The sand on the beach was particularly black that day. What was it that the strong waves kept washing out to the shore? Did the sand turn black in mourning of the dark fisherman they found the day before, laying there motionless with his protruding belly full of water? They stood above that, which used to be a man, staring at the white chart-marks of the dried up sea salt on the surface of the tightly stretched skin of his abdomen. His loin cloth washed away, a small limp piece of flesh rested on his contorted left limb. His eyes, two bulging black cherries, open wide, blood – shot, yellow whites. The eyelids slipped up tucked tightly under the arch of the eyebrows, as if the ocean wanted to look into the fisherman’s eyes reall bad. As if it didn’t want to allow him to close his eyelids at all. It was pushing and pulling against the two little flabby skin curtains, till they receded from the eye balls, back into the head itself, covering, protecting the inner eye from witnessing the horror that was happening to him.
Somebody should call the police, the distraught woman called out to the passing by Indian man.
No, no , madam, police is trouble, answered the man walking away with haste, avoiding looking into the direction of the drowned man. You call the police, madam, for us, big trouble, he said, hurrying his way. Strange behavior, the woman thought and ran to the nearby hotel, to alert the receptionist about the drowned man.
It was seven a clock. The sand was still cool, so they went out to walk barefooted on the shore before their breakfast. They were looking forward to the nice day, they had before them. Foamy waves kept sneaking up their calves, just to tosse and brake with a splash, encircling their ankles with silver foam anklets.
My little cicada, you were so brave, running inside the surf, deeper then I liked it, or could stand, without getting frightened for your beautiful young life.Your copper hair brilliantly shining in the august morning sun, you laughed at my anguish.
We stayed at Mammala Puram, I remember, it didn’t have a restaurant. Next year coming, madam, the servant said. He could have ben thirty at most, dark complexion, slim, in a blue checkered shirt tucked into the matching blue dhoti, wrapped around his waist, folded in the middle and tucked in again somewhere under the dark hole of a navel. He used to come in our room without knocking.
Breakfast coming , he exclaimed, stepping inside the room, his bear feet leaving moist footprints as he was thumping on the light green stone floor,while holding up a beige plastic beaten up tray, with both his hands.In the middle, something lifted the blue fabric, as if he wanted to utilize yet an other arm, to support tray. He never looked straight at me, or you, but I sensed his burning coal monkey eyes branding my body.
After he left we ate the soggy toasts with butter and jam, and drank a large jar of Darjiling tea.
And you said:We should have brought our bathing suits with us, and you were right, we should have, but we didn’t. So, you put on a pair of white shorts and tied a tee shirt across your chest. How much I enjoyed looking at you that summer. We strolled along the beach, exposing our pale legs to the flagellation of the sun.
When I tiered, I lay down on the sand, near the water, so that the waves could come up my legs, stroking my belly, flooding my breasts, and tickeling my neck.
Sometimes the water splashed across my face burying me completely under itself, taking me in, enveloping me in a cool salty embrace.
And you played in the waves, waiting for the surf, jumping on it, or bending down, hiding under the water, letting the surf slide over your suntanned little back. When we couldn’t stand the heat any more, we covered ourselves with our dhotis, and ran on our burning soles toward the restaurant called Golden Sun.Every day we sat at the same table, ordered the same food, talked to the same waiter.
The pury was crispy, hot and fresh, the potato masala greasy, spicy and delicious, and so was the young Indian waiter from Bombay, who served us every day.
“Your daughter is so shy,” he said, “very unamerican”. It was a compliment, and I took it.
He was standing there for a long time, talking to us, to me, about Bombay, about his family, and about the evening swimmings, they organized with the other waiters after the dusk. “We strap some bottles of beer to our waists, he said, and we swim deep inside the ocean. It is complete darkness, and we stop and talk, and drink beer where the water is calm. Then we swim again, sometimes we don’t know where we end up, because we see only one light, the one of the tower of Maha Bali Puram, and we swim toward it. Sometimes we have to walk for miles to get back. But we like it, it’s nice.”
The waiter smiled, showing a row of healthy white teeth.
He was looking into the woman’s eyes, his lips curled up, exposing dark pink gums. Whenever he opened his mouth, she noticed the soft pink tongue surging inside as he formed his words. He had a little scar above his right eyebrow. His curly hair oiled, his complexion chocolate brown, smooth and soft, standing there, smiling at the woman, with his hands behind his back, politely, in his unbuttoned white shirt and black pants, quite unfit for the heat of the Indian sun.
“Would, you like to come?” He asked the woman.
“Would you like to swim with me one evening?”
“I wouldn’t dare,” the woman laughed, covering up her excitement.
“I would take care of you,” he said.
“I don’t trust my body. I am too weak,” the woman said.
“I wouldn’t let you drown.” The man promised.
“I know, I know,” the woman answered lowering her eyelids, covering her face with her left hand. Her long slim fingers ran up her cheeks into her dark brown hair. Then her hand ran down her neck behind her ear, down to her shoulder, and across her chest, to the right shoulder. And there it remained.
She didn’t want to tell him, what she was afraid of. So, she just laughed, and avoided his warm black eyes, and immersed her hot summer lips in the cold ice – water he brought her from the kitchen.
The water was filtered. She was safe to drink it.
The man bent down to take the plate with the remains of the hearty lunch she and her daughter just enjoyed. He moved slowly toward the back of the palm garden.
” Nice man,” she said to her daughter. “Yes,” the girl agreed.
“Do you want us to go to our room to take a nap?” The woman asked her child. “Yes, lets go,” the girl stood up from the red plastic armchair. Her tee shirt was still wet on her, and her curly hair still dripping with water.
In the hotel room, you found a little lizard on the wall, and above that an other one a larger one. You thought it was the mother lizard with its baby trying to reach her. You wanted to help the little one to get to its mother faster, and you pushed it up higher. You thought the mother would be happy, when it turned to what you thought would be welcoming it. What terrified surprise altered your exquisite little face, when you sow the big lizard swallowing up the small one.
You couldn’t sleep that night, so, we sat on the balcony until early morning,me, drinking Fisher King, you,eating mangoes.
Listening to the strong throngs of the ocean, I told you about my life. You listened with shining chocolate eyes, to stories unheard of. Perhaps I repeated myself sometimes, but you didn’t seem to mind, as long as I was willing to share.
“Let’s go to sleep,” you said, and we slipped inside the room, really fast, opening only a scar of a door, to keep the mosquitos out. The room was warm in spite of the fan running on high. We laid down beside each other in the king size bed. You kicked of the hot sheets in your sleep. Your little mouth open, your thin legs spread, you slept. The wind caused by the fan kept lifting a strand of your hair. You were my little angel. I wanted to kiss you for your surrendering beauty. But, I would have waken you, so, instead, I picked up a book, and started to read. I have read about a miracle man. His name was Sai Baba. Suddenly a loud thunder cracked the silence, disturbed the peace. You remained unaffected, you didn’t seem to hear it at all. And an other thunder followed, shortly after the first one, accompanied by bright lightening. I heard the trees weeping in the strong wind, that twisted them unmercifully. Then I fell asleep too, completely surrendering my life and yours to the miracle man.
It was seven PM, rush hour, the subway station half lit by cool white neon lights. Rolling their baggage, they entered Time Square. “Home, sweet home,” the woman laughed. She never felt this subway station to be so protective before. Never rejoiced so much in the security derived from the old walls and the solid ground under her feet. After sixteen hours in air, tired in body and mind, they descended the staircase to the platform of the 2/3. They hoped to catch the express to 96th , and from there they would transfer to the local 1/9 . The heat and the humidity were unbearable. The air was sultry and suffocating. The woman pulled out a cotton handkerchief, she purchased in Bombay, and offered it to her daughter. The girl took it, lifted it to her face. At the same time a terrible rumbling sound trembled the air. The girl looked at the handkerchief in bewilderment. She held it up to her mother, showing her the red splatter of blood that splashed out of her body.
The tremor of the killer sound kept echoing through the station.
“Call the ambulance,” somebody yelled out.
The girl looked at the woman in surprise. Her slender body sank slowly to the ground. Her soft warm limbs hit against the dirty cement floor. The woman crouched above the girl, touched her face, held her chin, caressed her hair, took her slim brown arm into her hand, put it gently down, laid it beside her body. She ran her fingers through her own hair, over her own forehead, covered her own mouth, that was opening wider and wider, until a grotesque grim overtook her face. No sound came out of her throat. The girl’s eyes remained wide open, scrutinizing the peeling paint job of the ceiling. Her cotton summer dress slipped up, revealing two delicate suntanned thighs.
The woman stared at the flowers on her daughter’s dress trying to count them. They were yellow with green leaves, lots of green leaves. They looked like little dandelions, with tiger teeth. She noticed a thread hanging loose under the right armlet. The woman tried to tear it of. The thread cut into her finger. She bent down, and tried to bite the thread off. Her forehead touched the warm armpit of the child. The woman sat on the ground, took her daughter’s head into her lap, kept caressing her hair, and caressing her face, and caressing her arms, her neck, her chin, her mouth, her nose, her ears, looking into her eyes, and her own mouth opened so wide, her lips hurt. But she couldn’t do anything about it. She felt the sweetness of her own blood on her tongue, resulting from the corners of her mouth. But she couldn’t change anything about it either. Just like she couldn’t change anything about her young daughter laying motionless on the dirty floor with her brown curls on her mother’s lap. And she noticed two small gray mice between the tracks, and then tears started gushing from her eyes.