Whilst the white-haired man keeps talking in a cold, monotone voice, I look at the palm trees behind him, which, imperturbable under the heavy tropical rain, move their leaves restlessly. The blond woman sitting on a low chair close to the rain remains quiet. Occasionally she turns her head to us--or perhaps to the white-haired man--with a surprised and weary look. She doesn't seem comfortable being with other people. I start to fantasize about their life history: A Dutchman, retired after years of working on secret projects for the military, takes his pension and his wife, with whom he only shares his nights and a few words, to a South American paradise, where it is always hot and nobody asks questions.
I have the bad habit of inventing stories where ever I go. My family thinks that I'm just daydreaming, and I prefer that they continue to think that way. When it's done raining, I will plug in my headphones and go to lose myself along the beach. From the airplane getting here, I could surmise the tropical forests and the virgin beaches, but once we landed, the spectacle is so much more than I could ever have imagined. One cannot describe the endless sounds that fill the silence of this place; nor the fragrance that radiates from every inch of earth and every plant before, during and after the rain that falls every day; nor the sensation of the sea coming and going, coming and going, shifting into an endless motion caressing one's feet.
The blonde woman--depressed wife, or perhaps ex-drug addict daughter in rehab, or maybe just another lost tourist caught under the daily rain that erases all foot tracks--turns her head again, and an intimation of a smile appears to want to change her expression, without success. The Dutchman warns of the dangers of the beaches, of the strong and treacherous currents, and of the cruelty of the ocean that snatches every year some human prey, but that, in the distance of the evening dusk, looks like an innocent bed of lazy clouds with ephemeral and white riding peaks. The woman looks at him with blue and quiet eyes, which--I don't know why--I find ironic for a second.
It is very hot. Too hot. From the time we left home I have been hot. I find myself in the middle of a fantasy world and it still seems impossible that I am here. But it is too hot.
is too hot. He would like this phrase... For sure. He would say that now I have
the title of my next novel. I would believe him and would laugh heartily and I
would kiss him two or three times, or maybe even more, and I feel young and vibrant. And I would start to
think about the next novel, of course. I love him too much to disappoint him.
I cannot disappoint him, I don't want to
disappoint him. I have not been able to do it, though, ever since I met him.
I've always tried to be the woman he wanted me to be, the woman of his dreams.
But sometimes I've made mistakes... I've done things that I didn't like. I've
hurt other people. Because I wanted him to love only me, to desire only me.
Only me. Sometimes I've made mistakes. But I don't want to think about that
now. When we go back home, it'll be different. I will be stronger, more
confident, more independent. I will not do things I dislike doing. But I don't
want to think about it now, how stupid. Now we are in paradise! Although it is
too hot... But it is paradise, the real one. The tropical forest is amazing.
The sky here has a depth that makes you dizzy. The stars seem to fall on you.
The sound of the rain...the nights of lovemaking... It makes you not wanting to
wake up or remember the outside world... You feel only desire mixed with
peace...and the sensation of being lost in an island you never want to leave...
Why is he looking at this woman? Does he find her beautiful? Is she beautiful? She doesn't look that young. I don't know. Dyed blonde hair and no facial expression. Her skin looks dry, but maybe she's not that old. Maybe it's just me. I think he's looking at her legs. I don't know if they are good looking. I don't know if he finds them good looking. I think she's looking at him, too, smiling. Maybe I'm wrong. Her legs are crossed and turned towards him. I can't see them from this angle. He probably chose to sit facing her, or... No, she was already here when we arrived. What nonsense to be thinking like this. I have never seen him looking at another woman the way he looks at me...although one can watch without being seen... Stop it, don't do it again. You know you have no reason to be suspicious! Damn notions with no thought or logic, that not even here let me be in peace...
"Let's go, darling, it has stopped raining. Let's hurry and take advantage of the last few minutes of light." Hold my hand and do not turn around. I forbid you to turn around. Do not look at her, do not look. She's nobody. I'm here, your perfect woman, I'm here. Do you hear me? I'm here!
The beach is about to dissolve into the night. The sand is gray and the fallen trees look like resting giant lizards waiting for innocent pray to come down from the forest under the half moon. No one is here. Just the sharp howling of the monkeys, small and ridiculous chaps attempting to cover as much of an extended territory as possible. I was thinking of Anna. Today I feel empty and I do not know why. I do not miss her. There was nothing between us. Only sex. Nothing else. She never listened to me. Never spoke to me. My head races with so many ideas that come and go, strong and passionate, unrestrained and impossible to control. Before, I used to share all my thoughts with my mother. But for a long time now, something is troubling her. She's always dazed, as if she were looking for something she can't find... Sometimes I go to her, try to talk to her, about me, about her, a bit of everything, as we used to. But I see that she's not listening; she's in a hurry to get rid of me, to leave. She spends hours doing nothing, really, hanging around the house, opening and closing windows, opening and closing cabinets, folding and unfolding clothes. Every day I see her more lonely. Before she used to write a lot, every afternoon. When she was done, she'd rise from her chair happy, run to make dinner while listening to the music of an old fashioned CD, and then we'd all eat together, around the small round table in the kitchen. My father and sisters did not talk much. But I talked a lot, and she'd answer me and contradict me, going together, she and I, over all humanity's problems, every day the same, every day new and exciting. She taught me to ask all kinds of questions about everything. But that is over now. Father is gone and Mother lives with another man. I like him. He's a good guy and I think she loves him. But she has changed. It looks like something is eating her inside...
The beach is full of crabs that hide in their burrows with incredible speed when I approach them. They probably hear my footsteps on the sand and foresee danger. I wonder where Anna is. What would she do here? What would she say...? Look at Mom! What is she doing far away, perched on those rocks? It is her, no doubt, I can recognize the white dress. She makes me sad, my mother. She worries too much, thinks too much about everything. Everything hurts her, everything weighs on her, poor thing. "Mom, Mom! What are you doing up there? Be careful that you don't fall, can you hear me?"
It's cold here, near the sea. I should have taken a jacket. I like to breathe this strong air, feeling full of salt and life. He did not come with me. I didn't ask, but he saw me leaving. He could have joined me if he'd wanted to. Perhaps he was tired. Perhaps he'd rather stay in the hotel to try to talk to the blonde. The holidays can be the perfect excuse: At home, he cannot go anywhere without telling me where he's going and what he's going to do. It's like an obligation, an obligation he takes upon himself, although I never asked him to. I don't want him to stay with me because he feels obligated. I just want for him to love me... But I don't think he understands it. He think that I'm just a crazy woman, jealous and ornery. And maybe I am. Maybe I'm so afraid to lose him that I'm freaking out. There will always be a prettier woman, younger, more pleasant. Always. And every day I'm getting older, more hysterical, more disagreeable. The children also tell me that I act weird... Thank goodness that they are already grown, that they don't need me. If anything happened to me, they could get ahead. They have their own life. And he, how does he feel with me? What does he think, of our life together, of our future? ... I am getting older and he will soon tire of my jealousy, of my crises. Also, too, of my body, he will tire. Each day my skin becomes drier and my hands are getting more and more brown spots. They are not freckles any longer, they are not cute, like when I was young and they would appear every spring to everyone's laughter. Now the freckles have mutated into monstrous old-woman spots that swallow, voracious, unstoppable, the whiteness of my fine hands...like a black and vengeful jellyfish... They would make me laugh if I did not pity myself in disgust... He could have come, had he wanted to. But he let me go alone. He will always leave me alone. When I'm sick and ugly, he will leave me alone. When I die, he will leave me alone, too. I'm wasting my last years terrified because of him. Terrified that he'll leave me alone. I wish I could stop feeling this fear. I wish...
"Hey, Mom, what the heck are you doing so close to the edge? Don't you hear me?" The woman looks at him with hazy eyes, without recognizing him immediately. When she realizes it is her son, she opens her lips instinctively and tries to say something. She's drenched in cold sweat that creeps slowly down her back like ghost fingers. "Are you all right?" The boy draws near her and strokes her arm. "You're freezing! Are you okay, Mom?"
"Yes, I'm fine, darling." All at once she feels the pain on the palm of her hands, where her nails have dug into her skin, while an abrupt heat shrouds her face, as if suddenly a door opened in the darkness letting the hot air escape swiftly from its lair. "What are you doing here?"
The boy shrugs and sits on the ground. He stares at the sea that is no longer distinguishable from the black sky and thinks that he has no idea what he's doing there, or anywhere else, that the best that could happen to his empty life, without anyone to understand him, would be to finish it already, to put an end to it in such a magnificent surrounding as the one he is in now, to become one with the sea and the night, to forget everything and be consumed forever. To prove that he expects nothing. From anyone. To prove that he is in charge of his own life. He, and no one else.
"What's that? Mark, look, there! What's that?" While gesturing toward the beach, she gets off, jumping from boulder to boulder. She slips and lets out a little cry. She tugs forcefully at her dress that has caught on the rocks. The boy jumps up. He can barely distinguish the piece of white linen stuck in one of the dark crevices, as his mother runs like a crazed spirit. He follows her, yet not knowing where. She runs increasingly faster. It's hard moving one's feet on the wet sand, but she knows she cannot stop. The strong wind hurts her eyes. Finally she drops to her knees. He slumps to her side. They can hardly breathe. When she finally is able to lift her head, she grasps his hand and squeezes it hard, very hard. They do not look at each other, nor say anything. Nor do they need to turn the pasty body, half covered with algae matted to the dripping blond hair. They do not want to see her face. Nor touch her. Death, like this, so sudden, so near, so real. They feel like a black slab is crushing their necks. Both shiver and dare not move. They cannot leave, nor can they think of anything. They remain kneeling for a long time, feeling on their own skin the power of the waves that come and go, indifferent and aloof.
The first to stand up is the boy. He does so with effort, as if he were half asleep. He helps his mother, clutching her under her arms and pulling her up. They begin to walk leaning on one another. Their feet slowly start recalling their usual moves. They do not let go of each other's hands. They start going faster. After a long while, they see the light of the lantern dancing weakly among the thick trees of the tropical forest. Behind them, the sea is washing away their foot prints.
Translated by Lina Strenio