Day 223: Christmas cheer lost on beach
You can stand on that bike all you want Dice Man, but you still need keys to drive it. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
THE keys to the little Chinese motorcycle I'm renting is gone. Why does Africa hate me? Or better yet, why am I such an idiot? I'm not even on a real African adventure, yet, I'm doing an appalling job of keeping my shit together.
My optimism about finding the keys on the deserted Bofa Beach is quickly evaporating. Yet it seems impossible that they have truly disappeared. Tracking my steps back along the beach from the low, limestone overhanging that provides endless possibilities for roof bouldering problems, I scan the white sand for the pair of keys with a red tab. It's the red I'm looking for. The beach is covered with black organic material: sticks, seaweed, an assortment of biomass coughed up by the ocean. However, there are no keys.
It's hard-packed sand. It doesn't make any sense. Back in the parking lot at the end of Bofa Road, I check if the keys are in the motorcycle ignition. They are not.
I remember taking them out and bundling them into my longi, which I was going to use as a towel. However, when I gathered my belongings up from under the limestone overhang, they were gone.
Retracing my steps again, I recall giving big, slapping handshakes to two locals who arrived on a motorcycle right behind me. These big, firm, bro-like hand shakes are standard here in Kenya. I even hear the sounds of fat grandma hands slapping against their male pals as they greet each other in local markets.
Shortly after the handshakes, I'd taken my shirt off on the way to the waterfront. I pulled up short and headed north along the beach. A flock of sandpipers and gulls mixed up ahead, uncertain if they had to fly to safety or where safe where they were standing. The small white sandpipers took to the air as if they were a single creature, there wings fluttering in the sea breeze like hundreds of pieces of shredded paper. The gulls wings were held out at an angle, not yet committed to flight. Eventually, even they scuttled ankle deep into the water and then took flight.
Back and forth I re-trace my steps.
It's fucking Christmas Eve. It's not the money. If I could have some cosmic power remove “X” amount of money from my bank account and put a pair of keys in my hand, I wouldn't fuss about it. However, that's not an option. Instead, I need to hike up the road to the nearest boda boda driver. He needs to take me to the eco-lodge on his motorcycle, where I left my phone. Then, I can call Joma and see if he has spare keys.
When he tells me he doesn't have spares, then we have to locate a locksmith to make a new set.
It's the time.
It doesn't feel like Christmas Eve in the tropical heat on the beach. However, knowing that it is Christmas Eve makes it all worse.
To make things worse, the tide is slowly coming in, steadily sneaking up to where my first set of footprints were left in the sand. I consider asking a small group that has arrived at the beach if they've seen my keys, but they're happily splashing in the warm ocean water.
I teeter on the edge of making my way over the sand dune, into the parking lot and onto the road to begin my search for a motorbike taxi driver.
“One last time,” I tell myself. “I'll make one last sweep across the sands.”
It was going to be a futile attempt, as I'd already traced my footprints back and forth across the sand and found nothing, yet part of me can't let go, at least not yet.
Back under the limestone overhang I search the area where I had been testing bouldering problems. The ocean cut limestone is jagged and sharp, but there's still so much potential.
Countless times I've imagine finding the keys. Imagined my reaction. Imagined the thrill of not having to deal with the logistical headache of getting new keys made on Christmas Eve. However, at this point, I've already given up.
A bit of red plastic catches my eyes. No way. Not possible. Yet, there are the keys. Sitting in the sand, yet to be swallowed by the incoming tide or covered up my careless feet kicking up the sand.
The air rushes out of my lungs as the tension that's been winding my body up into a twisted ball lets go.
Maybe Africa doesn't hate me.
Either way, I'm still an idiot; that much I'm sure of.
Back at Distant Relatives, I hunker down at my computer in the large commons area to do some work. There's plenty of people milling about, yet I'm not interested – it doesn't feel like Christmas Eve in the slightest. Surely, I could grab a drink and pull up at any of the tables inside or outside where groups of young travelers are hanging out. However, I can't muster the effort.
“You are alone?” a young Kenyan woman says as she looms over me. The woman, Njeri, is a round, dark skinned Kenyan with spherical eyeballs that seem to be on the verge of popping out her head. She gives me a huge, heart warming smile. “You look like you're here alone.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“Okay, so where making a Christmas dinner tonight. I'm getting everyone who wants to join to pitch in a little money so we can buy groceries from in town and make it. Want to join?”
“Sure, that would be great,” I say, pleased to be included in the festivities. I find myself almost relieved in a way, as if the knowledge of it being a special holiday made it even more important for me to have a good time rather than do as I normally do. That pressure, of course, and my failure to meet those expectations, was apparently having a negative impact on my mood, though I'd not noticed it.
Dinner was a feast served up in the communal kitchen. I saddle up next to Njeri, who has at this point completely taken me under her wing: introducing me to people and helping me catch up on my seriously dwindling reserves of body contact.
However, after dinner, and a fair a mount of laughs, I retreat to a corner of the communal lounge area to call the beautiful woman I left when I started this trip, Julia.
We met on New Year's Eve at a resort I was doing a magic at, where she worked. We'd never had the chance to share a Christmas. Here, in this moment, I find myself craving her company, her love.
“It's funny. I know how busy you are, but I just want to chat with you all day... which wouldn't be good for the travel blog,” I say, catching her online.
I've cozied up on a big cushion now, balancing my laptop on me knees as I attempt to type away my need to be loved and wanted.
“But it's ok if we chat sometimes, right?” Julia asks.
“Hahaha, of course. If you can make time for me.”
“Sure? You're a very busy, very, very important lady and I'm just an unemployed writer.”
“But a writer that knows what care is.”
“Hahaha, I think caring is the most important thing in the world to you,” I say, knowing that caring, loyalty and family are her top three priorities in life.
Julia disappears from the chat for a bit, leaving me listlessly attempting to touch base with other friends online while watching an episode of Westworld.
“Merry Christmas!!!!” Julia writes when she comes back online.
“Merry Christmas love! We'll we have a chance to speak face to face after Santa arrives tomorrow morning? I could use some Christmas cheer over here... Not feeling it. Hiding in the lounge watching movies 555+ Should be socializing or working. Probably working,” I say.
“I'm also not feeling it...”
Julia's having to work at the resort this evening. Though she's wearing an adorable Christmas outfit in the picture she sends me, her eyes aren't smiling. It makes the picture look a little sad.
“I want to feel the holiday as if it is for me and my beloved,” she writes.
“Yes, Nangy asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I said 'to be home'. If I was there, what would we do to celebrate? I think we'd make eggnog and put stockings up. Though they're empty. I'm sure they'd be full of candy and little toys for us in the morning.”
The two of us start spinning out our fantasy Christmas together: morning presents from Toys R Us, maybe even ice skating and surely plenty of Christmas music.
In our loneliness, we've found each other, our imaginations diving deeper into the fantasy, becoming more sensual as we lose ourselves in the whirl of words and thoughts. It's not the same as being together, but it feels good to share the holiday, even digitally, with someone you love.