The Environment of Unawatuna Bay
Laid out in a comfortably spaced loop, Unawatuna had the feel of a cosy seaside village, unlike the thin, linear layout of other beach towns like Mirissa.
Pattering barefooted through rivulets of murky water in the sand, tiny fish trapped from a previous tide scattered in alarm.
Large packs of mongrel dogs had perfected the beach bum lifestyle; with eyes half-closed they snoozed on the warm sand, getting up only to shake their fur free from the lapping ocean.
I had enough time in the world to sit and watch sand crabs dive in and out of grainy holes while the sea rushed over them repeatedly.
The ocean was a turbulence of deep green hollow, with homeless coconuts bobbing on by. Rebelling against it can be a meditative experience, as you tumble like a ragdoll in momentary silence and darkness underwater, your nostrils flooded chambers of salt water.
Small Crowds of Locals
It was the eve of Vesak and the sea was dotted with generations of Sri Lankans, who broke into wide smiles revealing white teeth whenever the passing wave swayed them into a merry dance. We were strangers, forever bound by that thread of festive memory by the ocean – one that is damp, laced with salt and vibrating from laughter.
Farao the sole waiter at B’s Place had his dreadlocks bundled up neatly, and his kind brown eyes were shaded by an enviable crop of eyelashes. He sat himself at my table, a sand-dusted leg casually propped up against him.
“Sah-Ra-h” – that was the closest we could get to writing my name, Sheryl, in Sinhalese. I practised writing the rounded letters a few times. The pen felt funny between my fingers, for it was an opposite experience from writing in boxy Chinese characters. How round is right?
He offered to take me places – for a snorkel far out at sea where all the fish were, for dinner at the far end of the beach where the music would be, for walks under the full moon that would rise; but I wanted to spend my last night with friends at Queens.
A Scattering of Tourists
There was a small area in the middle of the beach where most of the fairer skinned tourists in stylish shades had boxed themselves into, leaving no deck chair empty.
A young Ukrainian woman was draped around a drooping coconut tree, her face heavy with a garish 80s’ makeup style and fake eyelashes. She flowed from one provocative pose to another, her generous cleavage spilling out of her neon bikini. Her partner snapped away on their compact camera with a focussed diligence, and I wondered if I had perhaps met my first porn stars in real life?
Parties on the Weekend Only
Sputtering to a stop on the dark street outside Queens’, the tuk-tuk spat out an adolescent Indian girl and her bulky suitcase while she was still cutting a ruthless bargain with the driver.
She turned to look at us with beautiful eyes, heavily lined with kohl and tinged with suppressed fragility. “Where’s the party at?” she demands. Her sweet lips were red with lipstick and her hair neatly in place; she was all made up and ready to fuck.
“Not today.” KK replies. “Only weekends.”
She starts to babble in panic, so I offered to walk with her in search of lodging. It proved a fruitless expedition down the entire stretch of beach with only a $10 budget.
“Did you run away from home?” I asked.
Surprise welled up in her large eyes and spilled over. “The customs officer and Dinesh asked me the same question. Why do you all ask?”
We explored a few more hostels, where she haggled with necessary overconfidence while giving me advise on how not to get cheated by conniving businessmen. We got to the last and cheapest hostel available – right next to Queens where we started, and the owner stood there in his pyjama sarong with sympathy in his eyes. “$12 ma’am.” he says. “Any lower and I will make a loss.”
She succumbed to her loss with reluctance, after I offered to pay the extra $2 to buy myself some peace. Her plate of vegetarian curry and rice was waiting for her back at Queens, and she wolfed it down without another word. I am not sure what happened, but she was gone by sunrise.
To be continued…