We were driving down the coast with two girls who had never seen the island before. It was late in the day and we had to get back to town soon to catch connecting rides, but all the same, we asked our driver to stop at Praia Frances (French Beach) so the girls could get out and look.
Praia Frances is an odd beach. You can't see it until you're right next to it because, at the last minute, just before you hit the water's edge, the rocky coast drops out a meter or two below you, forming a minor cliff. Only in the small space below and beyond the cliff do you encounter fine black sand, reaching out a short distance and then disappearing again under the waves.
The cliff overhangs the rear of the beach and juts out into mini-peninsulas every 10 to 20 meters, creating a series of horseshoe-shaped semi-self-contained coves. This is important.
As we walked out onto one of those peninsulas, I looked down into the adjacent cove. In the back, nestled under the lip of the cliff, I discerned a pair of feet in flip flops. And then another foot wearing a different flip flop. And then movement — slow, rhythmic, circular movement.
At first I didn't believe what I thought I was seeing. Where'd they come from? Hadn't they certainly heard us, or at least felt our car rumbling to a halt on the ground above them? If so, shouldn't they be scrambling to put clothes on? As I turned to one of my friends, my eyes answered my own first question: there was a car parked right next to ours. I just hadn't noticed it.
I asked my friend: "Are they having sex down there?"
He walked out towards the sea for a better view and looked where I had looked. Then we both turned, incredulous, to a Cape Verdean who was with us. He didn't understand our English, but he knew what we were saying, because he just gave a wry smile and nodded in confirmation.
Snuffing my voyeuristic impulse to get a better view myself, I turned my attention to the rest of our group, who had ventured much further out on the peninsula (where they could potentially see deeper into the cove) but were — like normal people — still focused more on the ocean than on the coast.
Then it happened.
One of the girls — the one that has only been in Cape Verde for a week — turned to face the flip-flopped feet. Except from where she stood, she must have been able to see not just the feet, but everything from head to toe (and everything in between). Immediately, her eyes lit up, she gasped, she covered her mouth with her hand, and then she struggled to stifle her giggling as she walked briskly out of the line of sight.
Of course, after that, everyone else had to look too. But M—'s reaction was the best. The sight of sex made her feel the way I think sex should: she laughed like a child, and then she felt happy, knowing, perhaps, that life is a pretty sweet gift even if we only get one.