International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Dreamscapes
was troubled by the idea of leaving the comfort of her home and
following her husband, David, to Belize. To her, it was tiny, "almost
a country" with high unemployment and ethnic tensions.
A few days after
their arrival, they were invited to see the famed coral reefs, as well
as other sights.
Downtown Belize City looked like a run-down neighborhood. The vividly
painted buildings, reminiscent of better times, were peeling and dirty.
At the port, unemployed youths eyed the tourists, estimating their chances
of getting a piece of the action. Tension strained the air.
After more than an hour on board a small boat with two guides, the sound
of the old motor was getting on Marthas nerves. It took away the
fun of sinking into the dazzling tones of blue. She closed her eyes
and thought of her hammock in the back yard right in front of a blooming
hibiscus. Fortunately, a sudden silence interrupted her feelings. The
boat's engine was turned off. They had reached the designated spot for
Everyone but Martha put on their diving masks and snorkels. She had
dreaded this moment. Embarrassed to admit it, she still needed to block
her nostrils each time she went under water.
"So, we are having fun in the sun, Martha?" her husband said
loudly to ease her burden. "Yes" Martha answered, relieved.
One guide stayed with her on the boat, the others disappeared into the
water, leaving no trace. All was quiet again, except for an occasional
distant cry of joy.
The guide sat at one end of the boat looking at Martha intently. It
was hot. The water was inviting. She tucked up her trousers to let her
legs touch the water. It was very pleasant indeed.
The silence was broken only by the sound of wavelets lapping against
the side of the boat. Drops of sweat made their way down from her neck
to the center of her breasts. Her long-sleeved shirt, glued to her body,
begged to be hung somewhere to dry. As the sun rose higher, her discomfort
grew slowly, unrelentingly. She decided to take off the long-sleeved
shirt David's colleagues had advised her to wear, letting the upper
part of her bathing suit enjoy the breeze. As she sat there, she could
not avoid thinking about the person who was sharing that moment with
He was big in every way; tall, wide brown shoulders, shiny muscles.
His face revealed somewhat delicate features under a Rastafarian hairdo.
She preferred to speculate about his braids; how did he get them this
way? How often did he wash them, if at all? Why was he so mellow, unlike
the other guide? She took a quick look at him. He was sizing her up.
It was then she became aware of the fact that they were all alone. She
was not sure what to expect. A sense of unease mounted in her stomach.
He is probably stoned she thought, almost giving in to her fears.
He smiled at her reassuringly. She tried to smile back. He moved about,
checking that things were as they should, when suddenly she noticed
"Are you sure you dont want to try?"
"No" she nodded
"I will be with you all the way; you dont have to do much."
"Look, it is very easy."
"No, thank you."
He moved back to his side of the boat, so as not to disturb her any
The merciless sun was pounding on Marthas head and shoulders.
It is unavoidable, she thought, and took off her pants and jumped into
the water. Invigorated by a sudden freshness, she felt restored. The
reflection of the sun on the water sent sparkles all around, giving
her a feeling of festivity. He remained on the boat watching.
When she tried to get back into the boat, she realized she could not
do it alone. The guide offered a hand. She accepted but chose to stay
at one corner of the boat dripping wet. He was still watching her every
move as if she was a rare animal. She reached for her shirt.
"Are you on vacation?" he asked from the other side of the
"Only for two days." Trying to sound natural, she added, "Do
you have lots of work this time of year?"
"This is not my job. I am only helping a friend."
"What do you do for a living?" she asked
"I am a teacher"
"Me too!" she said trying to hide her surprise.
"So what are you doing here?"
"I love watching the fish." He pointed towards a little floating
ball and said, "You see that red ball? You can snorkel there and
have the same experience as in deep-sea-diving. It is incredible."
The guide moved towards the drivers seat and took out snorkeling
equipment for two. Still keeping a respectful distance, he suggested
that she give it a try.
"It's not necessary to use the fins here. The mask will cover your
eyes and the snorkel will make it easy for you to breathe freely under
"But I dont know how to
"It requires no special training. Watch me!" He took the mask
and put it on demonstrating how easy it was to use. Martha thought for
a long moment, and then tried to put the mask on her head.
"I am only going to make sure if it fits you," he reassured
Martha as he moved towards her. Then he showed her some of the signs
he would be using to communicate with her under water.
Once under, she followed his signs and even used them herself. A sense
of complicity and accomplishment came over her. When the first school
of fish came their way, Martha was stunned. Completely captivated by
such a breathtaking sight, she could not hide her delight. She turned
to him and tried to convey "unbelievable". He knew what she
meant. His eyes smiled.
She stayed there for a good half hour watching a small school of green
fish turn light green in a split second. Then, when they dived deeper
under a coral, the fish turned dark green. A solitary yellow fish, sporting
a purple hue around its eyes, disappeared behind an odd-looking coral
formation which appeared like a cluster of tall towers growing from
the sea floor. Up, behind her left shoulder, an orange fish turned golden
as it swam into a ray of light. Down in front, a huge school of tiny
fish changed direction when their leader changed its mind. She saw a
star fish, sea horses and plants with the most intriguing forms, moving
about like dozens of hands begging for attention. Lost in this array
of color display, Martha felt the guides hand on her shoulder;
she turned her face towards him and saw he was pointing at his watch.
It was time to go back, she guessed, and reluctantly lifted her head
out of the water.
Back on the boat, her husband and his friends were already dressed,
waiting for them. As they were helped onto the boat, the old motor slowly
gathered speed. She sat on one side of the boat away from the rest,
embracing the droplets of water that hit her face every time the boat
made a slight change of direction. They soothed her and something which
had been simmering inside her for a long time. Turning to the other
side of the boat, she saw the teacher carefully putting away the equipment
they had used. She visualized him at school surrounded by kids of all
ages, stimulating their curiosity, inspiring their dreams. He sat on
the edge of the boat. His smile said I am happy you saw the fish. She
nodded. The sun warmed her back; the wind blew away her worries. The
ride back seemed shorter, the water, an old friend.
On shore he shook her hand firmly and said goodbye. She followed his
silhouette as he hurried away towards a little old woman who waited
for him on the shore. He took a heavy basket she was carrying, bent
his babk to fit her hug, and kissed her head tenderly.
© Ilana Levy March 2009
e-mail: ilanalevi52 at yahoo.com
Life Travel Moments
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