On May 24th, 2005, in the heavy-humid dark, with no understanding of what surrounded me, I stepped off of something they call a "cab," paid the quiet man with a wide-brimmed straw hat, and did something that would shape at smallest my twenties and at most honest, the entire rest of my life and who I, it would turn out, am. It took a step. It took a man with a shadowed face named Jordan asking what my story was before he even knew my name. It took one breath.
Man, that first time you walk up those stairs, you have no idea. It had rained the night I got there, and my footing had never been less sure. If I had been able to see what was under the boardwalk, I would have been less scared to soar off. If I had known what was under the boardwalk, I would have been more scared. Catch and keep was not in my vocabulary yet. We trudged up to E3, right next to what would later be my own staff tent, and picked our sides of the two twin beds that had been smushed together. The sheets were damp. Now I understand that Maho sheets are roughly 50 thread count and walls are screens are giant, rain-welcoming holes, and if the night is damp, so are you. At the time, I just thought it was...weird.
But then the morning came. A Maho Bay morning is one of the truest of sacred things, and I would learn in time to be there at 7:20 to drink bad coffee out of a blue cup, resist scratching at my ankles, smell the bacon and discuss who was cooking so we knew whether or not to order the potatoes. But that first morning had not given me time to learn anything and so I was astounded. Truly. I woke up with the sun, as you do when the sun is Caribbean and shines into your eyes before you have even thought about saying good morning. The Caribbean sun does not wait. It has far too much to offer. That very first morning, as a preamble to (let me do some math, here) roughly 1500 more of them, I padded down the boardwalked green, past signs nailed into the splintering rails and felt, I don't know, everything. Like I could fill my lungs, though that may just have been the sea level. Like I was being held by something.
If you get up early enough on a sacred Maho morning, the night is still palpable, touchable. You can feel on your skin that the air was cooler, and you can watch dew evaporate off of the black asphalt road and up into the canopy. The earlier the better. That twilight cool is elusive and quick to warm, and you relish the opportunity to wear that one hoodie that makes you miss the states just a little every time you look at it.
Cool, wet, early mornings start long sticky days and you draw them out until their arms are stretched too wide and you give in to the daytime heat, when you lull through the thick air and trace hibiscus leaves onto beer cooler condensation to pass the slow time. These things I would learn.