Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Letters From South America #1

So a while ago a wrote a not so short story that incorporated diary entries from my trip around South America. I've decided that it's too long and too disjointed to submit anywhere, so I'm going to post each of the sections on here, one a week for the next five weeks.

Mancora holds the spirit of the surf children; honey skinned girls with long salt stiffened hair woven with colored threads to hang like ropes, and sun darkened boys with peeling shoulders, carrying surf boards or baby sisters under their arms. The beach is lined with bars made from bamboo and banana leaves, restaurants selling raw fish and markets overflowing with shells and woven bracelets.  The liquid afternoon sun soaks into your skin as you lay amongst the palm trees and the red hibiscus flowers, drinking rum by the poison blue pool, or sitting to sip Pisco sours as you watch the surfer boys ride the waves, until your mouth begins to go numb. Take your soul to be cleansed by the Pacific Ocean, talk to strangers playing cowskin drums in your best Spanish. Dance with the fire twirlers, go swimming in the ocean late at night, sleep on the sand and wake up with your hair caked in salt and a soft feeling in your bones from being baked in the heat and then soaked in salt water.  Under midnight blue velvet star studded sky, indulge your body and soul in the freedom of love.
The rough, almost fragile nature of the landscape and the people is always connected with the spirit of the ocean; there is no structure, no barriers of race or class, only spoken language. Here the world moves in a languid fluid motion; children and dogs and old beggar women and street performers and dancers and gringos and locals all gather together to celebrate their proximity to the sea. Children run without their mothers, chasing hairless dogs that do not shiver from the cold, playing with glittering pieces of broken glass as if they were jewels in a diamond necklace. In the city, wise and jovial old men with broad smiles and skin that crinkles around their eyes like paper are lined up against a deep blue concrete wall, each one with his own typewriter, composing love letters for the illiterate.
The love, it falls around me like glittering fish scales, and as I bask in the suicidal sun my heartstrings are pulled spitefully by it all.
In Mancora, the young live wild and free.

The first boy I ever loved used to take me surfing every Sunday morning in the summertime. And when I say take me, I mean he would bring me along, like you would the family dog, sit me on the beach wrapped in a soft, fraying alpaca blanket, and run off into the ocean as soon as he had waxed his surf board. I didn’t mind it though, it was obvious that I would be a terrible surfer, and I liked the way his back muscles rippled when he reached behind himself to pull the zip on his wetsuit, I liked how the silver light of the dawn lit up his lithe and solid body, and I liked the rough, stretched feeling of his salt encrusted skin against my bare shoulders after breakfast. But what I loved was witnessing that first dive into the swell, as he connected with the movement of the ocean; it must be why he is such a good lover, I thought later, he understood her undulation.  Sitting alone on the cold grey morning beach, I had never felt more like an outsider, witnessing that private moment of intimacy between my lover and his, and I felt glad that he had never insisted on teaching me; there was no room for me in this relationship, I would feel like a rusty third wheel, a clumsy lover, a plank of drift wood carried out to sea. So I would sit and watch him, or sometimes when I could not bear to do so, I would gather the folds of my blanket around me like an old bag lady and wander off to collect shells. Aqua Operculum. Mother of Pearl. Tesselata Spotted Olive.   I would say each name aloud as I picked them up off the shore, stringing them together on long strands of my own hair to give to him when he returned. I thought maybe if the gift was made from parts of both of us, he would see that I knew, and that I understood.

Liking someone makes you smile, but loving someone makes your body cringe inwardly with the weight the emotion, it falls on your chest like a breaking wave. That’s how you can tell the difference.

For a while it was enough for all of us, but then one morning he decided that it wasn’t, and he left me on that cold grey morning beach to be with her. Or perhaps she had had enough of me and my demands on his time, and decided to keep him all for herself.  She had asked him with the voice of Siren to stay, and there was no possible way that he could refuse her. When the Police questioned me later that day, they asked me why I had not called for help, and when I couldn’t answer them they put it down to a severe case of shock. But I had a reason, tucked up inside one of my Orange Tahiti Snail shells. I had not gone for help because I knew that he had not wanted it; I knew by the way he had kissed me that morning that he was saying goodbye, that he was not coming back.

Love was getting up at 4 am every Sunday morning to sit on an empty beach, love was realising that not all of a whole person could belong to you. Love was accepting that one day you would be separated, in this life or the next, and there was nothing you could do about it.

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