Later that week we were sitting in a bar in Esperanza…
…when a couple of twenty-somethings parked themselves next to us and struck up a conversation. Married for about a year, Colin and Denise had come to Vieques for their long-postponed honeymoon.
“You have a house here?” exclaimed Colin. “You dudes are effing lucky!” His eyes swept from Michael to me.
We admitted that we considered ourselves pretty fortunate.
Colin asked lots of questions: Where could they get the absolute best food on the island? Which was our favorite beach? What was the biggest iguana we’d ever seen?
We answered as best we could. (And yes, we told him about the Stegosaurus-sized iguana we’d encountered on our first visit to the island.)
And then he asked: “What’s the biobay like?”
Denise, who had remained quiet for most of the conversation, spoke up now. “You’ve never done the biobay, have you?”
Her question was good-natured, but seasoned with a pinch of mischief.
Michael sighed. “Not so much.”
“We’ve always meant to, but there’s never enough time,” I complained.
A brief silence followed. “That’s pretty lame,” Denise threw back.
We all laughed uneasily.
“Wanna go with us?” Colin asked.
Michael looked at me uncertainly.
It wasn’t as if we’d deliberately avoided the bioluminescent bay. After all, many people considered the glowing properties of the bay a “life-altering” experience. And if the experts were right, postponing our visit to the biobay too much longer might not be such a good idea. There was evidence that this natural wonder was ecologically endangered and could simply cease to exist in the not-too-distant future.
In layman’s terms, the bay’s luminescence is generated when the microorganisms inhabiting its waters are disturbed by movement. The water looks dark until you jump in, at which point the microorganisms begin to glow, outlining your body with an eerie blue-green light. The faster you move, the brighter the glow. In terms of pay-off, you definitely get a very big bang for your buck.
Although this phenomenon exists elsewhere in the world, most bioluminescent bays have been partially—and in some extreme cases completely—destroyed by pollution. Vieques’ Puerto Mosquito is the brightest surviving bay of its kind in the world.
Which is another way of saying it was truly disgraceful we’d never been.
Colin and Denise, our new best friends, followed up with a phone call the next day. This was both surprising and slightly dismaying. In effect, they’d called our bluff.
We met up that night at the company’s “base camp,” a slightly dilapidated building on Route 996 near Esperanza.
Oddly enough, Colin and Denise were as delightful sober as they were tipsy. They seemed genuinely excited that we had come, which of course made us feel glad, in turn, that we’d made the effort.
“So it took a couple of strangers to get you off your butts,” Denise remarked in her quiet way. It was if she were delivering the closing argument of a criminal prosecution, though in the nicest way possible.
“That’s true,” Michael said without missing a beat. “Our real friends couldn’t possibly have convinced us to do this.”
Colin pronounced Michael “a stitch.”
I told him he didn’t know the half of it.
And with that, the games began.