It was starting.
Cold January winds chased each other over the masts, desperately trying to liberate the tied-up sails. But to no avail. The colored faces of the flags danced on an unseen floor, moving to the unpredictable rhythm of the cloudy afternoon that played to the tune of rain. It was this music that welcomed the guests on to the ship.
Even from afar, the sailor could hear them.
Laughter and wonder marched from the cement port. The planks bounced with foreign feet. Decades-old wooden panels creaked. And cold steel warmed and paint flaked to the touch of the visitors. He gazed at them from the other side of the shield, the door that kept him invisible from the strangers who have now boarded their vessel, the Sedov.
Skin like that of hot cocoa kissed by fresh, warm milk with eyes shaped like that of almonds. They all came in many shapes and sizes but none ever stood as tall as he. Or so he thought. He would’ve kept to his refuge but his officer called. There were things to be done, whether or not there were visitors among them.
He set to work.
With all of the foreigners on board, daily tasks became unusual. There were more spots to be avoided, unless one wanted to be cornered for interviews or captured by the cameras. He was doing a good job not getting caught. Yet, something told him that he had not escaped someone’s gaze. But whose, he could not tell. There were too many pairs of eyes on the ship. And ones that he was not familiar with.
Brisk breeze blew through his shirt. Typically, he wouldn’t mind it. In fact, he was—in a way—used to it. But in this land, it seemed to have a different brush, like the touch of a strange hand on his. From the corner of his eye, he could see stares directed at him. Maybe he shouldn’t have worn the sleeveless shirt. It was attracting too much attention. Flashes were distracting. Giggles echoed. There weren’t many of them but it sounded like there was a whole army on board.
Laying the ropes on the floor, he stood with the rest of the men.
Of course everything here would be an attraction. The Filipinos may be the foreigners on the ship but the Sedov and its crew were the strangers on the island. And they were trying to understand each other in the way that only outsiders could do: by watching.