Orange Beacon

Me and Winny are finishing our drinks at the shoreside bar and talking about Formula One Racing with a couple that insist racing is an aphrodisiac.

“It’s very exciting,” the man says.

Winny nods. “I bet!” She’s drunk. We’re drinking something that’s made of a pint of different alcohols swirled with fresh strawberries and ice. She’s going to be hungover tomorrow, and so am I.

Winny and I have drunken sex in our beach hut and she makes vroom sounds, and I keep laughing. There are a plethora of “riding” and “driving” jokes to be made, and we pretend we are the Formula One couple for the night.

The next morning, we melt away our headaches in the ocean. Winny insists she knows the scientific names for the fish, using the latin she learned in undergrad to describe the fish by color and size. I only know she’s lying later, back at the bar, when I try to impress the bartender by naming the fish we saw.

I apologize, but the bartender just thinks it’s funny. He isn’t from the islands, but he sounds like he is. He says, “No worries,” as often as anyone else. He has a funny island lilt to his voice – it sounds like he’s strolling to the end of his sentence, not totally aware of how he’ll get there.

We watch the sunset from our bamboo stools, me and Winny and the bartender.

“You newlyweds?” he finally asks.

We take each other’s hands like a reflex, and look into each other’s eyes, involuntarily. “Yes,” we say in unison.

“You’d think I’d get tired of that around here,” the bartender says, blending up another round of Strawberry Sunset, even though we didn’t ask for it. “I like seeing people in love, though. I never have to see the other, ugly side of it.”

Winny and I almost start to think about the ugly side of it.

The bartender laughs. “Hey, what are your names?”

“He’s Rory, I’m Winny.” She extends her hand, to be kissed.

“I’m Mike.” He obliged.

We drink until he closes the bar, and then we stick three fluorescent colored straws into a blender full of Strawberry Sunset and stumble onto the beach to look at the stars.

“What are you all up to… tomorrow?” Mike’s meandering pause made the sentence seem sinister.

Winny and I look at each other meaningfully. I put my hand over hers and said, “Nothing.”

“You all want to come to the Lost City of Atlantis?”

Winny and I both took a sip from the dwindling cocktail blender. “Is that a bar?” I asked.

“No, it’s a place. You have to scuba there. It’s Atlantis.”

Winny and I are drunk, so we fall back into the cool sand and ask questions that he doesn’t answer, like, “How far away is it?” and “Why doesn’t anybody else know about it?” And eventually we placidly agree before dozing off on our beach towels. We wake up once, to have outdoor public night beach sex.

We meet Mike at the pier the next day, nursing our headaches, laden with the Scuba gear that we had bought for the trip. We hadn’t gone out together yet.

“Ready for an adventure?” Mike asks. We nod. He hands us some lightly alcoholic bloody marys that we drink while we helped each other suit up, and then we rented a little three-man motorboat.

Along the way, we tell Mike how we met, trading lines like we had seen our grandparents do. It was the first time we had told the story as a married couple, and it felt like a time lapse video of a flower blossoming in my chest. I smile at Winny and she kisses my sea salted cheek.

Mike listens intently and then shushes us so he can count when we leave harbor. Apparently, his map to Atlantis is counting based. That morning, Winny and I decided that Mike has a couple of screws loose, and was perhaps permanently drunk, but that didn’t mean that we couldn’t dive with him. We were strong swimmers. A new couple. Our rings were too tight on our fingers, but they united us, made us invincible.

It was too loud to talk very much, with the wind whipping through us and the loud outboard motor, so we were left alone with our thoughts and our doubts for a while before Mike announced, “We’re here!” He flashed a smile that heaped trust on the expedition. Maybe we’d find Atlantis today. Have sriracha coated chicken wings and giant margaritas when we got back.

We fit our masks over our faces, and start breathing with our regulators before diving after Mike, who had started already. We follow his bubbles through the warm tropic water, looking at curious schools of fishes and wondering what was in store. Winny keeps looking at me, her eyes magnified by her mask, searching for our complicit agreement to be together no matter what. I take her hand and we kick together, our legs synchronized.

Mike leads us past a shipwreck, which he points out and gives a thumbs up to. He speeds towards a luminous orange glow in the distance, and my heart beats faster. What’s glowing? What’s orange?

A luminous collection of brightly colored fish are all lit by the same orange, and we follow Mike deeper, down into a trench. My hand and Winny’s clasp tighter. What are we doing, following our bartender into a deep sea trench to Atlantis? The fish disperse when we get closer, revealing some sort of beacon, a red-orange herring, a false trail, a piece of aircraft garbage still lit from an internal mechanism.

Winny and I kick upwards, and Mike follows.

“Atlantis must have moved,” Mike says with a shrug, his voice nasally and muted through his mask. “Let’s go back to that shipwreck, I saw a fish I want to check out.”

Winny and I kiss, shrug, put our masks back on, and follow.

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