I walk a wide, wide beach the colour of a perfect capuccino. The sea is cleaner now – last weekend a swathe of water like coffee stained the deepblue ; evidence of recent heavy, heavy rain so that the river to the north spat debris for weeks: the roots of borassus palms; bits of driftwood bigger than me; flipflops. The beach is getting broader with each year, every Rains. My generous friend C, whose eyrietop oceanview flat in which I sit to write, tells me that once the sea touched the steps at the bottom of the garden. Now it takes me ten minutes to walk out there.
My parents honeymooned here, in Malindi. The hotel they stayed at is still standing, spruced and chromed and shinypolished now in the way all refurbs must be. They only honeymooned there because dad still didn’t have a passport – he’d never had need of one, he said – so they couldn’t avail of the free tickets to anywhereintheworld that mum’s employers at East African Airways offered as a wedding gift. Instead they stayed at Eden Rock and thought that was perfectly splendid enough.
So I walk the wide beach, duned and high and wind stoked on the inland side so that the sand whips across its surface like a mist. Compact and caramel by the water’s edge so that I watch the waves, moccafrothed, ebb and flow and see the beach shiver as if in delight at the ocean’s caress and I marvel at the architecture wrought of wind and water and think, ‘we could never mimic this’; the bone bleached beach higher up whipped as icecream to toppling peacks, the damp sand by the sea darker and shot silver with mica.
It’s a long time since I was in Malindi. The ‘Mafiosi’ have been and – mostly – gone, though Roman evidence abounds. Some people hate it. I like the coffee and the colour they have left behind and the delis which sell parmigiano and palma and plump glossy olives and fat stippled salami. The totos shout ‘ciao, ciao’. ‘Come stai?’ enquire the bodaboda drivers, ‘salama’, I reply and they laugh at this Italian imposter who thinks she can speak Swahili. We eat anchovy salty spaghetti at a fairylight festooned restaurant and the next evening impossibly thin pizza heavy with rocket and smoked sailfish.
And I think, is it irresponsible to feel this recklessy happy when life is swiftly bellying to pearshaped unmanageability all over again? We expected this brand new adventure to sustain. That this one, with its huge skies and spreading savannahs and hyenas whoopwhooping at dawn and lion spore in the soft rainsoakedbloodred earth and crocodiles in a river and impossibly lovely sunsets to be the one that settled us. We loved the place so much it would have done. But some things, as I keep remembering, are out of our control. Some things are probably too storybookperfect to last, too good to be true.
I am reading Sonali Deraniyagala Wave. I lie all afternoon foetal curled on my bed whilst an ocean squall taps on the window. Tears prick my eyes. Sometimes I think my heart might stop.
Later on the beach I look out to a dart straight horizon, a sea fanned by wind, white horses dance across its surface but there are no looming tsunamis here.
No. I’m not afraid that the sea will come in and swallow me up (but then, nor was she). I’m not afraid of much.
But I am terrified of losing the people I love most in the world.