Vanity of the word experience. You cannot acquire experience by making experiments. You cannot create experience. You must undergo it. Patience rather than experience. We wait patiently—or rather, we are patients. It is all practice: when we emerge from experience we are not wise but skillful. But at what?
-Albert Camus, excerpt from Notebooks 1935-195
The hot morning trade winds had come. They blew in offshore from the east, blanketing the island in volcanic fog. The humidity was at eighty-four percent and the heat index read ninety-three for midday, and although only into the first part of seven o’clock it was climbing by the quarter hour. The few early morning swimmers were already packing their oversized pink Marriott hotel towels and bottles of FIJI water into their bright canvas beach bags and heading for their cars and the showers in the shade to rinse the salt off. Most of the tourists already had salmon sunburns on their calves and backs from previous days of vacationing. The local early morning risers—surfer boys, Filipino fishermen, young moms walking their dogs—stayed longer.
Shirley and Jane swam in small circular patterns in a shallow part of the bay, sandy-bottomed between lively reef and dark patches. Shirley had a neon yellow and black snorkeling mask on and was diving down to the reef and holding on to coral to look at a parrot fish’s scales that were rippling back and forth in the sunlight filtered by the water. With its beak the fish gnawed at a swaying pile of algae attached to the reef by a hearty stem. Shirley did this while keeping an eye out for a moray eel she’d seen a week ago at this spot. She didn't want to be taken by surprise.
The morning light was so bright that Shirley squinted as she dried off and Jane grabbed her dark green sunglasses to protect herself. The air was heavy as a Persian rug, instantly fogging Jane’s glasses against her damp cheeks.
The two picked up their bright orange and white striped towels, shook off the chunks of sand and headed for the path. As they walked, the top of Shirley’s head burned from the sun and the bottoms of their feet burned from the sand and as they chugged up the hill it felt like they were drowning by the weight of the water in the air, invisible and heavy.
The palms slowed their curvaceous sway and the waves slowed; lessening and rolling at a leisurely pace. As they headed up the path Shirley felt odd—as if her breath had stopped because her adrenaline exploded. It was an instantaneous feeling, one that made her think she could telepathically feel that right at this moment something was happening to someone close to her.
Shirley stopped in the middle of the narrow path and turned around swinging her board with her, to look about. She could feel the connection. Jane, who had been walking in front of Shirley and talking took a minute to notice that Shirley had stopped. She proceeded to stand there in the middle of the hidden path with the overgrown magenta bougainvillea, nervously agitated, darting her eyes about. Trying to feel it out. Jane motioned to the surrounding island cliff-side and shrugged her shoulders, trying to catch her breath, slightly irritated that Shirley had stopped their hiking flow up the steep path. Shirley, not sure of what it could be, if anything, continued walking.