A bouncy breeze integrated with saline drizzle sprayed across, as I hovered upon the brim of the motorboat I was sailing. I hung about scrutinizing the sharp tip gash its way through the foamy waves to sail smoothly across the sea, which bore resemblance to a boundless turquoise carpet. Except this carpet on no account attracts movie stars or media, but horde of all sorts of aquatic species that rely on their natural habitat. I leapt over the dock and extended a gangly hand nabbing my hat at the nick of time, the wind had sent flapping away.
It's that time of year when tourists flock on the ports of the Channel Islands of California, to explore the teeny tiny Islands nearby. It's only been a couple of days since I began navigating this boat, as an amateur backup to my cousin, transporting people from one shore to another and needless to say, I absolutely relished the experience. Drifting across the engulfing water body, brimming with scary aquatic animals felt safer and homelike, than the land or my pretentious heterosexual life ever could.
Well, I was married, until a week ago to a woman, yes! And whom I'm likely to get divorced from soon. I'm ashamed in the earnest to confess that I was a closeted gay who entered a marriage of convenience, never once apprehending the feelings of my wife and supposedly the senselessness of the act ruffles up my conscience till this date. Which is why, I would rather not delve more into the details than necessary. The first few weeks were fine, with fun and laughter echoing through our walls, with days ending in mediocre sex. Unfortunately, the years succeeded weren't so much of a bliss, and blip would probably be a better adjective. It was no beds and roses as the inadequate intimacy stirred up troubles.
I'd mustered all the courage to come out to my wife, after breaking her heart, who was my best-friend from high school. And she still is the best friend I ever had, as all she said to my coming out was,"I know you loved me more than anyone, but never like a man who loved a woman". I broke from the clutches of the bond we shared for both our sakes, since I'd rather be without her than being miserable with each other. Subsequent to that, coming out to my parents and siblings was yet another gargantuan task. Still I got it done with, and that's when I finally could embrace the air of freedom.
It's been a welcome change that I've chosen to swing among the many beautiful, scenic islands in the vicinity, to bask along the joy of a refreshing start as a newly out gay. However, doing a job like this, things were tedious at times, as it's about the same routine every passing day and ending up all alone in the night with no human warmth by my side to cuddle. That's when he breezed into my life, like a pleasant gust to break the monotony and the desolation.
The first time, I merely caught sight of him as I pulled the lever revving up the boat, to soar against the morning sun, with a handful of passengers on board. And there he was soberly squinting at the sunlit waves from afar, his mouth chomping on a cigarette, circles of smoke engulfing the air around him, resembling a typical picture of melancholy. The impulsive curiosity that surged in me, to get to know the reason behind the deep-set sorrow in his eyes, was hard to explain. I clutched the steering wheel harder, took a sharp turn, squeezing my eyes shut, to shove his face out of my sight and mind. From the fear of getting caught, I refrained from turning back to check on him, though I was badly tempted to.
The second time I saw him, it was two days later, once I reached the shore, after a hard day's work, dawdling from one Island to another. There he was, fixed steady on the sidewalk of a café. His eyes landed on me as though pulled by an instant magnetism. In an act of impulse, I ran my hand upon the back of my neck as casually as possible, licking my lips. I leant on the boat, tilting my neck to have a good look at him. My cousin Patrick who sailed with me, spotted him and the awkward exchange of looks.
"Yeah" I frowned, hot under the collar, peeved off at the interruption.
"Liking what you see?" He smirked, motioning his head towards the 'café'. I turned a deep shade of scarlet. He plunged into knee-length tides, setting a ripple of waves, before he inched towards the sand enshrouded golden shore, dragging the thick anchor cord to fasten around a huge iron bar, in a secure loop.
"I know him. He's an archaeologist. A natural charmer of this town, had too many girlfriends to count. He used to be a high school jockey and supposedly straight as an arrow" my heart sank apparently.
"He can beat you to pulp, look at his biceps, cousin. Don't raise your hopes." he warned me jovially, head jerking back at 'the guy'. His warning did the trick, presuming that I stopped looking.
The following week elapsed at a snail's pace with nothing much to look forward to around the clock. I missed pleasantly reminiscing a smoldering look or the quirk of his lips. Towards the end of that week before I headed back home, I peeked around with a dip of my spirits, to make sure that he's not anywhere around. But to my disarming awe, there he was, entrenched to the same spot on the sidewalk, holding a lit cigarette, his eyes glued undoubtedly to me. My eyes refused to revert from him for some unknown reason. Ok, I'm aware of the reason. The guy was a sight to look at, with gorgeous green eyes and sharp features.
The staring spree went on for a while, and frankly, I liked that he noticed me back, even though there was no chance for him harbouring any feelings in return. That's when, I sensed his retreating steps right after he tossed the cigarette's bud, and without sparing another glance, he was gone. Shoving the boat keys deep inside my jacket, I scurried on foot as my apartment was only a dozen blocks away. Swiping off the moisture spiralling down my brows due to the humidity, humming the first song that came to my mind, I lumbered my way back to a tardy pace, taking pleasure from the slightly cooler breezes of the night, and that's when I heard mild footfall. The streetlights blared a dim lighting, hence when the strides drew close, a sharp sensation of dread washed over me. I twirled, flipping the torch of my phone, only to find 'him' trailing behind. My cousin's cautionary words came back in a flash, stimulating my pulse as well as pace. Was he irked? Was he coming over to reprimand? I'd reached a dead-end, there was nowhere else to flee as he'd got uncomfortably closer by now.
"Hey! Stop! " He panted, swiping away his sticky bangs that fell upon his eyes. Drawing all the courage, I stayed the ground with my heart in throat. Before he said anything further, he tilted his head backwards, throwing a filthy scowl at the dogs trailing him.
"Hi there!" He waved, turning back to face me. His tone sounded gratefully casual that my courage got restored. I bobbed my head, unable to produce an intelligible word.
"Sorry for the fright. I couldn't help but notice that you're new here in town. I'm Ben!"
"Jonathan" I introduced myself in return.
"Nice to meet you!" He beamed, with his canines peeking out, stretched his hand to meet mine for a brisk handshake.
"OK, I'll get to the point. I need to hire your boat for one day and two nights. I've heard about a hidden treasure in one of the islands and have researched enough all these years, to know exactly where it is. So I need to get there in two days, exactly on full moon day. I'll pay 200 dollars. But only condition is it should just be the two of us, I don't wanna indulge anymore accomplices. What do you say? Are you interested?" he asked, with a smirk. Of course I was. So yeah, we began our journey on an early weekend evening. Talking to him wasn't easy in the start. We were hardly an hour into our journey when he came by with a tray of beers to drink.
"Cheers" we chorused, and chugged down a few gulps. After a couple of beers, conversation came easy and drifted to dangerous waters, eventually.
"Why were you staring at me all these days?"
"I-I-thought I've seen you somewhere." I stuttered. His mirthless laughter that followed, was proof enough that he wasn't buying my excuse.
"Ok, it wasn't like I was the only one. You looked at me too, I wonder why!" I scoffed back, walking off to gaze around through my binoculars, keeping check on the right direction.
"I only looked back to see why you were looking at me" He winked. I threw a defensive scowl. I'm not going to crack, and I won't.
"OK, let me be honest." He rolled his eyes heavenwards, "I think you're very handsome, that's why I looked at you!. I liked looking at you!" He flashed his best smile.
"Ditto....! I mumbled, hardly containing the grin that broke out of me, cheeks blushing crimson. I stayed awake that night, lying in my boat, very close to him, heart thumping in my ears. The proximity and the privacy played cruel games of hallucinations on my mind. Unable to bear the unrest and depression, I took a walk. Dusk was spreading its jet black arms across the horizon, drenching the island with twilight. I trod across the sandy path, adorning my espadrille, headed in pursuit of a secluded spot near the shore. My feet got drenched in the enthusiastic waves as my gloomy self climbed on one of the higher rocks. I could see that the tides were quite wild, owing to the day before the full moon., Waves erupting higher and higher as if trying to catch hold of the moon in its marshy arms. But the reality is only they could catch its reflection and not the real one.
My thoughts were surrounding similarly upon one single object of attraction, to that of those unsuccessful waves. I can try, but can never have the real thing. I let out a heavy sigh. As a boy, I took longer to understand the attraction I felt towards boys. I never understood why my heart beat for some of the best looking boys instead of girls. It was a pain to deal with, as I could never be good at making friends with my fellow classmates, without my sexuality coming out. I never learnt how to hide my feelings of attraction when I got closer to some cute boys, when I used to play in school.
Eventually I had to face the consequences of such wayward emotions which were wrong, according to my parents. And after a few bitter incidents, I learnt to control them in the hard way and keep them immersed deep in me. Time seemed to halt when I sat gazing at the waves, preoccupied with my own thoughts. An hour later, I walked back to the boat thinking it'd be hard to sleep. But fortunately, the cicadas and crickets lulled me to sleep with their chirps and clicks. During the first week of adventure, I left Ben to his treasure hunt and stayed behind. He returned towards the end of the second day, windswept, exhausted, with empty hands, and without any success.
But Ben wasn't someone to accept defeat easy. So we embarked on another trip, the very next week. And this time I accompanied him on his treasure hunt. When I shifted to this island first, I never dreamt my life would take such drastic turns that I'd be out on a treasure hunt. But interesting turn of events didn't dampen my spirit but lifted it. That day evening, we left the boat hitched to a gigantic tree trunk, and headed down deep into a cave tucked away under a huge banyan tree that spread across for several yards.
A raucous screech of bats erupted as we bravely trudged past the grimy stone carved path, obscured in pitch darkness and the foul-smelling walls, through the ruggedized innermost parts of the cave. A few minutes into the trail, a silhouette of something dark and hefty swished through. Ben gripped the torch tight, to find a porcupine romping by our toes, it's wagging tail, leaving a handful of quills deep on our feet. I yelped, eyes blinking back tears of pain, immediately hopping up and down, as though wishing those quills would fall off their own accord. On the other hand, hardly a moan of pain escaped Ben, when it was worse for him.
He placated me down, pulled the quills one by one with care, making sure he's not hurting me. Once he finished mine, I returned the favor. As soon as the job got done, I spurt a swig of water on our pricked toes. The chill liquid considerably subdued the pain. After faltering a few minutes more to calm down the burn, we proceeded further towards the place christened as the death trap.
The reason behind it, got clear as we reached the spot. It was a narrow but lengthy water-body crammed with starving alligators. And to reach the treasure we'd no option but to cross it somehow. I thought hard, knowing there would be a way to get to the far end of the cave conquering the death trap. My eyes rummaged about, in every corner of the cave and dug out partly hidden marble slabs. Together we erected them diagonally, making a path amidst the death trap.
"Shall we?" He asked, extending his brawny hand to me. I looked up at him, there was an unsaid promise in his eyes. I gulped before taking his hand, but looked away quickly as his intense gaze was capable of turning me into a bumbling idiot, and striding past a pond full of alligators was near to impossible. Finally, we reached the treasure chest, the one which was our goal. Ben dug into his explorer bag, materialized a thin treasure key. When I thought he was going to open it himself, he turned to me.
"If not for you, I'd have never come this far. So there you go. Do the honors."
"But Ben...! " I trailed off.
"Shush....! " Before I could spring up another word, his lips were on mine. The kiss was sweet and tender, brimming with love.
"Go on, Jonah!" He muttered breaking the kiss. I clutched the key, and nodded once at him. I inserted and twisted in a swift movement with a thrumming heart, the excitement and elation of the kiss still boggling my senses. With trembling fingers I unfastened the treasure chest.
A week later:
"Inside the crest, there were gold and silver jewels and some coins, some artifact's from a bygone era, definitely a thousand years old, which have already been delivered to the archeological department. Special thanks to Mr.Jonathan Davis. Without his help this was never possible." The entire hall erupted with applause. "That's all from me. Chief Jenson, the dais is yours now.!"
Ben moved through the crowd and as soon as he reached me, he pulled me into a deserted broom close and grabbed my face in a ravishing smooch.
"I can't believe you took nothing from that treasure. And still paid me 200 dollars from your pocket, I wonder why?" I murmured, snaking my arms around his neck.
"Jonah, when you take your potential boyfriend on a special date, you'd pay yourself don't you? Though this trip was for the treasure hunt, spending quality time with you, getting to know you better, having you to offer that push when necessary, bearing pain together" They both chuckled at the recollection of the stinging porcupine quills. "It was all what made me fathom that I want something more serious with you. So, of course I'd have to pay for that!"
"In that case boyfriend, I shouldn't have taken money, however Patrick would kill me as it's his boat." He snickered at the prospect. "But I've gotta admit one thing, even without any payment I'd have come to far end of the earth with you." I admitted, cradling his face.
"Not surprising. I mean look at me!" He smirked, tickling my waist.
The giggles of our laughter echoed through the air and this time, I was sure that the laughter would last forever as I was right where I belonged with the man I loved.