Ten years ago, I lived on an island off the coast of Honduras. It was summer when I was there. It was summer almost all the year. The air was hot and buttery; day lasted long into the night. Through the afternoons, men played dominoes in the shade beneath the mango trees. In the evenings, families sat together on their verandas in the half-dark. There was one school and one church. All day the air was still, and the sea made barely a sound.
I met Diego in the gym. Diego was from Spain. His eyes were deep and blue, though they were light. He had a shaved head and tattoos, but he was the kind of man on whom tattoos seem natural, as though he had been born with them. Diego was just starting to learn English; I was just starting to learn Spanish. We had pidgin conversations when we met, and taught each other new words.
Another of my friends there was an Australian girl called Leyla. Leyla was dark-haired and brown-eyed, and bubbly and effusive and slightly volatile – she blamed it all on her Lebanese blood. Leyla’s Spanish was even poorer than mine, but only because she was more rash: where I stuck to the few simple phrases I had mastered, Leyla launched off on long philosophical diatribes at the taco stand and inevitably wound up by insulting someone’s grandmother. I stuck to the shallows, where my feet could touch the ground; Leyla swam out to the middle of the sea, where she was carried off on a current of words she did not understand, and drowned. It was just the way we were.
One day I was standing with Leyla at the dock, looking out at the harbour. I remember having the distinct feeling that Leyla was falling. I reached out to catch her but to no avail – she was standing, just as she had been before, only her knees had buckled slightly beneath her. When I asked her if she was alright she muttered something and continued to stare out to sea. I looked at her for a moment, then I turned to follow her eyes. Diego was passing by on the back of a dive boat, shirtless and tattooed, picking up dive tanks and moving them around.
A week later Leyla and I were walking down High Street. Diego passed us, walking the other way. I nodded and said hello. So did Leyla. Diego smiled quietly and walked by. But something struck me: there was a sweet kind of tension in him, an electric something that bubbled up out of him and agitated the calm of his surface.
“I think Diego likes you, Leyla,” I said.
“He better,” said Leyla. “Last night I gave him the best blow-job of his life.”
Typically, Leyla spoke too loud. Dogs barked in the street, and people leaned over their verandas to see what was going on. Leyla and I ducked our heads and hurried quickly away. I’m sure Diego heard what she said, though I cannot say if he understood.
At the end of summer I left the island. I said goodbye to my friends, knowing that I would never see most of them again. Our lives split and carried us down different paths. Now ten years have passed, and we have all been carried very far apart.
Recently I heard that Leyla had given birth to a little boy. This was wonderful news and I was quite pleased. I asked who the father was. “A Spanish man,” they said, “called Diego.”
I confess that I was surprised. Even in a place where summer lasts nine months, its romances generally don’t last longer than three. Diego and Leyla came from opposite ends of the world – they didn’t even speak the same language when they met – and they brushed just briefly against each other as their paths crossed on that tiny island in the Caribbean Sea. But in that brief moment of contact, a couple of threads crossed, tangled, and knotted. That tiny knot was enough to withstand all the opposing gravity of their lives, and keep them together for ten years. Now they have a son. And it all seems so improbable. But then again, everything is improbable: the sky is blue, the world is lit by a burning star. Mango trees grow from mango seeds. We’re made of water and carbon, but music makes us cry. We live in a miracle, and none of us knows why.