Prospero's Dreams

The island has stolen my tongue. I have little to say, and the heat slows my thoughts. My observations are shallow, callous, surface-truths. I see things simply as they appear; and have lost the ability to doubt any appearance, to consider the prospect of deception, or depth. It's a visual, sensual world, you see. Like being steeped in the place; we are all tea bags, we are all drowning in sensation, we are all living in our own tea dreams. It comes over you, half-suffocates you with the relentlessness of its vivid colours and oppressive heat. The wind could drive you mad if it wasn't so maddeningly refreshing, all the time. At least ten times a day I say ah, that wind is nice--I can feel myself becoming boring, becoming deadened, I can hear the repetition in my words and yet I say it again, that wind is so lovely. We know it's lovely, but we say it anyway, because otherwise our voices might be completely lost, because it anchors us here. And meanwhile each taste and sound is magnified by the equatorial sun; every smell cooked, made more pungent in the heat. We're part of some sort of witch's brew, some Shakespearean tonic.

But all this is meaningless; empty observation, as I say. Where is the story? Where is the meaning--or at least, the application to something greater than the self? All that occurs to me is a pretty phrase or two--words strung together in new ways, so they evoke a new image. It's all evocation. As if we're in Plato's cave, watching the shadows. Everything is illusory. A half-remembered dream, a conjuror's clever trick. Prospero is hiding somewhere here. I see his eyes sometimes behind the palm-frond swords which part in a breeze.

I find that being on an island always does this to me. The literary romance, the circular nature of it, is irresistible. Things reflect and are reflected. It's pure sorcery; I sometimes wonder if the island as we know it is not just a fictional creation--a state of mind rather than a geographical phenomenon. Geographically, you see, everything is an island. But here we are on an Island with a capital "I". It's the opposite of everything we know at home--whatever our home, whatever we know.

In the town the heat becomes trapped in alleyways; little eddies of still air, a shocking, stifling, sudden heat that sucks the breath from our lungs. We have coffee under the shade of a tree, go off in search of pretty things--bright cotton kikois, a carved wooden game, some painted cards. It is hard for me to see the beauty in objects here. Everything is faded, overpriced, and my material yearnings, usually so strong, are quelled by something as simple as a brief sea-breeze, a glimpse of a man bent in homage to his God, an accidental taste of the Indian Ocean. (There is such poetry in prayer here. The shoes left behind, the song of the muezzin, the way you can count on it like clockwork).

The bougainvillea is neon-pink and falls like paper leaves to the ground of our balcony. Always there is this sense of decadence and decay--the way the petals wilt at midday, give off their heady fragrances. The way each moment is stretched by the wind, melted by the sun. Time disappears here, only to reappear later, only to deceive you altogether; you find yourself wide awake in the smallest hours of the morning, viewing the world through the veil of a mosquito net; and then suddenly it is growing light and you are still tired, but you could not stay in bed, and the rest of the day is like you are swimming through Prospero's dreams.

Hotel Bed in Morning Light