The flabby mess of a man trudged out of the sparkling lagoon like a lazy yeti loping through thick forest undergrowth. His head was cleanly shaved, his back was carpeted in a fine layer of fuzzy black moss. Sagging love handles drooped indifferently over his tiny swimsuit, a flesh-colored piece of fabric that stopped mid-thigh and clung tightly—much, much too tightly—to a paunchy buttocks defined in horrific detail.
His dimure Russian princess watched expectedly from the bathwater-warm water as he shook himself dry, like a dog, and reached for his camera. He attached the wide-angle lens. A glorious spectacle, shot on location at the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, was about to begin for a captive audience comprised of two gawking couples and me, an unassuming voyeur poorly disguising his delight and disgust behind a pair of aviators and a copy of Theroux’s Great Railway Bazaar.
With pixie-sized steps she slowly, wistfully, drags her feet across the coral-strewn sand, a beauty slowing marching towards the beast, eyes glazed and empty as if in trance. Her bleached-blond hair is pulled back into a bun, her sunglasses hang low on the crown of her nose. She hikes her black-and-white, leopard-print bikini bottom higher up over the curves of her bony hips, then stares down at her chest and shakes her shoulders from side to side until she’s satisfied that the shimmering gold sequins that hang from her necklace are sitting just right.
The stage is set. Everything is in its right place. Lights, camera, action!
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Twenty minutes before the show began the star performers were swimming about 50 feet from the lagoon’s shore. The water was about shoulder-level high when she stopped floating and stood up. Like a walrus in heat, he snorkeled in her direction until his forehead was suggestively pressed again her stomach. He stayed there for a few minutes; she giggled, then laughed, as his hands, hidden below the surface, groped… the sandy bottom in search of colorful sea shells.
Ten minutes to go. The snorkeling gear has been abandoned as they wade towards the thatched-roof bungalows that stand in rows atop stilts of cement. A tall, lean Japanese man walks out onto his deck in a white bathrobe and white slippers, slowly sipping a cup of coffee as he pensively looks out on the spectacular horizon. All around him, around me, around the other couples, is the hypnotic natural beauty of the Maldives.
If he looks down and peers through the cracks of the bungalow’s wooden floorboards, however, he’ll see another sight: a burly man and a dimunitive woman, wrapped atop one another like a pig in a blanket, lips locked in sloppy soft-porn passion.
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She lays down on the shore, undoes her bun, and flips her hair back once, twice, a third time before tying it back up again. (Snap, snap, snap) Back precisely arched and hands firmly planted in the sand, as if she’s practiced for this moment for months, she bends her knees and throws her head back as he quickly circles and crouches like a photographer shooting the cover girl of next year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.
Snap, snap, snap. Click, click, click.
He motions; she arches her back even further. He motions again, this time towards the water, so she stands up and slowly picks her way back into the lagoon. Suddenly, dramatically, she stops and pirouettes (snap snap snap) to face his camera, neck craned, chin up, arms raised like a triumphant ice dancer bowing to the crowd at the end of a gold-medal routine.
The bizarre water routine goes on for about 5 minutes (or, roughly, 100 photos) before she makes her way back onto the shore for the dramatic curtain call: on all fours now, she’s vamping her way through the sand like Tawny Kitaen crawling across the hood of David Coverdale’s Jaguar in “Here I Go Again”. Here’s a picture set to show the grandkids one day!
Snap, snap, snap, click, click, click, snap, snap, snap.
He hands the camera over and dutifully marches into the water himself, chest puffed out like a 1920s strongman and that teensy-tiny, flesh-colored swimsuit of his further disappearing into the nebulous void of his crack. He poses for a few shots before clamboring out onto a 30-foot long cement platform that juts out into the water. She assumes the position on the sand, he carefully adjusts the lens, then starts the timer and jumps down next to her for a couple’s session.
Here they are casually laying side by side on the beach, gazing back up at their camera without a trace of ironic self-awareness creeping across their stoic expressions. There they are sitting back to back, elbows on knees like Rodin’s Thinker. Here now they’re standing, his meaty slabs of arm draped over and squeezing her like an infant suffocating its favorite teddy bear.
Finally, the grand finale: laying shoulder to shoulder on their stomachs, they turn their heads to face one another, lean in, and hold an extended kiss, one which starts innocently enough but quickly devolves into a full-blown makeout session. I’d be appalled if I wasn’t so mesmerized by the absurdity of it all.
Bravo, guys, bravo. Encore! Encore!
And we got one.
Later that night, as we headed back to our room after a few mugs of Tiger beer at the resort bar, we spot our two friends near the pool, which is fed by a man-made waterfall and illuminated at night by a few pairs of underwater lights. She’s traded her leopard-print bikini for a tightly fitted hot-pink dress, but is posing and preening and arching and vamping just as she was on the beach.
He casts a nearly imperceptible, mostly indifferent glance our way as we walk by, then gets back to the business of the photo shoot. It looks like he’s waiting on his camera flash to recharge; I don’t have my camera with me this time.
I look down at my watch.