I did, only to wish that I hadn’t. The last thing one should gaze into from Little Corn Island is a full inbox. I shut the hotel laptop and drifted back toward the dinner table, where everyone was talking scuba. Corn Island travelers chat about diving conditions the way bankers discuss stocks — everything here hinges on the clarity of the sea. A non-diver, I couldn’t get into it, so I wandered off into the inky dark toward my abode, intent on exploring Little Corn first thing in the morning.
It’s early — profanely early — when I step outside. With neither a watch nor a phone, I read the only available time clues: bare feet dangling from hammocks, and a few toes peeking out from shored boats. It’s the crack of dawn on Little Corn Island.
Harris is the first alert person I meet. An older man with the muscles of a sailor, Harris is scraping the scales off a yellowtail snapper, as the waves curl toward the sand just behind him. A native of the island, Harris assures me that I’ve come to the better Corn. Why? “Children can run around without the scare of cars.”
The foot traffic is gentle as I step back onto the path, and without meaning or trying, I merge with Ronald and Richard.
Both 21, both wearing baggy jeans to their shins, and both members of an Afro-Caribbean group called Garifuna, Ronald and Richard could pass for twins. Their native language, a mix of Arawak, Carib, English, French and Spanish, speaks to how many cultures fused along the Atlantic coast of Central America. It’s dizzying to keep up with these polylingual young men. Ronald and Richard salute passersby in Creole (“Yow bigs!”), echo back a few holas, and flip between singing American rap, Latino pop and Bob Marley like a radio on scan.
There’s something familiar about my dynamic with these two, and I put my finger on it only after we’ve wedged through barbed wire fences, crossed a cattle pasture, and lobbed bruised mangoes up at a tree until it gave us the fresh ones, and we’re standing below a lighthouse that Ronald and Richard gently dare me to climb. Childhood: It all reminds me an awful lot of life at age 11. Maybe that’s the sort of paradise I’m in the mood for, more than the Eden of escape, the one that loops you back to a simpler, playful time.