Nothing to do but lounge outside the cabana. Mashallah. What luxury! A minute later, unsure what to do next, I turn on my phone and send you a message. Guess what I’m doing? Sating this impulse, I am able to put my phone away and return to the moment.
The shisha tender interrupts my reverie. Excuse me, sir, good? He inquires about my coals. I motion for him to replace them. He grabs the spent embers with a pair of tongs and places them into the thurible that he is carrying. He spins the vessel. Centrifugal force holds the coals in the bowl as air rushes over them, creating orange meteors. After several orbits, the tender selects four pieces of the pyre and rests them atop the burner of my hookah. Shokrun! Afwan!
Ping! You message me back. What are you doing? I smile, and the crow’s feet reveal on my face. I snap a picture of my beachside hookah to tease you as I smoke and relax like a pasha. A moment later, you reply simply with Enjoy! 😛 I send a message asking about your day and put my phone away.
Noor introduces the other wading girls, her cousins, to Muhannad. He politely says hello to all of them, but his gaze always returns to her—even though, in my opinion, she isn’t the prettiest of the nymphs. Noor says that she and her cousins are going speedboating, but if Muhannad can wait for them to return, then she promises to go for a swim with him. He obliges and reclines on a lounge chair gazing patiently out of the cove.
I pull out my phone to see if you have messaged me back. Nothing. Instead, I read a clickbait article about an Indian toilet attendant who lives in a room within the public bathroom that he oversees and cleans. There is a picture of him in his tiny cluttered room adjacent to the stalls. He is kneading dough in a plastic bowl. I consider the karmic imbalance that would result in a person living in a bathroom in India and another lounging on a beach in Oman.
From a precipice near the inlet, a plover intently watches the fish hunt. He waits for the school as it races frantically underneath him. Suddenly, he stabs the surface of the water with his beak and removes a meal from the mayhem. He repositions the fluttering fish in his beak before finding the optimum angle to swallow his supper. One by one the hapless shoal is being devoured by a tandem of mouths.
The ice in my hookah tray melts into a puddle as the ocean water continues to climb up to the tideline on the cove wall. Noor returns, and Muhannad joins her in the water; they swim a gyre around each other. The cunning plover and predatory fish continue to feed on the dwindling school of feeder fish. I check my phone, but no response. I puff on the shisha, a slight pang of unease mingles with the smoke in my tightened chest. I intend to tip Farouk 1 RO so that he might eat another meal, today or tomorrow, but he is nowhere to be found. So, I simply pay my bill and leave the Muscat beach resort, trying to navigate the turns and bends that led me here.