Dusk to darkness, blacker in more ways than one when he dropped the girl back at the outdoor cinema. She wanted words, explanations he couldn’t give. He had only wanted to hold her close and make love one more time. He didn’t have energy to waste on words which held no hope of a future for them anyway. He was acutely aware that she didn’t know any of his reasons and although he felt guilty about her confusion, tonight of all nights it had been urgently imperative that he grab something tangible of her to keep in his head. Just one more time…
Location, Nauru Photo credit C.A.Cooper 1973
In a black mood which matched the night, the boy roughly kicked the machine into life and roared off in the direction of his room, one of many within a featureless concrete construction which he shared with a work colleague in the Location Compound Single Quarters.
His roommate was sleeping already so the boy grabbed his towel and lavalava from the string line they had hung across the window and strode out of the room headed for the ablution block at the end of the building. He stood longer than usual under the cold shower water rinsing away the remaining grains of sand and the sticky warm memory of this evening. He stood long enough for his teeth to chatter with the cold which penetrated into his head and cleared his resolve at the same time. Tomorrow I will put the past behind me.
Back in the room he quietly opened the lid of a metal chest which held all his belongings, everyone working on Nauru came from their places of Kiribati or Tuvalu with these rather than flimsy suitcases. His chest had arrived from Tuvalu on MV Cenpac Rounder.
The boy rummaged underneath clothes and extracted a whiskey bottle which held a couple of mouthfuls at the most. He unrolled his sleeping mat, sat down and contemplated this duty free cheap–as-chips bottle of liquor which had been one of many he had polished off recently. With a sigh he stretched out onto his back, placed his hands behind his head and allowed his thoughts to wander;
Everything was too difficult to plan and everyone was against them being together. Not that they had made any secret of their relationship whatsoever.
One Sunday, the Tuvaluan pastor pulled the boy aside after service and issued a warning
“She is Pa’alangi with a husband and two young sons already; do you think she will stay with you?”
Next, two of his uncles had arrived on Nauru for a visit thinly disguised as a business trip but actually dispatched from Tuvalu by family to find out exactly what was going on.
“Your parents still have your wife and now a new baby in the house waiting for your return!”
This news brought back that feeling of entrapment rather than the intended connection to the new arrival this bombshell was meant to create.
Angry now, the boy instructed his uncles that he was never going to return to Tuvalu and they best send the woman back to her people, baby or not. Is it even mine he briefly thought?
In private, one of his uncles advised the boy to bring his Pa’alangi to Majuro and he would find him work. “These two love each other much and are the same age.” He was heard to comment in company prior.
The boy rolled over onto his elbow on the sleeping mat and stared at the whiskey bottle in the half light shining through the window.
Alcohol had made things a whole lot worse since the girl had refused to run away to Majuro with him.
He remembered the conflict in her eyes when she softly said, “I can’t run away with you and leave my children behind. Neither can I rip them away from their father just like that.”
He had responded to her rejection with a huge drinking spree which ended with him waking up one morning in the nurse’s quarters next to a Kiribati girl he barely knew.
Three months now and a lot of alcohol later the pain seemed to have numbed somewhat and he had continued to visit the nurse’s quarters during that time.
Yesterday he had been summoned to the office of the Nauruan in charge of Location Community Affairs. The boy was informed that the Kiribati nurse was pregnant, her family had reported this and he would need to marry her if he wanted to keep his employment on the Island.
He was further warned to cut off any relationship with the Pa’alagi woman or face deportation back to Tuvalu.
Tired now,the boy sat up, removed the lid from the whiskey bottle and swigged the remains in one gulp. He rolled the bottle away from his sleeping mat, lay down and closed his eyes.