I count the turns as I ride into town – 2nd left, 3rd right – watching for the telltale signs that guide my way. Lazy Iguana B&B, Cocoplum… there are no street signs and the locals won’t give me a map. They say I couldn’t possibly get lost on an island as small as Caye Caulker. Try me.
“Hey baby, where you going?” The friendly and leering Belizean boys reach out their arms to catch me as I pass. I avoid them and the potholes in the white sand road as I try to keep my skirt from flying up. I just showered and I’m already sticky from sweat, my skin burning after 6 hours spent in the relentless sun. I feel good, clean and alive, and ready for anything.
My ex-boyfriend Henry told me before I left on my solo adventure to Central America that I was going to “fall in love with some Belizean guy.” This is part of our relationship now – we tell each other the stories of our sexcapades and laugh at each other’s sluttiness. I would classify him as a fellow Slutty Feminist. We broke up when things were still good between us, just because we wanted to explore ourselves and other people. We still have sex and spend whole days together. No one understands that we’re no longer “in a relationship”; we seem more in love than a lot of couples I know.
“I’m gonna get you drunk tonight,” James beams, placing another grapefruit rum cocktail down in front of me. He’s a local. This is his place, his nickname’s on the wall.
Anita, his Norwegian wife, smiles coolly and looks away. James’s expression hardens as he turns to her.
“You want something?”
Anita points to my drink. “Yeah, I’ll take one of those.” Instantly, the energy shifts.
“What the fuck?” James is pissed.
I turn my attention to the local woman working the grill. The smell of fresh charred lobster pours over me in a smoky wave.
“Well, you didn’t ask me before so…” Anita laughs it off, biting her lip. I shouldn’t be here, I think. The third wheel to their marital spat.
I had a relationship like this once. The hateful little jabs, the undercurrent of sarcasm and frustration, the inability to keep a lid on it even in public. I ended up cheating on that boyfriend. And then I broke up with him, albeit months and possibly years after I should have. And I had thought about marrying him. I thought we were soul mates and would have a baby and be together forever, even though a lot of the time I wasn’t happy.
It seems like all the local guys on Caye Caulker cheat on their wives. At least that’s what one of them told me. By day, they are tour guides taking American and European tourists out on fishing/snorkeling/diving trips; by night, they fuck white women. And their local wives stay South of the island in the ramshackle huts where tourists don’t go, and take care of their children. It seems like a pretty shitty arrangement to me and it makes me ask myself once again the question I’m constantly asking myself: why are these people married? Because I understand very well the human impulse to fuck different people, but I don’t understand at all the impulse to commit to fucking the same person for the rest of your life. I don’t actually believe this is a human impulse; I think it’s an antiquated tradition that has no place in the ever-changing world of today.
Take Anita for example. Anita is this cool, independent woman who used to work some serious, business-y job in Norway before one day finding herself in Caye Caulker where she fell in love with local man James and decided to completely change her life. Now she spends her days cleaning the rooms they rent to tourists, hanging out with their two dogs, and turning the other cheek when her husband hits on 20-something white women. But Anita is clearly not meant for this lifestyle. She’s tall and serious and strong and smart. She’s intellectual, and now that the honeymoon’s over, I can see that she’s fucking bored. I don’t blame her. In fact, I feel a certain kindred connection with Anita – a mutual strong woman/ tall-blondeness that makes us inherently understand one another, and we talk freely. Except about the one thing I’m really curious about: her marriage. This is the subject we don’t broach. Because she and James are not happy together and James obviously wants to fuck me.
Anita and James close down the restaurant and we head to the karaoke bar, the only joint still serving booze after midnight. At the bar I stand uncomfortably sandwiched between the unhappy couple. James keeps buying me drinks and I wonder what his plan is – take me back to their place and tell Anita to wait outside while we have sex? I’m acutely aware of the awkward symmetry in the situation. I’m the 20 years younger version of his 40-something wife, and James, in the primal tradition of men everywhere, wants to feel young again by fucking me. I also don’t know how to diffuse the energy because I’m really bad at not flirting.
This is why I’m down on marriage. Because I constantly find myself in the position of the Other Woman. And it’s true, I don’t always diffuse the tension and, to be honest, I have no qualms about sleeping with a married/unavailable man because I don’t think it’s my responsibility to save his relationship and, if he wants to cheat, he’s going to cheat whether he does it with me or not. Also, it shouldn’t be discounted that sexually I have very little self control – when I want it, I want it, and no one can stand in my way.
But it just so happens that I don’t want James, and I really like Anita, so I choose to walk away. Literally. We are standing there in the bar and, without saying a word, I walk over to this cute local guy wearing a cap that says LA. He’s been eyeing me all night. This is the same guy that later tells me about how all the local men like to fuck white women. I can feel James watching me as we talk, his disappointment is palpable. Man, your wife is standing right there – why don’t you try to fuck her for a change? It’s so totally depressing I can hardly stand it.
LA Cap Guy speaks Creole, Garifuna, and broken English. I ask him to say something in Creole, a language that sounds a lot like English but is virtually impossible for me to understand. He says he will if we can walk out to the end of the pier. I know this is a ploy but at this point I’m into it, and I’d like to escape James’ penetrating gaze. The pier is overpopulated with couples looking for privacy so we head back and walk along the dark shore. I suggest a night swim. He says it’s going to be cold but, thinking he might get laid, starts to take off his shoes. I pull my dress over my head and wade in. He’s right, it is cold, and shallow and mucky. We sit in the muck and he pulls me into his lap – I can feel his huge erection poking into my back. He kisses my neck and paws at my breasts and asks if I’m “enjoying” myself. I know this is his hospitality training and I wonder if he asks the same during sex. I decide I don’t want to find out. I pull away and head for shore.
“I’m cold.” I actually am. My teeth are chattering, I’m ready to go home.
After he’s done meticulously getting dressed, he pulls me in close and asks if he’s the only local boy I’ve ever “dated.” I explain that we’re not dating, that I’m single.
“Why are you single?”
“Uh, because I want to be.”
He can’t believe this. Actually, no one here can believe that I’m single by choice.
His dream is to marry a white woman and move to LA. I hope this isn’t a hint-hint. He admits he’s got a bet on me with one of the other locals. $30 Belize ($15 US) he’ll fuck me. I tell him he shouldn’t have told me that, but I also find it hilarious that he did.
“I bet your lips are sweet.”
“They’re not,” I tell him.
He laughs and asks for a kiss. I let him because his boxers are wet underneath his jeans and that can’t be comfortable. His tongue tastes like sand paper and cigarettes. His lips are squishy and sucking on mine.
I retrieve my bike and ride beside him as he walks back to the hotel room he keeps next to the dive shop where he works. He talks about how he’s a dive master and a “boss” because they gave him his own hotel room. He’s proud, he loves his life, he’s not married and he gets to fuck white women. Don’t move to LA, I pray for him. He wants another kiss.
“I really love you,” he says.
I hope this is a language barrier thing.
“Goodnight!” I shout, and scoot off.
The next morning, I run into James in the street. For some reason, I find myself expecting to be scolded by him. For running off with another guy. Why I feel I owe him anything is totally beyond me. But he seems cool and gives me a high-five.
He had said he’d come by the cabana to take me out on his boat this morning, but he never showed. I ask him why.
“Oh, I didn’t know if you’d still want to.” I feel like we’re in high school.
I was actually totally relieved when he didn’t show up this morning. I realize now if I find myself alone on a boat with him, it’s anyone’s guess what he’ll do, and I don’t want to make the situation any more awkward and depressing by rejecting him.
But as I watch him now coolly surveying the spill of tourists walking along the road, I realize that I’m just another blonde woman from the States to him, and there will be another boatload of us coming in by noon. I feel better, because I didn’t really hurt his feelings. He won’t miss me when I’m gone. I’ll just be another white woman he didn’t get to fuck.