…Stole an Irishman’s Shorts

Broome, Western Australia – the gateway to the Kimberly region and becoming an accidental clothing-thief.

After months of glorious cloudless skies, balmy nights, and ‘spontaneous’ beach parties (they cropped up every single Saturday night), my days in Broome have all blended together with a few outstanding bits. One big warm bowl of happy memories.

We elected our designated driveer (poor Collin, it was his turn every week because no one else had a car) and joined the convoy down to Gantheaume Point. The “locals beach” it was called in town. We felt rebellious for being there, a bunch of transient backpackers. A line of beat up old vehicles stretched down the sand, illuminated like a parking lot by the full moon. The ancient Volkswagen we rolled in on parked at the end of the line, hugging close to the dunes. We had to park at a slight downhill because the decrepit Kombi needed a push to start.

A pit was dug, and bonfire was lit. The station wagon with the best sound system parked just beyond the ring of light thrown by the massive flames, throwing open their doors to give the kids something to dance to. Traditional didgeridoo playing backed up by house beats. Anywhere else the music would have been jarring, offensive. Here it seemed to get inside everybody and force them to feel it.

The dancing got a bit tired, although some people continued almost until daylight. My hostel-mates and a few others retreated to our van at the end of the line. Sweat and condensation from the bottles caked the sand onto us until the beers became gritty. A little night-time swim was in order to rinse off.

Laughing and shouting about nothing, we ran toward the ocean. Broome sees one of the biggest tides in the world, and the ocean felt like it was hours away. We stripped down to our underwear as we ran, stumbling over ourselves, getting sand everywhere. Halfway there, another friend was parked, another station wagon. A huge bull-bar was on the front end. We hung our clothes on it and kept running.

The Indian Ocean felt like a bath tub. All around me people were laughing, splashing in the waist-deep water, engaging in deep conversation or a bit of flirtation. I just floated on the gentle waves, looking up at the spotlight-bright moon, soaking it all in.

No one stayed in the water too long. Someone mentioned the word “crocodile”, and despite it being the wrong season for them, we all shrieked bolted for shore.

A small hiccup. Our buddy from halfway down the beach had driven, taking all our clothes with them. Dripping, but drying quickly in the hot night, our group walked back to the party in our underwear. I’ve never enjoyed being an exhibitionist, and felt exposed, despite so many around us also in their bathing suits or underwear.

Collin had a spare shirt in his van for me. It fit like an oversized dress. A lovely Irish boy who had been swimming with us offered me his shorts. Not the ones off his legs, but a spare pair from his car. They were a muddy olive green with bright orange flowers, only a little bit crunchy (I didn’t ask why). I took him up on the offer.

Although I didn’t look out of place in my massive t-shirt and ridiculous boy’s board shorts, I was happy to not wander the party in my underwear. I never exchanged names with this guy, as happens so often at parties, but he had thick black hair, a scruffy backpacker beard, and his eyes seemed extra-green in the moonlight (although that could’ve been the beer).

The party started breaking up. A few of us piled into the van. The boys gave it a push-start down the sand, and we headed back to the hostel. Of course not without a cursory McDonald’s stop first. Our hostel had a strict no-noise policy after 11pm, so we stopped at a public picnic spot to eat. Sitting there already was another friend, also making a post-party snack stop.

She looked at us laughing, my mismatched-outfit of boy’s clothes and another friend still in just his boxers, “I think I have your clothes”. She pulled out our missing wardrobe out of her car. She’d been following the mid-beach station wagon back to the road, saw everything fall off on a bumpy section of road, and figured someone must be missing them.

I kept those shorts for weeks. In my head, that boy was a bit of a knight in shining armour, and I wanted to return them to him. But we never crossed paths at a beach party again. Those shorts stayed crunchy no matter how many times I washed the, I had to let them go. Naturally, I ran into him the next week at a pub.

We instantly remembered each other as “that girl who lost her shorts!” and, “that guy who gave me his shorts!”. I thanked him again for loaning out his wardrobe and bought him a drink, lamenting the fact that I no longer had them to return.

He was getting rid of them anyway, and was happy to see them go to a good cause. We reminisced about the full moon party and shared a dance or two.

Again, we didn’t exchange names. While I went to get a drink, and he headed out for a smoke, we lost each other. I never saw him again. But that dark-haired, green-eyed stranger will always stand out as a guy who was nothing but a solid gentleman to a girl with no pants (and that’s pretty uncommon).

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