Boracay Island is a romantic place that skirts a poverty-stricken community, where improvised shacks are crunched up against one another. Like all vacation destinations, visitors are intruders, a nuisance greeted with a smile. “You want a massage?” “Kitesurfing? Best price on the island.” “All-you-can-eat buffet! Aren’t you hungry this evening? Great food. Great fish.” Natives outfit their livelihood with pesos hustled from tourists.
The pristine island stretched out before us, full of craggy inlets and coves and caves and green hills, all surrounded by white sandy shore. The water, a clear bluish-green as it should be in these scenarios, gives way to the darker waters of the coral not fifty meters from shore. Ivana and I meandered, fingers entwined, on a quiet stretch of Puka Beach, reasonably removed from the flurry of the center of the island. A few booths offered necklaces, and an occasional guy chugged by with a cooler of ice cream on his back, but the rabid, insistent commercialism of the island’s main drag doesn’t exist at Puka. Peace replaced the bustle, bare sand the crowds. Divers and kitesurfers and Jet Skiers assaulted other corners of the island but left this stretch for the sunbathers and swimmers. This place is the ghost of tourism’s past.
It was the start of the low season, the rainy season, and a typhoon blustered about, still miles out at sea, but threatening to soak the region. Tourists faded with the sun behind the clouds, but Ivana and I lingered. When it rains in Vermont, you’re miserable without a jacket and an umbrella; when it rains in the Philippines, you’re rejuvenated.
The wind picked up, whipping Ivana’s hair and pelting our bare ankles and calves with sand. I glanced up and down the abandoned shore just as the leaden clouds began to dump swollen pellets of soft raindrops. Ivana laughed and pulled my arm forward. Thankfully, every hundred feet or so at Puka, there are bamboo huts with roofs thatched from nipa-palm leaves—and cheers to whoever built those. They sit on the edge of the sand, back against the hills of trees, and they serve as little picnic areas or as relief from the sun or foul weather.
We ducked inside one such hut, our clothes already plastered wet to our skin.
“Whew,” I remarked, wiping the rain out of my eyes. “That was close. Some storm.”
“We should put the camera in a Ziploc bag,” Ivana said. She reached into my backpack.
“Good call.” The wind buffeted the hut and shook its thin shell.
In the distance, the layer of clouds broke a bit. They seemed to crumple, allowing brilliant rays of orange light to streak through, splitting the deluge. With a sigh, I lowered myself to sit on a bench at the front of the hut. The structure was makeshift but sturdy. Ivana sank down beside me, our arms and legs brushing. At our backs was a wall of green. The air around us was warm. I leaned back against the bamboo and inhaled the scent of sand and sea and the lingering scent of sunshine on our skin. Five minutes, we sat there when, finally, the rain stopped.
I scanned the scene. “Look at that. Everybody has gone home. I mean, everybody.”
“Yeah, it was flowing pretty good.” She’d pulled her hair back in a ponytail, but a few strands of blonde slipped free and fell over her face.
I’m not going to say that we were both thinking the same thing, but there was suspense in the air. I stared at her for a moment, wanting to brush the hair out of her eyes. She just stared back at me.
“Yeah,” I said, stating the obvious. “Came down pretty fierce. No people out here.”
“Yeah, no people.” She had slid on a bright-red pair of shorts; sand clung to her bare feet and ankles. Already the sun had left its mark on her; a smooth tan covered every inch of her exposed skin, with a few streaks of white peering from around the edge of her bikini top.
“How about all those idiots that have sex on the beach?” I asked with a clear sarcastic tone, as if to say, Ah yes, an empty beach. That reminds me of getting naked.
“Yeah, I mean, come on,” Ivana replied. She looked to my face and then back out to white waves cresting in the still choppy sea. “Go find a bed, right? Go inside, at least.”
“Ha. Yeah. Idiots.”
Ivana isn’t conservative. Afternoon delight was among the first slang phrases I taught her in English, and I’d already been through various sexual situations with her—shopping for birth-control pills, the Night Adam Couldn’t Get It Up. I had little to lose. “Inside,” I added. “Enjoy a little privacy.”
A faint laugh broke out through her lips. Full lips, slightly chapped from all our adventures. “Where there are no people.”
“Yeah, no people. Sure. Right. But I mean, really, there aren’t any people left out here.” We were both playing a game, but a casual observer to the conversation couldn’t detect who was playing whom. I had a clear motive, but maybe she did, too.
“True,” she agreed, rubbing the sand off her calves.
I’ve done it in some public places. Cars in parking lots. A picnic table at Lake Johnson Park in Raleigh. In college, my girlfriend and I went at it in most of the buildings on campus and once got caught with our shorts at our ankles in the basement laundry room of Monican. I tell you that the excitement lives strong when sneaking around and dies hard when exposed.
“This might be the wine talking,” I said to Ivana, “but it’s not so crazy to, y’know…” I made a motion with my fist, if she had any doubt what y’know meant.
She laughed. Laughing always makes her eyes glitter. “You had, like, one glass of wine. Two hours ago.”
“Sure, sure. Right, well, would you ever give it a shot?” I hid my intentions behind a joking voice.
Silence. She looked away. I swear I saw a smirk play at the corners of her lips.
My face perked up in confusion. “Wait. Would you?”
Well, I’ll tell you that a man doesn’t require a third round of silence as a cue. I ripped off my swimming trunks as if I had recently discovered that they were on fire. Ivana wasn’t far behind and required little assistance.
There was a beach. It was empty. And we were naked.
The pace slowed. We took a moment to stare at each other. Waves twirled and burst like a sparkler on the Fourth, then dribbled to shore. Clouds puffed. One could sense rain lingering in the distance. Boats, caught in the first shower, scattered to avoid the next. Distant islands started to fade in the darkness. The sun burned through, though, and Ivana and I were the only ones who could see it. The salty aroma of the sea, delivered by a fluffy breeze, tickled my nose.
Ha, I thought. Eight months prior, I was home and happy, but not like this.
“This doesn’t happen all the time,” Ivana had said as she removed her undergarments, and I agreed. But, my goodness, it should! Every human should exercise with regularity and then take a day off to dispatch his or her clothes on a beach.
Sometimes you make slow, sweet, tender, quixotic love. And sometimes you go in there and get rowdy. One day, soft affection, the next day, toys and slapping. I’m a poor evaluator of when each of these applies, but on the beach, I know there’s only one approach. You don’t fuck on the beach, and you don’t get laid on the beach. Every love song in the world has carried you to this moment, so save the aggression for the next round.
The waves continued to roll and kiss the sand, the clouds continued to puff. I closed my eyes, slid my hands around Ivana’s hips, and leaned my head back.
And I realized: this was going somewhere. Anyone can have sex on the beach, and again I tell you, they should. Stay at Nirvana Resort, hail a tricycle, and ask for Puka Beach. The name itself begs, “Come shed your apparel upon my shore.”
Ivana wasn’t just anyone, though. The physical act of sex was just as good as every other time with Ivana. Bed, couch, bathroom, beach. Location changes can be fun, but it’s still the one you’re with that matters. A beautiful woman is a beautiful woman, and as I said, the streets of this world are teeming with them. But this one was different. There is this idea that, my goodness, I must be the luckiest son of a bitch this side of Jupiter. What a wasted experience this would be with any other girl. This may never happen again, and I’m okay with that because this memory will last forever. Each touch was joyful. Each kiss mattered. I was racing up the cleared lane of a mountain, one that kept going and going and going, where each scene rolled into the next. No sight of the summit. And that was okay. Welcome, even. I needed to lose myself in that moment; I needed it to never end.
But it did. The scene exploded before me. The light brightened and the world around us—the little bamboo hut, the beach, the gentle slaps of water, the sun shining through the clouds—focused to its sharper resolution. The setting consumed me, overtook me. It was exceptional, supernatural. The waves and the sun and the white sand and, Jesus, fluffy breezes tickling my nose? Experiences like that last forever.
Reluctantly we pulled our clothes back on. We lingered on the beach. The sun had bent over the horizon, and the moon glowed brightly. I swore that if I had a net and a length of string, I could have nabbed it. I took Ivana’s hand in mine, and we waded in the shallows. The cool undertow tugged the sand from beneath us. I kissed Ivana’s forehead. We smiled. And we said nothing.
I, an American, met a Slovak girl in Honduras and then made love to her on a beach in the Philippines.
And that’s pretty awesome.