I came here once, long ago. The palm trees were still standing, the people were still free, and the war had not yet begun. Women wore long flowing lengths of silk, their bodies wrapped loosely in colors, reminiscent of the hanging gardens. One bare leg peeking out of the elongated petals, smiles gracing joyful faces. Children laughed as the sunburned and the breeze swayed, around their mother’s gowns.
The men stood tall and proud, watching with smiling eyes as the woman hauled water and caught fish in the shallow waters of the pearlescent shores. Blood had not yet been spilled and the water was still a crystalline turquoise blue, the color of the nation’s flower, the Misteen orchid.
My lover at the time was a tall but skinny, muscular fisherman, whose smile would light up the oceans when the clouds were stormy and grey. We met in a small hut, one evening when a storm was blowing a gale and the seas were too rough for sailing. He pulled up a chair next to mine and dumped a string of small silver fish onto the table, grinning as if the world wasn’t about to turn to shit.
I was watching him as he came in the door, from under my eyelashes, admiring his strong arms and eyes, oh those eyes, they captured the woods in a sparkling burnt sienna and shone with a vibrancy that rivaled the sunlight when the dawn reached in through the forest. His skin was black as midnight, sleek and smooth.
As he looked at me, I blushed and couldn’t help but smile back at him. He winked and said in a cheeky voice ‘Twenty passes for the fish’.
I laughed and said, ‘I’ll take the fish, but I’d much rather have you’.
The fisherman’s eyes went wide and then narrowed as he said quietly ‘You must be careful, fool. The islands aren’t a place for us of that.’ But he chuckled anyway and said loudly in a thick accent, ‘The foreigner likes the look of our fish! The storm will give us some bounty yet!’ to the appreciation of the fellow patrons, sitting out the bad weather.
Turning back to me, he said ‘So, we feast! I will show you how we cook on Doury-min, foreigner. Come! Come!’ as he gestured towards the beach.
And that was how it began. Two weeks of fishing, eating and making love under the roof of a palm leaf hut. Always keeping quiet, when the night hour grew late and laughing so much the heavens themselves could surely feel our joy. When it was time to leave, it was with great sadness, but the fisherman only smiled and said ‘We will meet again foreigner. Under the stars of the Misteen, if the sea spirits will it and with the moonshine as our guide’. He kissed me deeply, inside my humble lodgings, before I headed down to the port, where a ship would take me home.