Hide and Seek

Corinne wanted to honeymoon in a rainforest, any rainforest, no guides, no tourists, wanted to hunker nude behind giant taro leaves, only her legs exposed, parts by which her man would find her. She settled for a quiet taxidermist, Lance, who inherited a motor boat from his ailing father on their wedding day, and soon he’d inherit the taxidermist shop where he’d grown up, hiding under tables as a boy so as to avoid glossy owl eyes and the tusks curling out of warthog mouths and the fact that his father once told him that it was entirely possible to stuff a human being, to rebuild that person from a polyurethane base and tanned skin. Corrine and Lance agreed to spend their honeymoon mostly trailing across the sea.

The first two days went by very fast. They docked at a small port off of Cancun where a shirtless man tried to sell them a bag of uncut emeralds, and left soon after getting groceries, boat fuel. Mostly, they kept to sea, grew accustomed to the boat’s rocking motions, even lurched unsteadily at first through the dusty streets of Cozumel, where Lance stopped at a cart of arty goods and told Corrine to pick anything she wanted. A donkey piñata, she chose, red paper tongue unfurling from its mouth, black-and-gray strips of cut paper decorating its body. The merchant couldn’t specify the exact type of candy inside, but she nodded vigorously with Corrine because the paper body was filled with something delicious.

In the mornings they slept in, the unchecked sunlight brightening the boat’s cabin, falling onto the twin-sized folding bed, and in this they made love again, and afterwards they spent the cooler part of the day on deck fishing for mahi dolphin; and in the afternoons, when they needed solitude, they retired to different parts of the boat, she to the deck, and he to the cabin. Through the cabin’s window, they’d avert their gazes from one another, Lance clearing out storage bins and closets, and Corrine sunning on a folding chair reading books, ocean adventures and conquests, the donkey piñata beside her and rustling in the breeze, every other sentence pinching as though a small hand tried to claw its way through the tough shell of her heart. At night, they regrouped. They both agreeing that missing someone meant more than an absence in the space beside you; it meant an absence within oneself. They’d turn off all of the boat lights and with the moon full, the misty spouts yards and yards away shot upwards phosphorescently.

“That’s what I want,” Corrine said. “Set in our living room.”

“Someday,” Lance said.

No logic quelled Corrine’s desire, no logic stopped her from picturing a blue whale at the center of her living room, its mouth puckered, opened just enough so that she could climb in and curl in the darkness, wait until her man found her, if he ever did.

On the fifth night, the honeymoon’s penultimate, they docked off the coast of Acapulco where the streets thrived with people, many with their faces painted white. They soon discovered that people were celebrating the Day of the Dead. They ate fried plantains that melted in their mouths and tortillas so thin they tore like paper, and they danced to a Moroccan band with other tourists until Lance’s legs tired. He sat in a shadowy alleyway as Corrine danced with a shirtless local.

On the way back to the boat, sensing that he might be jealous, she told him to buy anything that he wanted from a cart they were about to pass. He chose a large tin cross painted pink with green ivy drawn along its sides. He hung this in the cabin close to the boat’s steering wheel.

They spent their last night apart, Lance in the cabin, rearranging a set of harpoons leaning against the closet’s wall, then bringing them out and leaning them against the boat’s steering column, close to the cross, the pale crescent of his wife’s bare back visible through the window, and then he put it all into the closet, the harpoons, the cross, so he could sit alone in the cabin.

Meanwhile, Corrine sat on the boarding ladder, an underwater light making the ocean glow green, her feet dangling in the cold water, a bucket of sliced mahi nearby, pieces she tossed. A swarm of lemon sharks circled the boat. Corrine toed them, pressed down on their sandpapery heads so they snapped back out of the water. She pulled her foot away in time to avoid their mouths. Lifting her leg, she turned just in time to see Lance take the cross from the cabin wall, turn, and walk into the shadows as though he might lay with it in their bed. And he didn’t see, but she tore a leg off of her donkey piñata. Little square pieces spilled out unwrapped and pink, taffy, the only candy she never liked. She swiped up a handful and tossed them into the water, a few of the lemon sharks gobbling them before they dropped too far. And she turned toward the cabin again, wishing that she could at least see him, and him her.

In those seconds before she turned back toward the waters, she didn’t know, but he’d already made his way beside her. He pulled her off of the dive landing, away from the water, away from the sharks, and she gasped more loudly than at first penetration, him thinking all the while of Corinne in the waters, Corrine with the lemon sharks, and how he would have to harpoon them all, split them open one-by-one, and search to reassemble her parts. And they stood for a moment. And she saw that he held the cross he’d picked out in the last streets they had visited. Dropping it into the water, he didn’t say a thing. Heavily, it sunk. Drifting, drifting down, but the sharks didn’t bite.  

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