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 is languorous. Dressed in multi-hued pastels and a slash of red, it slips slowly into the dark sea. Night waits patiently for the sun to leave the stage.
The beach is narrow; the sand is brown and coarse. The beach is long, curiving here and there. It hugs a strip of wooden house. The houses are simple: small, low, made of wood. Each has a porch. Behind the houses is a dirt road. On the other side of the dirt road is a verdant jungle. The jungle is untidy.
She stands knee-deep in the surf. Her legs are planted wide; her toes are tighty curled as they grip the sand beneath the sea water. She holds her long cotton shirt in one hand; she holds it off to one side, above her knees. Her skirt and short-sleeve white blouse are moist from the ocean’s spray. There’s a pink ribbon in her long black hair, which is a mass of curls. Her eyes are brown and slightly slanted. Her lips are full and painted red. She looks out to the setting sun and plays with the advancing waves. But the sea is lazy now and only half-heartedly responds to her challenge. She laughs each time a wave tries to topple her.
He walks on the shore, on the wet sand at the water’s edge. He has spent the past several months onboard his ship. His body expects the ground to move beneath him; his mind expects the ground to remain stationary. The disagreement reflects in his slightly odd gait. He’s by himself; his crew mates have gone into town, to eat and drink and meet women. He’s quiet, enjoying the sound of the surf and the sight of the setting sun. He is dressed in soft khaki slacks and an old, but freshly laundered and pressed, khaki shirt. The wears nothing on his head, although he’s been warned that this is folly in the tropics. Especially when on is so very fair-skinned. He is taller than most the men of this country; he has black hair and brown eyes and the tip of his nose has slight upward tilt. His cheeks are red.
The sea has grown slightly restless. The waves are somewhat bigger, the curve of the crest slightly higher. She feels the sand sliding seaward beneath her. She maintains her wide stance and digs her toes in deeper. She watches the oncoming surf and braces just before each wave reaches her. One wave nearly topples her. She laughs loudly. Not a giggle; she doesn’t know how to giggle. Her laugh has no nonsense about it. It is deep and it is real.
He walks close to where she stands. He hears her laughter and stops. He scans the shoreline a hand held over his eyes to protect them from the sun. Quickly, he spots her and now the remains still. He sees a roguish wave approaching her and holds his breath. The wave pushes her backward as the sand beneath her feet moves forcefully seaward, taking her feet with it. He flinches; his feet remain rooted but the rest of his body presses forward to help. Momentum stops when he sees that she expertly righted herself. Her blouse and skirt are completely wet. She laughs. He laughs. She looks toward him and smiles. Then she turns to the setting sun one last time before walking out of the surf.
She moves slowly out of the ocean; she lets the waves push her toward the beach. She leaves tiny footprints in the wet sand at the water’s edge. Passing him, she does not look at him or speak. She crosses the beach, stepping carefully across the ungroomed sand.
He watches her leave the sea and pass by him. He wants to speak to her, but doesn’t know what to say. So he watches as she crosses the beach and walks up to one of the small wooden houses. Up the flight of steps and across the deep porch. He hopes she will stop on the porch and sit on one of the chairs there. He hopes she will wave him over to sit beside her.
She doesn’t sotop on th e porch. She doesn’t look back. She opens the door to the house and calls to smeone inside. She enters the house and closes the door behind her.
He turns and walks back toward the port. Perhaps he will join his friends: eat and drink with them, flirt with some of the women in the bars. Tomorrow he’ll return here. He’ll come earlier. Maybe he’ll swim in the sea.
Of course, it wasn’t quite that way. She remembers it that way, but he doesn’t. No one else remembers it the way she does. She says they all have terrible memories, that they forget the good things and only remember the bad. And some them are simply jealous. He asks who it harms to let her version be the one everyone remembers.