"You cannot help but fall in love with the island," they say. "The sand feels amazing," they say. "A poor man can retire rich here," they say. They say that it's rough around the edges but the people are nice. They fill the island with promises and gold spills from their mouths. They pay each other's debts and call it love.
The island is described as harshest of the archipelago. They call it cold. In truth it has only been bent to the whims of the wind. The island meets expectation again and again and after a time no one expects anything different. The island speaks only for others and not for itself.
Tsimis was one island until the sky broke it in half. Now people gather on newly formed beaches on either side. They only see the specks of human forms in the distance. They call out to each other and their words are sheparded back and forth by the wind. The wind loves Tsimis, and its people love the wind in return, even when it lies.
All babies born here are called Baby, because no one is born with a name. They are called Baby until they become people. Then they are appointed, or gifted, or burdened with a name. Sometimes they choose. Sometimes they change. Many people are still called Baby because they don't care to be called anything else.
It is and island filled with smoke. The smoke of whitefish and cooking rice and the smoke of suckling pig and roasted flesh and cigarettes and the smoke of burning banana leaves and garbage. There is only one fire, and always something to burn.
A man from the Sea washed up on the sand. A woman from the Land found him and bathed him in the river Bao. They ate rice together. The Sea lashed out at the Land and bit into its flesh. The man and the woman continue to wash hands and share food. They bear children and sing karaoke and cook desserts, all despite the torments of the raging Sea.
A shattered glass. A bird in the home. A door left unlocked or a window ajar. A bed unmade. A mother denied. A lie discovered. "There's only trouble here," they say, "nako, ay nako, nako."
The great storm Baguio spat onto the islands and Maliit was born. After that storm homes needed rebuilt and crops were flooded, though no one died. Long after Baguio had passed a group of children swam to to Maliit to jump off its perfectly sized peaks. The island met them well, happy to have been found, and the children jumped into the sea again and again.
"Bah-bah-eh, not bay-bee." The island speaks in a chorus. Others call it the Island of Women because they do not understand. They do not understand many voices that speak as one, nor the shapeshifters who do not decieve but only change. They do not understand those who know their way home through the thick jungle and heavy, humid darkness. They do not understand how the island transforms and creates within itself. They do not understand and so they call it Women.
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