His father was also a handsome man, with bronze skin and eyes like emerald islands. He had hurt his ankle in the field, and my lover, his son, had to take over his job. One afternoon, while the other farmers were drying peanuts in the village streets, his father asked me for water to take some painkillers. There wasn’t any, so I got a bit of ice and waited until it thawed, which could happen fast in this inferno of midday. While waiting for the ice to melt, it occurred to me that in this miserable village no one was dying, living, suffering as much as I was.
My lover wasn’t there. This was the first day we weren’t together since I had come to look for him one week ago. It wouldn’t be long before he returned. Soon he would come in, tall and dark, his heart pounding. He would hungrily kiss my thighs, bite my wrists, and carry me up to a large bed above the sea, an intimate Mediterranean secret. He would snatch me away, without a thought for water for his father, not caring about him or me, only his desire.
I took the water to the patient. Still a young man with a beautiful body, he gave off an air of desperation because he couldn’t get up and work the field in the sun. He studied me frankly, his gaze fixed so as not to miss anything about me. I returned his stare. We smiled. He kept smiling like a friend or close acquaintance. We had hardly seen each other, I didn’t bother to like him. Ever since arriving at his house, I had been locked up alone with his son. I sat on his bed and checked his swollen ankle.
“A doctor ought to look at this,” I said. He nodded slowly.
A gust of wind burst in, stirring the worn curtains. The room was simple, but messy. He startled me, his voice hoarse but firm. “No woman has lived here for a long time, not since my wife died. His mother.”
I shrugged. “I won’t be staying either,” I murmured. He gestured toward the pack of cigarettes on the night table. I passed him one and stuck another between my lips. I leaned toward him so that he could light mine. For a few moments, our faces were very close. A strange emotion rushed through me. ‘They look so much alike,’ I thought. Two beautiful lions. He looked disturbed, pretending to be lost in the clouds of smoke. I pulled back and rested against the doorframe.
“Is it always like this here, so quiet?”
“This tobacco is strong,” I thought aloud. “Tomorrow I’ll think of the island, every time the smoke…”
“When are you leaving?” He interrupted, his voice harsh.
“Tomorrow. Today. I don’t know.”
“The two of you… drive me crazy.” His voice trailed off.
“The house is small and you can hear everything. And those noises… your noises… I can’t get up… My foot…” He sounded like he was apologizing, but his eyes stayed fixed on me, not faltering like his words.
There was a long silence while we stared at each other. The man finally asked, “Are you going to write him?”
He kept smoking, his mind drifting. As if his sudden withdrawal had dismissed me, I went out for a walk.
The villagers had no curiosity about the rest of the world. People were watching the stranger, listening suspiciously to her footsteps in the mud. Walking the streets carpeted with the harvest spread out to dry, I accidentally stepped on some peanuts, which crunched painfully. A mulatto girl came and seized my right palm eagerly. I brushed her away, but the little girl insisted. I gave in.
“Good luck, love, and long life. May your children be plentiful and wise. Spare some change?” she said anxiously. I had no change. The girl left, disappointed, and so did I. For a moment, I had expected a bold revelation to come out of this fortuneteller’s mouth, something that would break me down and force me to bite my lips before telling him I would be leaving. I could never stay in such a depressing place. To tell the truth, any place would be the same for me.
With all my strength but with no faith I asked God for another soul, because this one was rotting in me.
Could anyone tell I was seeing many things collapse, so many that my defeated shoulders drooped without end? I can’t stop myself. Nothing grows where I walk. My loneliness marches on, salting the earth.
And I kept walking.
On the streets the peasants and their wives flaunted their beautiful bodies, barely covered by the thin clothing that made the summer bearable. As I marched on, I saw a young man. He grabbed his crotch, stroking himself and smiling at me. He wore a sleeveless shirt, his face brown and thin. He asked me cheerfully, “Why are you alone?” I didn’t answer or look at him. At twilight, the streets were alight with the aroma of tobacco, laughter, a slippery sensuality that smelled of farmers’ rum, fishermen’s brandy, whisky. The young man followed me, whistling. I heard him say, “You never pass through the same place twice.” I turned suddenly and he charged toward me, sniffing me and thrusting his tongue against my neck, my face. He slipped his hands around me, squeezed me, and said, “Come on.” We stumbled toward the field like two starving foxes.
Much later I walked back. I didn’t know how I was able to walk at night until I saw the moon. Its coldness was driving me crazy, but then I saw him. He was looking for me.
He came drunk, staggering, his hair flowing loose over his shoulders. His father’s emerald glance turned into twin islands of unbearable exile. He clenched his hands in the pockets of his pants, sad and defeated like me, his eyes telling me there was no tomorrow here or anywhere else. I flashed him my new smile, which I had learned from the fox on the path. But he didn’t understand what I had learned this afternoon. He collapsed against me and his caresses were sobs. It was monsoon season in the heart of the desert.
The moon, full and ominous, floated in the sky like a balloon about to pop. When it burst, it made a crunching sound like bones snapping, then the silence of light or falling snow, a pale substance pouring down on our heads like the whitest death. Petrified.
Posted: April 5, 2012 at 4:25 pm