It’s been a week and she’s been out diving every day. Of course. There is no such thing as a weekend for her. It’s the same routine, except yesterday, when a trawler came by. It came within about a hundred feet of shore and she swam out to it, with her mask on, her net and knife in one hand. It hardly needs saying that she is an excellent swimmer. She practically lives in the water. There were about fifteen men waiting as she climbed on board. As she bent over the gunwale to arrange her rope she braced herself by extending one bare foot way over to one side. Then she bent down over the water to arrange the knot. Her buttocks were spread in this position and she must have been displaying a clear view of her anus to the men, some of whom looked, others were looking elsewhere. The contrast between her nude and totally exposed body and the fully clothed men was never sharper. The rest of the hour the men lowered their nets over one side of the boat while she did dives over the other side. The men caught lots of fish but I imagine they were not as valuable as the treasures she was harvesting with her knife.
I figured this time of week is when she goes to town so today I went down again. Sure enough, she was there, without clothes or shoes, just her nude body and her purse/mask, ordering some fried clams, taking money out of the mask to pay for them. She walked down the street, looking at the open stalls. Then she went further, to the storefronts.
I’m noticing a few things. She seems sad. She never smiles. And I notice something else. She’s always alone, and no one talks to her. She seems to have no friends or acquaintances. I get the sense the people are deliberately ignoring her. Japanese culture is very conservative and they might be offended by her nudity. Like I noted, she doesn’t have to be naked in town, just to dive. She’s being deliberately transgressive for some reason.
I manage to wind my way around the side street and come up near her at the storefronts. There’s a bench there, and I buy a soda and pretend to relax. In fact I’m observing her closely as she looks into a store window.
I count the ways she is unique here. She doesn’t wear clothes or shoes. She has no friends or acquaintances. She’s the only Ama. Her skin is dark, and theirs is pale. And there’s something else about her -- I don’t want to use the word “savage”, but she seems outside their “civilization”. Her bare body itself seems like a rebuke, or an intrusion, into this modest, conservative culture. To begin with, in a country of notoriously flat-chested women, her breasts are gigantic, standing clearly out from her body, not sagging despite the lack of a bra. Maybe the cold air does it, or the salt sea water tightens her skin. They are even browner than the rest of her, with chocolate-colored nipples, big and dark and hard, thrusting out in front. The sun and the wind and the cold and the water have toughened them, coarsened them, enlarged them, as if they are savagely poking into the eyes of the soft, pale, civilized, docile townsfolk.
Also I notice her body hair. On her head her hair is tied back in a knot without the aid of any string. Her pubic hair is very “bushy” (sorry, I can’t think of any other word -- I don’t have an internet thesaurus handy). It sticks out; I’d call it “fluffy” if it weren’t so gritty with sea salt. Being exposed to the open air all the time must make it grow. Her armpit hair is so abundant that I can see wisps of it sticking out even though her arms are at her sides. She also has noticeable leg hair, unshaved, and a light covering of hair on her arms, almost as florid as a man’s. Her feet are tough and broad, strong toes spread out, toes that help her perch on rocks and gunwales. It hardly needs saying that her fingernails and toenails are unpainted. They seem not clipped but filed down as if she uses a pumice stone.
Her butt cheeks are taut, muscled, as are her shoulders. I wouldn’t call her “bulky”, but she is a big woman, at least by Japanese standards.
A chill breeze brushes over me and I shiver. Despite her no doubt thorough conditioning I see that it affects her too. Goose bumps rise on her butt, on her shoulders. And on her breasts, and around her nipples. I’m pretty sure I see her shiver like me, though I get the feeling she’s trying to suppress it.
I suddenly realize what she has been looking at. It’s a clothing store, and her eyes have been caressing the warm sweaters in the storefront, fondling the fluffy blouses, nuzzling into the gloves and the leather boots. Her eyes seem to be longing for them. A horrible thought hits me. Maybe she’s not allowed to ever wear clothes!