Lunch With Lucy
It was another hot day in Kovalam, South India. I sat beside Andrea, a blue-eyed brunette from Switzerland. We were at the German Bakery and looking out through the tall palm trees, the blue waters of the Arabian Sea sparkled in the early morning rays of the sun rising behind us.
“Let’s go to a quiet beach,” I suggested as she smoked another cigarette. The smoke wafted around me momentarily before being blown away by the breeze.
“Sure,” she said as she glanced at me. She then turned to look back out to the sea.
Shortly after breakfast, we met at the end of the beach with our daypacks and quickly found a rickshaw driver who was desperately waiting for some customers.
“Coral Beach,” I said as we hopped in the sides of the rickshaw. He started the motor and we pulled out and began making our way up the bumpy road that led out of the town of Kovalam. The warm breeze blew through the sides.
We drove through small towns where people walked slowly by the stores and areas of dense coconut groves where you could see the steamy early morning mist. It was going to be another hot day.
After about half an hour, he turned down a narrow road lined with palm trees and small houses with thatched roofs. He stopped at the top of a hill from where we could see the blue open waters. We paid him and walked down the road. Eyes of the local people stared at us from porch balconies or through small window openings. We walked through a grove of palm trees and emerged at the end of Coral Beach. From the rock where we stood, we could see the mussel fisherman paddling out through the waves in their narrow boats.
“It’s beautiful,” Andrea said.
“Yes,” I replied as a smile spread across my face.
We walked down the rock and onto the sandy beach where the rays of the sun beat down on us. The waves were a little bigger than in Kovalam. Finding a spot near the other end of the beach, we put down our bags, got our swimsuits on and walked into the ocean. A group of Indian men and women sat in circles on the beach and watched us. The big waves that crashed near the shore had to be pushed through to get to some calmer waters behind them. We floated in the water, swam through the waves, let the current carry us out a bit and then after some time, the big waves washed us back onto shore. We sat in the shade on logs as a small group of middle-aged Indian people gathered around us. The wind dried the water leaving streaks of white salt on our bodies. Tables with empty chairs stood on the patio of the coral Beach resort behind us.
“Hello,” I heard and before I even saw her, I knew she was not from India.
I turned to my right and standing beside me was a middle-aged Japanese woman wearing loose fitting pants, a sun hat and sunglasses.
“Hello,” I said in return.
And almost before I finished saying that, she said, “My name is Lucy.”
“I’m Reuben. This is Andrea. Nice to meet you.”
“Are you married?” she asked.
“Just friends,” I replied.
We talked for a few minutes. Actually, I was rather enjoying the stillness but she obviously really wanted to talk with us.
“How about you two eat lunch with me?” she suggested and then added, “It will be my treat.”
I looked at Andrea. She nodded.
We got up and walked back to the patio of the Coral Beach Resort. When we left the sand, I realized that our Indian friends probably wouldn’t be able to follow us. Yes, we were tourists I remembered. There are too many barriers in this world.
Lucy sat at the end of the table facing the ocean. I sat to her left and Andrea sat to her right. The waiter approached and handed each of us a menu. Lots of options. Most items, I am sure cost more than those people on the beach made in a day, yet for us they were inexpensive. We ordered and then talked.
“So where are you from?” I asked.
“Tokyo,” she responded.
“You’re here alone?”
“Oh ya,” she said quickly, glancing back out to the ocean. I looked at her and behind her serious face, I saw waves of thoughts in her mind. “My husband works hard. I usually come to India each year - I, I have friends here.”
“That’s nice,” I replied as I looked towards her. “You like being away?”
“Well, ya, you know, it’s nice. Actually it’s kind of lonely whether I’m away or, or at home.”
I looked at Andrea, she was looking at Lucy. “Why is it so lonely?” Andrea asked.
“Well, my husband works a lot and sometimes, well sometimes he comes home pretty late. I don’t know, I think he goes to bars or something.”
Lucy kept looking back out to the ocean.
The food arrived. As usual, the portions were generous. The shade from the palm trees partly covered the table and us. We enjoyed the food very much.
“It’s pretty quiet here at the resort,” I said.
“Yes, the season hasn’t really begun yet,” replied Lucy. “Maybe you two want to stay here - it will be my treat.”
I looked back at Andrea - she was smiling. I laughed.
“Not a bad idea Lucy.”
We finished our meal as Lucy told us more stories about her plans while in India, some parties she was going to and some friends she was going to visit. After some time, I looked down towards the beach and saw a couple I had met in Kovalam. Steve and Ann were standing on the beach. I walked over and said hello. We found out about a posh hotel down the coast and we decided to hike down there.
“It’s over some rough terrain,” the host of the Coral Beach resort said. Lucy wanted to come. We weren’t sure if she would make it but we encouraged her to come along. Shortly after noon, we began walking up the rocks at the end of the beach. We passed beside small mud houses with thatched roofs and fires burning and piles of coconut shells used for burning. We walked on paths beside cliffs overlooking waves crashing on the shore below. The shade from the palm trees kept us a bit cooler. The path went up and down, through old abandoned homes and down along remote beaches with patches of sand in little coves. We passed a man cutting grass with a machete. He worked slowly, methodically, barely pausing as we watched him work as if what he was doing was the most important work in the world - perhaps it really was. Anyhow, it surely was peaceful and if more people worked peacefully, the world would surely be more peaceful.
We stopped to drink and wash sweat off our foreheads. Lucy kept up to our pace. After half an hour or so, we came up to steps cut into the rock ascending from a sandy beach. We followed them up. They ended at the resort. There was a pool cut into the rock with aqua green water in it. Two women lay on cots at the other end. Up a little higher, a covered dining area was filled with empty tables. An Indian man approached us.
“Hello,” he said.
“Would you like to eat?” he asked.
“We were wondering if we could just sit by the pool.”
“It’s 1500 rupees for the day,” he responded.
We looked at each other. “I’m easy,” I said even though that did seem like a lot of money for the day.
“Too much,” responded Steve.
We decided to head back to Coral Beach. The way back seemed to take less time as usual.
It was late afternoon by the time we got back to the beach. We decided to go to another nearby resort for dinner. Lucy joined us. We sat on the patio from where we could see the sun setting in to the Arabian Sea. The food arrived; we ate and talked knowing that we were all going our own ways shortly. Soon, it was dark. Dusk fell quickly in the tropics. We hailed a taxi. We stopped at the Coral Beach resort where we said goodbye to Lucy. She thanked us and asked us to come back to visit. She got out and waved to us.
The taxi backed up and slowly turned around. I looked out the window. Lucy was still standing there. We began to head back up the hill towards Kovalam. I didn’t talk too much on the way. I thought about Lucy, her holiday, her life, and her husband. Such a nice lady all alone at that resort in South India as her husband works back in Tokyo. I could just picture her waiting for her Yoga class each morning - a private session with an Indian man on the deck by the pool. I guess that Lucy got used to that way of life but it seems like something that one should really not get used to. Well, people always do seem to find ways to cope.
I’m sure that Lucy treats many people to lunch on her holidays.
October 2001, India