We set down in the lagoon and taxied over to the beach. As before, a few of the men came out to greet us. The crowd, like so many we'd seen, wore modern clothes, t-shirt and shorts. They waved to us as we disembarked from our plane.
"I'll talk to them," Johnny said. He took off his sunglasses and put on his plastic smile. "Go make us look convincing."
Johnny walked over to the men, waving. They were talking in an instant, Johnny gesturing calmly, making a point of it to look at everyone, speak to everyone. As usual, I stood apart from them with my camera out in front of me, pretending to take pictures. I really did take a few, mementos of the immense natural beauty of the tropics. It's amazing that one could get bored with beauty like that, but I had already. Still, I knew that I would appreciate it later, when it was cold outside and I was wet from snow.
So I took more pictures, absent-mindedly, trying my best to seem like a real reporter, remembering here and there to write something down in my notebook, which I nearly lost in the water. I grabbed it just in time, and it opened to the page where I kept my picture of Johnny and his family. It was a professional photo. Johnny with his arms around his wife, and her holding the baby, all three dressed well and scrubbed to perfection. It was actually the wife who'd sent the picture to me, with a polite note, the details of which I'd forgotten. The wife, so horribly pretty, with her heart-shaped face and laughing eyes.
I was grateful to her, despite my intense envy. She'd included me in their life with this friendly gesture, which she had no obligation to do. We had never met. But the picture was all I'd had of Johnny for so long, and meager as it was, I was happy to accept it. It was my treasure.