Teetering on the edge

That surreal feeling resurfaced for the second time at dinner last night.

We were huddled around the table, six girls, eating the delicious fried cakes Norma makes by mashing cheese, egg and a vegetable called yuka together.

It was the realisation that I didn’t want, or more importantly need, to be anywhere else.

Some people call it contentment but I don’t know too much about that.

After all, apparently I’m the girl who can’t be on holiday without planning where I’m going to go, next time I’m on holiday.

The girl who always writes To Do lists (and always underlines the title) and who frequently day dreams, lost in thoughts about what else I should be doing.

Pippa, who finds this both comical and irritating (“It’s like we’re walking along and suddenly you’re not even here anymore,” she complained the other day) noticed.

“Have you gone again?” she asked, nudging me impatiently.

“No,” I replied truthfully.

“I’m not thinking about anything at all.

“In fact, I’m thinking about how, right now, there is absolutely nothing at all for me to think about.”

We devoured dinner and Pippa, Pam, Solaise and our friend Zack and I spent the evening eating chocolate cake at our favourite waterfront cafe.

Afterwards we wandered over to watch the sealions settle down for the night.

I decided to share my newfound and slightly frightening contentment realisation with Zack, because he also feels quietly bewitched by this island.

Zack has a Galapagoan girlfriend (and thus provides hours of brilliant writing material I can never use) and is faintly amused at my apparent refusal to date any of the locals.

(“Don’t you think it’s something you should do while you’re here?” he once exclaimed. Well, I’d like to remind you all about Fingers Man.

Similarly, Zack is from San Francisco – so I have a lot less sympathy for him when he says he doesn’t want to go home. I’m not sure he’s ever heard of rain)

Anyway, I tried to explain the contentment weirdness as we watched a baby sealion stumble towards six adults and fall asleep on top of them.

“It’s like I don’t have to worry about anything,” I said.

“I don’t have to worry about anything, or anyone, at all.”

There was a short pause before Zack spoke, with a slight hesitancy over-ruled by that sense of authority only Americans can muster.

“Maybe you’re completely happy on your own,” he said.

There was an even longer pause then and we all stared at the baby sealion as it realised there was no hope of sleep and began frantically searching for its mother.

“No, it can’t be that,” I said flatly.

Another pause.

“What’s wrong with that?” he asked eventually.

“Because I’m 27 and that’s a really, really dangerous thing to think.”

I woke up this morning at 5.30am because apparently, I run on island time now.

There was no hope of returning to sleep so I pulled on my trainers, thinking I might try to eradicate last night’s chocolate cake.

I looked at Fran, sleeping soundly in the bed next to mine, because she’d made vague noises about coming for a run the previous evening.

“Stay asleep,” I thought, suddenly.

“Stay asleep, because if you come with me I can’t run to Loberia, do a cartwheel on the sand and shout ‘Isn’t this fucking brilliant?’ to no-one in particular.”

She stayed asleep.

Teetering on the edge of sanity I let myself out the back door, startling the chickens, found some vintage Kings of Leon on my iPod and ran slowly down the road.

I ran past the legendary corner shop (it sometimes sells broccoli) and past the upturned boat – checking all six stray puppies were still alive underneath.

Then I ran the long sweeping road to the world’s most beautiful beach – past the sunrise on my left and acres of that crazily endless, lime green undergrowth.

Finally, I made it to La Loberia, which is really just another name for the end of the world because if you sailed out to sea from La Loberia, you would just fall off.

Most of the sealions were still asleep but one tiny baby mistook me for his mother and started flapping along next to me, mimicking my ungainly gallop.

“Isn’t this fucking brilliant?” I whispered to him, stopping to jog on the spot.

Then just in case he hadn’t realised I wasn’t his mother – but in fact, just another foul-mouthed turista, on the verge of a breakdown, I leaned a little closer.

“Isn’t this fucking, fucking brilliant?”

I carried on running then and when I hit a really smooth bit, I did a cartwheel and it was a proper one, not a 20-year-old drunk on the way home in stilettos and a skirt type cartwheel but an upright one, ending with a flourish (stumble) and everything.

I knew at that point I’d finally gone mad because I waited for that sense of shame only adults get when they’ve behaved really childishly and it never came.

I ran again and stopped for a moment to watch a pelican diving for his breakfast and suddenly I remembered my breakfast would be waiting for me too.

I sprinted home and Norma met me at the door to give me the kind of hug you only offer to bedraggled sailors when they’ve been missing at sea for two years.

I slid into my usual seat.

“Good run?” Pippa asked, offering me her egg.

“Hmmm, it was alright,” I shrugged, passing on the egg because Solaise was already handing me Milton’s homemade guava jam.

Thank God I have to leave this island in four weeks.


  1. Debs

    Stretch – this single brilliant post totally sums up both you and the island you’re on – I can almost smell the sealion colony and feel the sand between my toes matey – superb piece of writing :O)


    If you don’t bring me some guava jam i’ll come round and stamp on all of your toys!!

    Love you :O)

  2. bananaskinflipflops

    Thanks dude, I almost didn’t post it because I feel back to normal today and therefore was worried (ha!) that I sounded like some mad Bridget Jones… but it is one of the better things I’ve written about island life so, you know, publish and be damned!

    Right, now I just need to find a jam jar…

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