One last wave reaches out from the failing tide, but I just sit there and let the water seep into my shoes. I feel like there's a hole in my stomach and I am falling into that hole.
This is not the way it happened in The Pirate's Woman. I play the real scene over and over in my mind, making it worse each time until I am ripping Maryanne's clothes to shreds and she is begging me not to hurt her. Is that what happened? I moved too fast, didn't I? I practically raped the nicest person on the island. Maybe I'm like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I fall back on the sand and close my eyes. I can still hear her voice. "It would be like giving up."
The tide is turning and I watch it go, the entire Pacific Ocean ebbing away. At last I stand up. I start to follow the shoreline and I as I walk I scan the beach for footprints in the fading light. Which is strange. We almost never walk along this edge of the lagoon; it doesn't lead anywhere interesting and it's much faster to cut through the jungle. Besides, the tide has just washed the beach clean and there's no one here but me. So there couldn't possibly be any footprints. But I look for them anyway. And I keep walking even though I don't even know where I'm going.
Why did I do it? I pushed her too fast. And now it's too late to undo it. Our relationship will never be the same. We can never completely relax with each other now. And she'll never want to be with me now that this has happened. The thing is, she was trying, she really tried to let me - but she couldn't. That's the word she used: can't. She couldn't be with me if I was the last man on earth.
Which only makes me want her more. I didn't realize how much until just now. Now that I can't have her. But that urge, that need, it's been with me all along! That's why I had to try it. I had to take the chance.
And now that I'm aware of this need I can never go back. I can never forget it. I have to keep trying. I have to do... what? What is this urge? Is it like a hunger? I feel like it is. I feel like I'm starving. Or is it just curiosity? Or boredom? Do I need to change just for the sake of changing? Whatever it is, it's real. It's not enough to be the Skipper's mate any more. Or the professor's assistant. Or the Howell's houseboy. I have to matter to the women, somehow. It's like, if I don't matter to them, then I don't matter at all.
This is weird. I've never had thoughts like this before. Something is loose in me. And now that it's loose, nothing will ever be the same. I look down at my feet and they're still walking. I don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing, but my feet keep walking.
By now it's quite dark. The moon is tangled in a cloud and gives only enough light to put a silver edge on things. The sand gives out as I approach the point, and now I am scrambling over slippery rocks. Black palm fronds hit me in the face. My stomach begins to churn and I feel goosebumps on my arms. I feel so strange. My body is trying to tell me something. It is afraid. And yet it keeps me moving almost against my will. I feel scared and excited at the same time. I feel like a man on a run-away horse, coming closer and closer to the edge of a cliff.
As I round the point I see in the distance the empty hull of the Minnow. She sits right where we first beached her. We stripped her clean long ago but we left the shell as a kind of memorial. No one had the heart to break her up and mostly we keep away from her. She's spooky, especially at night. And now I catch my breath because there's a light coming from inside her!
That's when my feet finally stop and for a moment I just stand there with my heart pounding. It's not my imagination. There is definitely someone inside the Minnow.
by John Cartan