to go to the beach, but that meant less people, clear water, and a surprising variety of sky. I got to spend a sunny day, a rainy day, a cloudy day, a windy day at the beach. Like all the seasons, as if I were a local.
If not for that then the days would have felt the same. Because I drank fruit shake, attempted to make sand castles, ate fish, sat on the sand. Every day.
What I said I would do, when I first booked the flight, was this, and I was going to try, maybe, finally.
The gate holding up the sign opened outward all of a sudden, and I jumped out of its way.
“Are you the nine o’clock?” a woman asked me, as she pushed her arms into a wet suit. I was not the nine o’clock, but the gate was open and I was there, past the point of gracefully running away.
“I’m not…exactly…” I was stammering as I stepped inside, into a receiving area that was really just the space surrounding a rectangle of a swimming pool. “I wanted to inquire…no I’m not your nine o’clock.”
“Oh.” She looked like she was in her thirties and had absolutely no time for me. “In that case, you’ll need to talk to someone else inside, because I need to go find somebody.”
Isn’t everyone? Looking for somebody. I almost said that, because my humor was not very good, but kept wanting to say things. Good thing I was silenced by this being very awkward.
Maybe I was hoping it would be too early in the morning and there would be no one here to entertain me, and I could go back and say that I at least tried. Instead I find the resort and diving school somewhat busy. I could hear people, noises, signs of life.
The pool was quiet, empty, the water clear and still.
The sun moved on the water and I blinked.
“You need help with something?”
Oh, god. This guy who spoke up. Tall, hair like an untamed nest of fire. Hard body. No shirt, and suddenly in front of me.
“Do you work here?” I squeaked.
“They think I do.”
I squinted. “Well…do you?”
“Yes.” He was amused, and my pool of embarrassment grew and I sank in deeper. So smug, so tan, possibly so annoyed that he was having to entertain the clueless customer. “Now, at least. If you’re interested in learning now. Is this your first time to dive?”
“I’ve never done it before.”
“Where are you from?”
“Ah. Of course.”
I wondered where he was from. I’d traveled to other provinces before, encountered the different reactions to Manila, from admiration to ambivalence to disdain. I tried to place where he was in that spectrum; the look he gave me made me feel small, amateurish, but those were true anyway.
“Oh, no, I’m not here to learn to dive.”
“You’re not?” This caught him by surprise. “Why are you here then, Manila girl?”
“Basics,” I answered, trying to say it with conviction. “I want to learn to swim.”
“You’re in Boracay. Surrounded by water. You don’t know how to swim?”
I laughed; it was weak. “Best place to learn?”
On day seven out of ten, I went to this place to ask if they could teach me to swim.
At twenty-five years old, I was and had become a number of things already. Now I was a wannabe traveler, beach lover. I should have learned this, way before now.
“If you don’t offer basic swimming lessons, I’ll look somewhere else,” I said.
But I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I didn’t give much thought to what my instructor would look like—it shouldn’t have mattered—but now that I’d seen this guy I…
He thought it over. It felt like a long time.
“This is what you want to do?” he said, finally. “Today.”
God, what was the problem? Did they not offer it? And what was I doing, suddenly insisting? The time to walk away would be the zillionth time I was asked if this was what I wanted to do. But hearing my own question to myself from another person’s mouth changed its tone and flavor, cut it off from me entirely. It wasn’t my doubt anymore—it was someone else doubting me, and that brought up familiar bile.
“Why, everyone knows how to swim now? It’s beneath you to teach someone who comes up here ready to pay to learn?”
“I was going to say, before you interrupted me. It’s Valentine’s Day.”
My cheeks burned, not from the rising sun. “So what?”
“There’s a lot happening on the beach today. More fun things than committing to a class that lasts several hours.”
“I don’t care.” I was single. The Day of Hearts meant something else to me entirely. “Unless you have other plans.”
Maybe I shouldn’t fight with my potential instructor.
But he seemed okay with it. “Fine. We start today.”
“Awesome.” I was relieved one second, and scared/excited the next.
“What’s your name, Manila girl?”
“Ivy. What’s your name, Boracay guy?”
He didn’t expect that and it seemed forward, for sure. But he took it in stride, and actually smiled. “Diego.”
Tags: interim goddess of love