The Lone Pandanus

Words || Douglas Whyte

He pushes the brakes. The beach curves like a fingernail, ghostlike into the pre-dawn distance. He scans the water like an old lifeguard. I know what he’s looking for. One of those deep blue gutters, choppy on the surface, swirling underneath. Unsatisfied, he moves on.  

We’ll head to the Lone Pandanus, he says. I nod, listening to the ancient Land Cruiser thrum in tune to the crumbling waves. He tells me again it’s the only pandanus on the island. Again, he tells me it’s one of the longest beaches in Australia. There’s always a good gutter in front of the Lone Pandanus, I say, taking the next sentence out of his mouth. He scans me like I’m a body of water. His strange attempt at a smile reveals a deeper complication of wrinkles than I remember.

After a while, we come to another stop. I look through his window to the dunes. Sure enough, the tree stands thick and lonely against the shrub, an unlikely beacon for the emotionally adrift. We scrutinise it like it’s an artwork. I think about where it came from and the year it was created. How perfect the collaboration must have been between wind and tide, carrying its seed from the mainland and rushing it up onto the dunes. To here, of all places.

Couple of throws, he says. I nod again and we get out of the car. We rig up together, slipping line through loops, connecting sinkers with swivels, weaving worms around hooks. The rhythm is familiar, robotic. He waits until I’ve finished to ask me, tentatively, how long I’ll stay this time. I have to be back home tomorrow, I tell him. He says he’ll meet me down by the shore.

I watch him shuffle towards the water, turning his head back every now and then to make sure he’s in line with the pandanus, before stepping into the sea. He arches his rod back in one graceful motion, and in that tiny yet infinite moment before launch, I think of all the things that have been swept away.