Member preview

Leaving Lamu

The rain strikes just before we cast off. Final passengers scramble down the steps of the cement jetty to shelter beneath the thick blue tarp. I lean forward on the ring bench, feel the droplets slide over the plastic at my back.

Whiteout rain, thick hammering rain, sprays texture on the wavelets of the warm ocean. The splashup lends deceptive distance: sea like sand dunes seen from above, town receding into the milky white. Water rolls from bow to stern, soaking over the bench where we sit.

The journey is not far, but still time stretches into saga: the child with big dark eyes stares from across the boat. The big man on the back bench stands, dripping now from the onslaught of water. A dhow at half-sail drifts like a ghost ship back of the stern. Our captain, plastic poncho-clad, steers the outboard from his seat of no cover. Sun breaks; somewhere, there ought to be a rainbow.

The rain unclenches its torrent as quickly as it wrung on; by the time we reach Manda, it's light mist, and gone as we step ashore.

Manda is sunny and humid like a storm could never happen. We pass the beachside mosque up cobblestones towards the airport. It's heady-scented, sugar snap pea smells and darting butterflies.

The airport is small, security cursory. The waiting lounge is open to the breeze. Kenya in rainy season: ninety degrees and blue sky, minutes after a storm. We need the open air.

On cue arrive the inklings of prescient nostalgia. Goodbye, Lamu. Memory and time will morph you into gold and gray extremes: a glimpse of alley, turning on a damp sheet, stretches of sand, a plate of food. Time touches all but leaves most things forgotten. Nothing remembered is true.