After the Wave
That afternoon there was nothing to do.
The heat was terrible. It had been for days. Nothing to do
and nowhere to go. We lay in bed, naked, drinking rum with
ice and lime, listening to a radio I brought back from Singapore.
But I was sick of hearing all the bad news from the tsunami.
I slowly worked the dial, searching for music.
“What does it mean?” she said.
Her fingers traced the black tiger on
“It’s not important.”
I got up and poured more rum in my glass,
dropped in a chunk of lime, then more rum. Through the static
a reporter’s voice said hundreds were missing, thousands
were dead. I fiddled with the radio dial again.
“Nothing,” I said, “there’s
She stretched herself across the white
bed. Her face was small and subtle, her chin square but not
obtuse, her skin dark from the sun, her eyes thin and tear
drop shaped. In the light her hair was crimson red and shot
through with streaks of black, it lay across her small tan
breasts. But it was her lips that made me want her. There
was a crispness to her upper lip and her slight overbite.
There was something very natural about it.
I sat down on the bed and swallowed more
rum. She perched her chin on my shoulder.
“Tell me,” she said.
“Tell you what?”
She traced the tattoo on my back.
She fished an ice cube out of the glass
and sucked on it. I got up and stood in front of the fan.
“Do you know why it’s red?”
“So that everyone will remember
“Why is that so important?”
“Because, it’s New Year’s.”
“It’s just a silly holiday.”
“How could you say that?”
She sipped the last of her rum and held
her glass out for more.
“I’ve never seen anything
like that,” she said.
“You know, back at the bar.”
“Were you scared?” I said.
“Not really,” she said. “It
was different, like something secret, something I wasn’t
supposed to see.”
“It’s no secret, it happens
all the time.”
I got up and poured more rum. Outside
two motorcycles roared down the street. I looked out the window
to watch them but they were gone. A cloud of tan dust hung
over the blacktop street. No one was out. Not in this heat.
Not after the wave.
“So where is it?” she said.
“Where is what?”
“You know what.”
I looked at her for a moment.
“I want to hold it.”
I pulled the corner of the mattress up
and her brown eyes instantly widened.
“Go on, take it,” I said.
“It’s not loaded.”
“Do you love me?” she asked.
She twirled a strand of red hair around her brown nipple.
The gun sat next to the lamp on the nightstand.
I sat down next to her and gulped more
“It’s OK, you don’t have
to tell me if you don’t want to.”
I kissed her neck. She pulled me down on
top of her.
“I could be a very bad person and
you wouldn’t even know it,” she said.
“I don’t think so.”
“Maybe I killed someone, maybe a
“You’re not the type,”
I squeezed her hips and rolled her on top
of me. She let out a little squeal and pounded on my chest.
Then she sat up and her red hair fall down around her shoulders.
“Do you think you could love someone
like that?” she said.
“How long ago it was.”
“Sure, why not?”
She slowly moved forward, letting her dyed
red hair cover both of our faces. She plucked the gun off
the table and pointed it at me, one eye squinting down the
barrel. I wrapped my arms around her and pressed her body
onto mine, the cold steel of the gun between us.
The sun was finally beginning to pull back
and cool air was coming through the windows. Things seemed
better in the evening. The music stations from Singapore burst
through the white noise and the tension of the day evaporated
with the fading sun. In the growing darkness something primal
was released. Maybe it was just a day of sex and dozing and
“Can you walk on my back?”
“Sure, my mother’s a masseuse
and so are my sisters.”I rolled over in bed.
She stood, stretched her legs, and stepped
onto the middle of my back. Her feet crept along my spine,
pressing and probing at intervals.
“So what happened at the bar?”
Her feet were on my shoulder blades and
she gently rocked back and forth until there was a faint pop.
My body felt soft and relaxed.
She lay down beside me.
“You can tell me about it,”
she said. “It’s OK.”
Her hair spread like red ink across the
“Let’s go out,” I said.
I wanted to feel the numbing thump of a nightclub, to be overwhelmed
and lost in smoke and music, awash in flashing light and sweating
bodies, everything pulsing and throbbing together. I wanted
to lose control again, to forget again.
She took my fingers and softly kissed them,
then put them between her legs.
When I stepped out of the shower she was
still naked, her thin brown body draped over the white leather
“Is this it?” she said.
I reached for my shirt.
“Why are you getting dressed?”
She uncrossed her legs.
“I want you to stay with me,”
I kissed her on the lips. She took my hand
and cupped her breast with it. It was warm and soft in my
I stood up and put on my shirt.
“I’ll bring back some duck
and noodles and more rum.”
I cruised through the city looking for
a market that was open. Everything was closed except a few
bars for lonely tourists. It wasn’t until I got into
the Chinese district that I found anything. I went into the
first place with duck hanging in the window.
A chubby boy in a Beckham t-shirt sat behind
the register, his eyes glued to a TV. Video from the beaches
flashed through the static. Dead bodies floated in a bay and
more were stacked up like discarded lumber on the sand. The
tide was a red froth. It tugged at the feet of the dead. Bridges,
boats, hotels, entire villages, all were pulverized by the
wave. A bus was upside down and burning in the middle of a
street. Soldiers jumped out of the back of a truck. A voice
talked about disease.
Seeing the TV made me think about it again
and that was the last thing I wanted. Food was getting more
and more expensive. There was talk of fuel rationing. No one
was working. Every day there were more and more people in
the city, so many beaten down, wretched people that you didn’t
want to imagine where they came from. And everyday people
were getting sick. We were all sick--sick and depressed, buried
in shit. Thinking just made things worse. Start thinking and
you realize that everything has gone to shit.
So it was best not to think. Just try to
have a good time. I thought of her at the hotel--all that
red and black hair in her face when she was on top; those
crisp, chiseled lips; the warmth of her skin under my hands;
the fluid acquiescence of her hips. I could let her stay with
me for a while. I still had money and we could make it last.
She could stay until things got sorted out. But she saw what
happened at the bar. She saw me with the gun. She saw the
man on the floor with a hole in his head. Now there was something
between us. Maybe that wasn’t a bad thing. Maybe now,
after the wave, things would change. Maybe it wasn’t
I walked over to the deli counter. Crispy
red barbecued duck hung from a rack above a big shiny black
wok. An old man sat on a stool, shirtless and in black shorts.
He listened intently to a Beatles CD while smoking a cigarette.
I ordered twice as much as I needed. He offered me a bottle
of homemade rum and some grass and I hurriedly overpaid for
all of it.
When I got back to the room she was gone.
I flipped the mattress. The gun was gone too. In its place
was a strand of black hair dyed red.