The slow slide and bump after our plane landed at the North Eleuthera International Airport told me we’d slid off the runway. I froze in my window seat seeing the tropical brush below. The full plane exploded in happy applause. We were safe.
“Don’t worry”, yelled the pilot, “this happens all the time. The sand blows onto the runway.” He backed up onto the tarmac, and the door of the plane opened to a rush of fragrance. Roses? Coconut? Ginger?
“That’s frangipani,“ said the flight attendant, “you’ll smell it everywhere.”
The low wide-leaf vegetation we drove through on the 50-mile-an-hour, ten-minute taxi ride sounded like we were driving through a cornfield. At the dock the aroma of wet gaseous pulp permeated the air from the surrounding mangrove trees. Gasoline and oil from the idling water taxis stirred up into the tropical air. Fellow passengers and I boarded the small canopied motorboat with our suitcases full of clothes we’d never use.
We sped off toward Dunmore Town, the only town on Harbour Island. Saltwater sprayed our welcoming faces and dried out our pollution-soaked nostrils. The sun heated, then soothed the top of my head, melting my restlessness.
Flowery shirts on happy-faced Bahamians greeted us on the crowded oversized cement dock. I announced to the gathering on the dock that I was going to Sunsets and was directed to Otis, the driver for all visitors to Sunsets. The 2-mile drive from town on a low sandy road through high vegetation evoked adventure. Otis talked all the way in an accent I had never before heard.
I had just run out on a job as the campaign manager for a dying cause. I’d been at a loss as to how to keep the campaign afloat with only one other paid staffer. Feeling depressed, disappointed in myself and physically weak, I complained to my cousin Therese who told me to join her, her husband and two children in their vacation house in the Bahamas.
Sunsets, a 3-bedroom cottage with windows all around looked westward onto the bay between Harbour Island and Eleuthera. I claimed my room, unpacked, and waited the few days for the family to arrive. I read James Michener’s Caribbean while lounging in a hammock between two rubber trees. Snorkeling in the undulating salty turquoise water under a cloudless sky, I kept a slow pace with the barracuda, sea turtles, starfish, octopus – hyper-aware of every movement, every flutter, every splash.
The day Therese and her family arrived I went for a long walk on the pink sandy beach, ate fresh avocados, papayas and mangoes and fell asleep with my book on the terrace overlooking the bay. An unearthly, ominous pounding from the driveway of the cottage woke me up. I rushed around back and found three-year-old Melissa jumping up and down on the roof of their car. She screamed, “There’s my cousin Regan!”. Sweet paradise, I was a happy camper.