Lost in Paradise

by on May 21, 2024 :: 0 comments

photo "Among Many" by Tyler Malone

He is sitting alone on one of those hard-wearing combination double bench/tables found outside pubs and fast-food restaurants, coloured dark brown to make you think they are wooden, when they are in fact toughened plastic.

Built to last, never to be eaten by worm, to be rotted by wind and cold. I doubt he has given the bench a moment’s thought, because people are puzzling enough for him, without considering the origins of machine-made inanimate objects that are simply just there and do not move round.

What’s the expression used to label someone like him? That’s it: on the spectrum, floating somewhere on that darkened rainbow.

How old is he? About 14, I’d say, looking lonely and somehow lost on this sandy tropical beach, silhouetted against the quiet warm waters of the Caribbean.

If he has any hair other than on his head, it is hidden under orange swimming trunks that hang just a little bit too low, so that a three-inch crevice dividing his thin buttocks is visible.

He is white-skinned, black-haired, with a pianist’s long fingers, and thin arms that stay folded across the base of his ribs.

When playing beach volleyball with other resort guests, his arms stay folded most of the time, and when they are raised to return or pass the ball, it is always too little, too late, for a human stork with knees thicker than his calves.

The resort staff and the guests try to help his confidence, but it will probably take a lot more than words of encouragement to help him feel he can fit in.

Imagine that you are in a foreign country, and that the language is so often impenetrable, as elusive as a butterfly, like when the resort staff speak in Creole, with some French words seeping through, creating more mystery than understanding.

On a break between games, he stays apart from the gathered knot of players chatting beneath the almond tree’s canopy. His arms remain cautiously folded when two young East Coast girls decide to chat with him, trying to smooth away the apartness that they sense.

I feel that he does not know to ask them questions about themselves, and that any answers he gives to them will serve as his shield.

Much earlier, he had laid his head on his father’s chest for a minute, as if he was ten years younger. He seemed utterly, hopelessly dependent, until he began to pinch his father’s hairy nipples in a speechless fury. His mother looked on, grim-faced witness to an angry scene she must have seen many times before.

There was a conversation too, a few snatched words that I overheard, in which he complained to another resort guest, in halting phrases about a schoolteacher who was shorter than him, and a verbal bully.

The guest was a Russian-American, about thirty years old, pony-tailed with three day stubble, who sympathized, saying that the boy’s teacher was clearly a little Napoleon. There was no reply, so the man asked:

“You do know who Napoleon is, don’t you?”

The boy did not.

The stories of the past could be from outer space.

editors note:

What’s in us–the parts that mean the most of what others know about us–are always in a shadow to ourselves. ~ Tyler Malone

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