ON WATER: Victoria Adukwei Bulley in The White Review

The beaches of Benin are empty. From Cotonou to Ouidah. I have never seen beaches so empty before. From the windows of our minivan, the coastline is a wide expanse of sand beginning just beyond the road, on and on, and then water. Palm trees here and there, but emptiness, mostly. Nobody, no livestock, just sand. As for us, we are eight women and we have just arrived. Three of us – myself included – flew in from London, with the five others coming in from the States. All of us have flown in from winter. It is January, and on our first full day together, our bare skin re-colouring in the light, we ask the driver to take us to a restaurant for lunch. We are seeking the kind of seafood of which we are all so starved, and when our dishes arrive they don’t disappoint. Each platter careens with fried plantain, grilled fish, yam, rice, and prawns so large they’re not prawns any more but gambas, instead. Gambas or langoustines or crayfish or crawfish, depending on which of us is speaking, or who cares to know the difference. Whatever any of it is called, we resolve that we would like to return to eat it again, here, at this terraced balcony from which we watch the sea. The restaurant sits on a beach that is vacant as far as our sight can reach. There is a mutedness to the expanse of the sand, and though it looks no different now than it would at any other time, the staff tell us that yesterday a boy drowned nearby.

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