Saturday begins as another day of sand, and swim, and relishing my recent return to childhood. I feel pure these days in Zanzibar, like something essential about myself has emerged: a self before pain, before betrayal, before abandonment. My skin has turned the color of honey under the sun’s rays, and this external glow feels to me to be an expression of the sweetness at the center of my pure delight in the world and all its creatures. This childhood I am finding in my middle 40’s has allowed me to shed the depression and anxiety that has all but crippled me in recent years. I greet the day with enthusiasm and set out for a swim with Pawel, my new friend from our guest house.
Pawel, a handsome man also in his 40s, himself has a childlike quality that I find completely endearing. He’s playful and enthusiastic in a way that’s infectious, in a way that adults so often lose, even when on vacation. Our relationship quickly becomes akin to one of childhood playmates: simple, centered around fun and innocent mischief. Pawel is from Poland but he speaks nearly perfect English. Only occasionally is his ethnicity betrayed by an American idiom he gets mistaken. “I have zero luggage,” he tells me once when we are talking about our relationship history. He means “baggage,” but I don’t correct him because I find the error endearing. Luggage: meaning something carried laboriously; I imagine carrying my emotional pain laboriously in a set of antique hard shell overweight bags — the phrasing works. I smile at the image in my head.
Pawel lives now in Switzerland. It’s the one thing about him that for me is a cloud over our friendship. For me Switzerland is among the worst of triggers. But I don’t tell him this. It’s not a thing that adults say to one another upon first meeting. “Yes I have been to Switzerland as a matter of fact. I would have been about ten. The Swiss man who molested me for six years took me there for several weeks one winter; it was the site of some of the worst abuses I suffered with him. But most of my memories of that time have been mercifully wiped out by a brain in a state of shock trying to protect itself. I remember only the Alps, the St. Bernard in our hotel lobby, and the sting of his hand across my cheek when I told him I loved my mother more than I loved him. But do tell me, how are you finding Switzerland?” Instead I say nothing, and listen quietly to his stories. I have a lot of luggage. Continue reading “Untitled”