(Marty) #1



two months in the future. On the phone, he
suggested we go fly-fishing in New Zealand. Sure,
I said. But, after we hung up, I e-mailed, Wouldn’t
you rather go to French Polynesia and stay in one
of those overwater bungalows?
If this sounds brazen and impulsive, fair
enough. But oddly, for someone who’s not—I
repeat, not—a high-priced escort, I’d gone on a
gonzo international date with a much older
nautical type before, and it had turned out well.
I mean, not so well that I wasn’t now free to
repeat the gamble with someone else, but well
enough that I thought, Why not?
On the other hand, there’s an inevitable
awkwardness to finding yourself alone in a
bungalow with a man and the enormous white
bed you’ve agreed to share for six nights,
opening the Prosecco the hotel has left with a
card wishing Mr. and Mrs. F a pleasant
honeymoon because Mr. F told them you were
honeymooning, because maybe honeymooners
would get things like free Prosecco. We took our
glasses out onto our porch and down a ladder
into the waist-deep water below. I shuffled
nervously in the sand, explaining I didn’t want to
step on coral. “Let me help,” he said, and picked
me up. After that, everything was fine.
People ask if overwater bungalows are worth
it, and the answer is yes. They are heaven. Ours
at the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort had a
window in its floor that framed an aquamarine
rectangle crisscrossed by passing fish. It had
sliding doors onto the porch that we never
closed, not even while we slept. Openness was
our theme. We’d done our best to get acquainted
long-distance, but now we purposefully
immersed ourselves in radically candid
conversations that might have taken us months
to cover on a normal dating schedule. Efficiency
idea: every second date should be a honeymoon.
In the mornings we snorkeled or kayaked or
went scuba diving or whale-watching, and in the
heat of the afternoon we retreated into bed with
cocktails. We talked and napped, filled the space
between as you’d expect. We never turned on the
TV. In the evenings we lazed on our porch as
Tahiti purpled and darkened across the channel.
Time stretched and fell slack. By day two, we felt
like we’d always lived this way.
He left a day before I did, in the early
morning. I got up and sat outside with my feet
dangling over the water. The beginning of a trip,
like the beginning of a romance, brings a shock

of vitality and possibility. The finish brings a
shiver of mortality, a reminder that all things
end. In Moorea, they give you flowers when you
arrive and shells when you leave, little rattling
husks to hang around your neck. The next time
we saw each other, he and I, there would be
snow and rain, and our relationship would
combust spectacularly. As I watched his ferry
cross water that was red with breaking dawn,
I think I already knew we wouldn’t last, but I was
also glad for the space between arrivals and
departures, flowers and shells. Because, of
course, that space is life.

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I’m biased because I was
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There are also original stone
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hiking trails laced across the
prop er t y. — Jacqueline Gifford

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The Romance of Travel

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