It is Friday afternoon and I am floating. On my back. Off Doctor’s Cave Beach. In MoBay. Jamaica.
I have the ocean to myself. Really. You think, Oh, well, he means that it isn’t very crowded there. No. What I mean is I have the ocean to myself. As I float in this warm teal-colored sea and look all around me, there is nothing. No humans. No birds. Nothing.
How can this be? you wonder. Because maybe you have been to some remarkable beaches in the world, places where there is absolutely no access except by sea and then only if you are willing to take a tender offshore and then slog your way through heavy surf and still…still…when you crawled onto that remote beach with sand as white and virginal as Sleeping Beauty, you found a small group of nut-colored Italians sunbathing in the nude. You found found several lobster-colored snorkelers, all quite drunk and sporting T-shirts from the 1998 NCAA Final Four covering their bright red bellies.
So, you wonder, how can I say that I am floating in Montego Bay in the most lovely of Caribbean waters and I have the entire goddamn ocean to myself?
One word: hurricane.
The hurricane season in Jamaica officially runs from June 1 to November 30 but the height—the time when you’re most likely to encounter that meteorological beast that stalks the Caribbean hurricane belt like a chain-saw wielding ghoul in a teen horror flick is August and early October. Which would be…now.
Ever since I arrived on the island, everyone has been loosely tracking the slow approach of a storm that has veered through the Caribbean like a badly-injured prize fighter, lurching this way and that, picking up strength and then loosing it, bobbing, weaving, jabbing. Now they say it will, in fact, cross Jamaica. At Kingston? Ocho Rios? Montego Bay? That is the question.
But the word around noon today was: It’s coming.
So everyone has taken refuge. Hiding in their hotel rooms after following instructions to move all patio furniture inside, close shutters and drapes, STAY AWAY FROM THE WINDOWS.
And I did all that. And then I looked out across Doctor’s Cave beach and it was so calm. So beautiful. So deserted. Why not go for a swim?
Now I am out here all alone. Except for a single frigate bird that, just as I am meditating on my solitude, breaks my zen thought process as he desperately flaps his wings on his way out to sea.
Coward, I think.
And as I am thinking this, a beefy hotel lifeguard in a white polo shirt and red swim trunks cups his hands and yells out across the water, “Mon…mon! Get out of da water, mon! Hurricane coming!”
I wave at him and go back to floating on my back. After all, how often is it that we find ourselves swimming in the ocean in the precious few moments of calm just before a hurricane hits? Never.
Besides, the ocean is mine. And I like that. So I slowly do the backstroke, moving away from shore, wondering if the lifeguard will let me go. Like a buoy cut loose. Or a boat freed from its mooring.
When I dare to look up, he is gone. The beach deserted.
Damn, this is fine. Not only do I own all of Doctor’s Cave, I own all of the beaches for as far as the eye can see. At least until the storm hits. If it hits.