Maria Elena Miles
Why can’t it have been perfect? It’s not perfect now, not even close. It’s really horrible now but onceit might have been so right that love was inevitable. On a good day, I can imagine that perfect was possible. I can imagine the beginning as flawless.
The sun sears, burning everything in its path. The sun is close, nearly smothering, with hot, wet, airless caresses. As night nears the sun dresses boldly in flashly reds and oranges. And then it slowly struts across the sky as it heads into the deep, dark sea. Night follows closely, waiting impatiently for the sultry lady to leave the stage.
As she slips downward, night pushes her impatiently from behind.
The beach is a skinny strip of brown sand and piles of human and natural flotsam and jetsam. It stands as a weak buffer between the sea and row of insignificant houses. The beach’s curves hug, clenching tightly, both the sea and the row of houses, creating an earthy ménage-a-trois. Of her two mates, the row of houses is obviously the most vulnerable. The houses are small, low made of weather-beaten wood. Each has porch filled with odd lots of furniture, mostly rockers armchairs. The porches face the sea and not the road behind the houses. The road is but a narrow dirt track for horses and wagons and the occasional truck or car. When it rains, and it often rains, the road is an impossible quagmire. On the road’s far side lies the jungle, which like the sea, wants to eat away at the road, the houses, the each. The jungle is thick, green and untidy, home to scorpions, snakes and panthers.
The girl, not really a girl, she’s almost 24 and already has who is five, bores easily. However, she likes the ocean, likes swimming in it and watching it from shore. Today she arrives late for her daily visit. There won’t be time for a swim, so she decides to wade in the shallows. She stands knee keep in the surf. Her legs are planted wide; her toes are tightly curled as they grip the undulating sand beneath the water. She holds her long cotton skirt in one hand; she holds the skirt to one side, above her knees. It’s held several inches above the surf, higher than necessary, high enough to attract the young American, off one of the ships in port she guesses. She notices him long before he sees her, but she pretends not to know that he is there. Her skirt and short-sleeve blouse are lightly sprinkled with sea water as she moves deeper into the surf. The pink ribbon in her long, curled back hair makes her feel young. She has brown, slightly slanted eyes. She has full lips, painted deep red. Her attention is split between te sea and the young man who approaches. She looks out to the setting sun and plays with waves. But the sea is lazy now and only half-heartedly responds. She laughs each time a wave slaps her. She laughs because she’s having fun and because she knows that he will hear her.
He walks on the shore, on the wet sand at the water’s edge. He thinks the sun is too hot and the beach a little dirty. He’s been at sea for several months. It shows in his odd gait. His body and his mind cannot agree on whether or not the surface upon which he walks is stationary. He wishes he spoke the language. He’s lonely. His crew mates have gone into town; they want to drink and they aren’t picky about the girls they meet. He wants to meet someone, but not just anyone. Not that he wants anything serious; his parents wouldn’t approve of that. He’s quiet, enjoying his shore leave, happy that he’s not on the ship. He likes the sound of the sea as it pounds the shore and likes the sight of the sun setting on the watery horizon. He’s dressed in khakis: clean and freshly-ironed, but not new. He sends most of his wages to his, who dutifully deposits it into a joint savings account for him. He thinks his mom is wonderful and someday he’d like to marry a girl like her. He’s feeling a slight headache; as usual, he’s not wearing a hat and, as usual, he’s feeling the effects of his folly, for he’s been warned that it’s foolish to be uncovered in the tropics. He doesn’t always listen to good advice. He is of average height in his country, but somewhat taller than the average here. He has the slimness of youth; his eyes are brown and his hair black. His cheeks are ruddy red. There’s a slight tilt to his nose: his mother’s nose.
(This third version was finished by the writer but not by the typist who promises to have it done in a day or so.)