How long does it take to reach a remote island in a remote country? After three flights, four ships and immeasurable jet lag, we arrived in Koh Lipe: a paradise between Thailand and Malaysia. The weather was heavenly, but the clergyman Thomas Adams had warned us well: “There is no coming to heaven with dry eyes.”
There were six eyes on the scene. Two were mine: green and red, the aftermath of flying 17 hours from London. Two belonged to Hamish, a Scottish-Polish lover — the perfect mix of everything I love about Brexit. The last two were from Claire, a lifelong friend I met on my first day at school. She always said she would do anything to fuck with my eyes. But she said so much bullshit.
Inviting a lover and a horny friend to the same trip sounds explosive. Add a remote island in which you can only hide behind a palm tree, and bang. Or voila. There I was in the middle of a cold war lying on a tropical beach. Hamish bought a coconut; Claire bought two. Claire passed me factor 15 sunscreen; Hamish applied factor 50 sunblock to my skin. Hamish wanted to eat pad thai; Clare hated Thailand.
I got up to walk towards the sea. I swam far. But rather than the water, deepening, the sea floor became closer. In the middle of the sea of Koh Lipe, there’s land. Almost like an oasis, but there are no camels: you can only find sand. Hamish pursued me without me noticing. He stared at the sand lagoon and said it looked like a natural jacuzzi. We sat there and talked about the future. London wasn’t an oasis, but it was the right place for us. Please don’t move to Tokyo, please?
Next to us, a Japanese woman was scrubbing sand on her husband’s back. She took a handful of soil and massaged it in circles. The husband looked like a sumo fighter: the sand remained stuck between the rolls of his back. I thought it was disgusting, but Hamish said that was love.
We came back to the beach, and concluded that someone had to leave. We didn’t even discuss it: I couldn’t stay in Koh Lipe. I didn’t want to choose Claire, but I had to. In less than an hour, we had tickets for the nearest island. In Thailand, you escape from one island only to get yourself onto another.
Hamish followed us to the harbour, his eyes closed. He had never argued with Claire, so they never made peace. They only waved half a hand to say goodbye. I looked at his hand and then at his ginger beard. I used to think his red hair looked Scottish; he would get angry and stress it was Polish.
He looked at me for the last time before I got on the boat. Before he made his way back down the dock, I told him: “I lipe you.”
Gastón Tourn was born in the Patagonia, Argentina. He published short fiction and poetry, and completed a Master’s in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford. He writes and thinks dans tres languages.