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December 2009 Cover

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My promises in paradise

By Matthew Link

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The flight attendant bent down and handed me a Coke, smiling at me. There was a white flower behind his left ear, and his Polynesian skin was tan and sensual against his sky blue uniform. His eyes, dark brown and as dark as volcanic mountains, lit up at me.
† I was on my way from Sydney to Papeete. It was a long-haul Air Tahiti Nui flight over the endless Pacific. I was in a foul mood. I had just reached the breaking point with an American I had been dating in Sydney. He had been able to hide the fact that he was an asshole from me extremely well. Or I had decided not to see it? Either way, one midnight I packed my bags and exited his apartment after bearing the brunt of a particularly abusive rant. I felt like a used punching bag, deflated and worn out. And jaded.
† But something about the pure innocence of this 20-something flight attendant seemed so genuine and heartfelt. His lilting Tahitian accent sprinkled with French words, his graceful movements, his politeness. I asked him inane questions about
his family, his hometown, his work. He answered
all of them with a boyish giggle. We exchanged phone numbers, and he came over to my hotel the next evening.
† We took a long, warm shower as the cliched tropical moon, as white and blaring as a siren, blasted its way into my oceanfront suite. His kisses were long and free of agendas, and his wet naked body was open without trepidation. He felt completely honest against me, something I hadn’t experienced in a long while.
† I told him I was driving around the island the next day, and he offered to be my guide. He showed me secret waterfalls plunging through the deep rainforest and muddy trails to spectacular vistas. We laughed as we dined on fish while swatting flies away. He even showed me the small village where he grew up, pointing out houses and neighbors and churches and beaches.
† There was a quiet peace about him. I had spent enough time in tropical climates to divorce myself from the stereotypes of the carefree islander, but here he was in front of me: calm, content, caring, and generous. Like the verdant island itself.
† We made grand plans for him to visit me in the States, or for me to come back to Tahiti at some point. He kissed me passionately in the parking lot where I dropped him off. He wanted me to call him that evening so he could say goodbye to me at the airport. I promised I would.
† Later that night I tore my suite apart, trying to find the scrap of paper with his name and phone number. I picked through every receipt, scoured the rental car for any small piece of trash. It was gone. I didn't even know his last name,
or where exactly he lived. I boarded the plane feeling awful, like I had betrayed his trust in me. He would now see me as another heartless tourist who used him as an exotic way station, an island fling that could be easily discarded. He would think I lied to him. He had in fact brought me back to life, renewed my faith in the kindness of strangers, that men could be loving and not cruel, that not everyone was operating from an ulterior motive.
† When I got home I once again searched through my luggage, but he was gone for good.
† I hope that someday a kind man will board his flight and whisk him away on a loving adventure. That man will never lie to him or abuse him or let him down. He will tattoo his name and number on his heart and my Tahitian will be treated like the true prince that he is.

Author Profile:  Matthew Link

Matthew Link has written for numerous magazines and has appeared on many television and radio shows. His documentaries have aired on PBS stations and in international film festivals.


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