The Lonely Island of Nauru

Flag of Nauru

He smiled as the salty water of the sea sprayed against his face. The bow crashed headlong into the gentle waves of the South Pacific; it was one of the few times that the ocean was actually earning its rather erroneous name. He checked his watch, then glanced at the sun high overhead, and felt confident he would make the island before nightfall.

It was a trek he made regularly, every seven months or so. Crossing the Pacific was never an easy task, and traveling nearly seven thousand miles alone bordered on perilous. But he relished the challenge, and loved the solitude even more. He was always surrounded by the clamor of people, although he was not particularly close with anyone. It felt nice to be away from the noise.

He’d been sailing to Nauru since the late 80’s. It was tiny, a small speck in the middle of the Pacific, only eight square miles in total. It was the third smallest country on earth, behind only the Vatican and Monaco. At one point, the island nation had been wealthy and vibrant. Its wealth had been built on its phosphate plantations (created by the droppings of seagulls). As it often does, however, human avarice quickly mined through the deposits, leaving the island essentially destitute.

Because Nauru was such a small island, it lacked all of the natural resources to sustain its population. The country relied increasingly on aid from its neighbors, most notably Australia, for the basic necessities. It also opened its doors to a less savory clientele; individuals like himself.

He’d gotten into the drug game as a teenager. He’d worked through the ranks until he was able to start his own little group. Somehow, although he wasn’t sure how, he’d been able to make it to the age of sixty-eight. After all, how many drug lords make it to the age of retirement? His success had rested on the fact that he didn’t go too big. Too many people got caught up in the game, making money hand over fist until the numbers became absurd. Nobody needed that much money. But he did need more than any 9-to-5 job could provide.

As Nauru’s economy suffered, it became a haven for those evading taxes and laundering money. It’s where he’d washed most of his money over the past two and a half decades, but even that operation cracked down after significant pressure from outside. But Nauru had allowed him to safely and discreetly amass the wealth that now took him into retirement.

Now that he was advancing through his golden years, a different feeling had taken over. He was set. His operation continued, but it no longer held the same joy. He had all the things he needed, as well as all the things he wanted. About the only thing he still looked forward to was his trip to Nauru. It was a trip that had grown different over the past few years.

Now, he no longer sailed to the island to launder his money. He had discovered a new way to clean his ill-gotten gains.

A crowd had gathered to greet him on the beach as the sun set over the distant horizon. Before, he had craved anonymity, but now he basked in the adulation of the crowd. He had never had a family, and although he liked the members in his organization, he never completely trusted them. That’s how he had survived so long. But the people of Nauru, who knew nothing about him, held great parties whenever he arrived.

As young men carried the duffel bags off of the boat and onto shore, they led him to the evening’s festivities. Music was playing and the air was enriched by the smell of cooking food.

He brought 30 bags filled with money. The average income of the inhabitants of Nauru hovered around $2000. He tripled that every time he arrived, for every person on the island. Their small, remote island had helped him. Now that same small, remote island helped him hide his growing weakness from his associates.

He looked forward every seven months to his trip. He liked coming “home.”

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