Minutes: A Story About Being Seen

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It’s our first day on the island, late afternoon, the fierce sun burns small red patches on my face. The Hotel Garrafon overlooks the multi-hued Caribbean waters off Isla Mujeres– the Island of Women. All of its twelve rooms face the ocean. I sit on my small balcony on the third floor and peer through flashes of bright sun bouncing randomly off white-crested waves. The breeze is stiff, warm, alive.

There is a group of snorklers to my left, tourists bobbing in the water in bright yellow life vests (they are shipped over from Cancun every day on tour boats), trying to catch a glimpse of exotic fish that inhabit the once teeming, but now barely surviving coral reef at the Garrafon National Park, next door. It was decimated in the hurricane a few years ago. About fifty yards from shore, a two-masted yacht bobbing in the moderate swells is crammed with a higher class of tourists, laughing, raising glasses of expensive imported wine to the red disk in the sky.

There are two boys below my balcony, both natives, small framed, with characteristically thick, jet black hair (one has a tuft sticking out from the left side of his head), round Mayan faces, and eyes to match their hair. Oblivious to the American, German, and Dutch tourists shiny with tropical oils and coconut lotions, who play in the water, saunter along the dock, or set themselves up in lounges on the white sand beach, the boys run back and forth across a small patch of faded lawn, laughing wildly, dragging small kites along the ground. One kite is made of an old piece of paper, the other a scrap of plastic. Thin, straight slivers of wood, like used barbeque skewers fashioned in an “X” inside a square, hold each taught. Several long strips of plastic tied in knots trail behind; each tail longer than both boys are tall.

The younger of the two stops and looks down at his great invention, the other kneels, scratches his head, and begins fiddling with the sticks on his younger friend’s kite, as if he is the world’s greatest authority on kite construction (which he may well be). The younger boy seems to know he is being watched and suddenly looks up. I smile. He smiles. I wave. He waves. And without looking down, reaches for his friend, rubs the older boy’s head vigorously, telling him in Spanish to, “Look up! Look up there!” The other boy releases the kite, looks up, and waves. We all smile and wave. They chatter in Spanish, then run off giggling, with what can only be described as sheer delight at having been seen, their makeshift kites finally catching the strong breeze and flying high above them in the warm currents.

Copyright 2000, Patricia A. Burke. All Rights Reserved.

One thought on “Minutes: A Story About Being Seen

  1. Laurie Sanborn

    This sounds like a very relaxing place to visit. The boys and their kites – made me remember all the times my 2 brothers and I had kites in the back yard and at the beach. We had camp on a small pond that we stayed at when we were younger and it was great fun – to be able to swim and fish. We would spend our summers there until my Sophmore year of high school and we just stopped going. Years later I went back and spent a couple of summers in that camp and worked in the city. I had missed the quiet time – being in the city was noisy and I liked the quiteness of the camp. It’s amazing what we all take forgranted until it’s gone. Like flying a kite and laughing with your friends and family. I see kids now and if you mentioned going outside to fly a kite – they’d be like can I bring my IPAD, IPOD, game boy Etc. When I was younger we hated having to come inside – now you don’t see kids outside playing. Oh how the times have changed.


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