The Caribbean is one of those corners on this beautiful planet that can at one moment satisfy all the senses.
The turquoise waters that delude your eyes into thinking you’ve inhabited a postcard, or tantalise your nostrils with their sweet ocean air.
The taste of a freshly retrieved coconut, its milk candied yet refreshingly cooling.
The comforting sun, hugging your skin in a warm embrace while the seductive rhythm of salsa pervades your ears.
All at once, my senses tingle with delight. Paradise, what more could a man need?
Just as pure bliss approaches, what do I see but a fabled Columbian beauty begin to dance to salsa. The beat is intoxicating, and it demands a full-bodied, full-flavoured response.
As her curvaceous hips sway to the music, her dancing feet turning her voluptuous body in my direction, it becomes apparent that true bliss might require a companion.
Such was the thought process that compelled me to go spin a few lines of my newly acquired Spanish – courtesy of Duolingo – to this delightful diva that had me, in truth, perplexed at my newfound insatiability.
Without a sinister motive, merely a foreigner keen to taste the local fruits of the land, one might say, I approached.
Perhaps it was the yellow Hawaiian shirt I was wearing, or the leather thongs I affectionately referred to as ‘Jesus sandals’, because it certainly couldn’t have been my Spanish. Lo and behold, Maria (I guess my Spanish was sophisticated enough that I understood her name) seemed to bite back!
‘Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!’ I thought to myself. ‘Nothing short of God’s hand could have a woman as beautiful as Maria interested in a guy like me.’ Having just recently arrived in the tropics, I couldn’t believe my luck.
I pressed on with what little Spanish Duolingo had instilled in me, but very soon I found my vocabulary exhausted, with only the translations of fruits on the tip of my tongue.
Did she want some strawberry ice cream? No, no, she was quite fine, thank you. Alas, I was stuck.
So, in a dash of courage and with one final stroke of Spanish, I asked her if she would join me at my apartment for dinner. I waited attentively for her reply, admiring this work of beauty.
Her response was direct, presumptive, and overly flirtatious. Tick, tick, tick. But my Lord, no amount of brotherly advice or dating history had prepared me for it.
She broke her sensuous Spanish and, looking me in the eye through her crumbled English, spoke the words: ‘You want fucky-fucky?’
Complete and utter devastation flowed through my body as my blood froze cold, replacing the fiery feeling of our previous flirtations.
Did I mishear? Did she misspeak?
After all, it was the first English she had attempted in our conversation. I'm ashamed to admit that I did beg her pardon and invite her to try again, only to have my fear confirmed. My beautiful Maria was a sex-worker.
The love story that beckoned was swiftly brought to an abrupt and unjust close. I explained to Maria that, by no part a reflection of her character, I must adjourn our lovely conversation. It was a moral standpoint of mine that disallowed our involvement together.
Star-crossed lovers, a modern day Romeo and Juliet, the two of us were.
Days passed. But the Caribbean sun didn't burn so bright after my run-in with Maria.
Instead of staring through the swaying palm trees onto the glistening ocean, the breeze was too strong and the trees whipped violently to and fro over murky grey water.
Instead of the ocean’s salty aroma, my nostrils were bombarded with grains of sand the winds had stirred. The Caribbean had suddenly lost its appeal, and only the prospect of piña coladas raised my spirits.
Soon after (about the time of a dozen piña coladas entering the system), my spirits were firmly elevated on the roof and the Caribbean started to glow with its own luminescence again.
‘Tonight,’ I resolved, ‘I will meet another lady of the Caribbean!’
At that moment, I became aware that I was both at a rooftop bar overlooking the bay and that there were no ladies present; a bittersweet realisation. I decided to sit patiently with my beverage.
The barman and I had developed something of a kinship over the past few days while I had been in town, and I decided to ask him what he thought about my encounter with Maria.
After a lengthy explanation of Maria’s great beauty and our meeting, he gazed at me seemingly dumbfounded.
Why would I not take Maria back to my apartment, if she was as beautiful as I allege?
It was not Maria’s beauty that was in question however, but rather that I was overwhelmed with unease about paying for sex.
‘Paying for sex?’ he cried out. ‘You always pay for sex. It doesn’t matter if it’s with a prostitute or not. The prostitute and the girlfriend, they both want your money.’
Having never really considered the arguments in favour of sex labour, I listened without interrupting. At the very least, this ought to be interesting.
‘The prostitute and the girlfriend, they both want your money. But the girlfriend you must keep happy, and the prostitute you must only pay. If you decide to have the girlfriend you must keep her smiling; buy her the manicure, the house, the car and, soon enough, a ring on those pretty fingers you helped keep clean. More money than the price of Maria, no?’
‘But isn’t that the problem, right there?’ I reply. ‘Maria is not a number, or a price. And despite her being good looking, she is more than that, too. She’s a human, with a brain and thoughts and feelings just like you or I, and surely it’s wrong to pay her for sex and keep her in that situation? You and I wouldn’t be happy.’
‘Eh, you wait ‘til your girlfriend steals your watch! You’ll think differently then, amigo.’ He casually brushes off, disinterested in the conversation suddenly.
A lady has entered, strikingly gorgeous, her beauty matched only by the backdrop of the rolling cliffs enclosing the Caribbean sea behind her.
Were my concerns out of place? My mind began to deliberate over the ethicality of the sex-trade. Maybe my moral compass was out of whack, and this sexual freedom enjoyed in Latin America was to be celebrated, not indicted.
Perhaps it’s an element of female empowerment. As much as I wanted to look at it in this way, it seemed that the principle of paying for sex was wayward despite its entrenchment in history. The blasé casualness that consumed the buyers and the sellers of this commodity haunted me.
Most of all, I couldn’t stop imagining the devastating circumstances that force someone into selling their body. To condone and understand is one thing; to perpetuate and fuel this social oddity seemed on the wrong side of the line.
With another drink, and swollen drunken bravado, my attention turned to the lady who had taken a seat behind me. Something told me that her eyes were firmly focused on the back of my head, so, determined to prove my bartender wrong, I turned to face her.
Our eyes meet as I sit at her table and offer her a refreshment. Her piercing gaze triggers the butterflies to circle in my stomach. She opens her mouth and says:
‘You want fucky-fucky?’
Lewis Fisher is the kind of guy that’s better friends with your mum than you. And this time, its personal. Between digressing into playful quodlibets and a yearning ambition to integrate cheese onto every meal, you’ll find him in a dressing gown and slippers multi-screening away. Among all this Lewis finds time to pen down his inner monologue and provide an integral source of editing others at Lucifer's Monocle.