Me & E. It took three days for us to know each other’s secrets, but not yet the secret idiosyncrasies that are unconscious and observable.
There weren’t a lot of places to go, but we managed, splitting our errands across hot afternoons, and showering at 2 PM sharp, when it was hottest, by crawling over the ledge of the neighboring ship and dipping amputated plastic jugs into the well full of fresh water that was cut into the steel of their hull. We bathed fully clothed because it was a strictly Muslim neighborhood, except on the days when the ferry would come in next door, carrying Jihadist refugees from the Philippines, and then we’d skip bathing altogether, closing the boat hatches and watching the crowds mill violently around the customs desk, turbulent and scorned. Then the nearby fishermen, like brothers, would limp lazily across our deck, napping and smoking in turns, protecting us discreetly.
We stopped counting ringgit at meals, just threw 5’s and 10’s in like professional betters. Always 50-50. The waiter’s didn’t keep bills, just counted empty plates at the end of the night. Sometimes we’d have three or four, but after a really long day, we’d take over the table behind us, plastic trays gathering in snowy garbage drifts. There wasn’t any booze at the local taverns, but JoJo, our favorite, who was only 24 and thought we were crazy, would secret us vodka in bottles of water.
On the hot, still mornings it was too much energy to row into dock and brave the falling wharf for instant coffee and chocolate buns, so we’d put the kettle on to soak our own grounds, cut smiles of pineapple, and eat them on the deck, licking sticky from our fingers and ignoring the riff-raff.