I’m sitting on the patio of a bar at the beach. It’s evening. On my table stands a large bottle of beer in a Styrofoam container. The small glass I just filled is already sweating. Forró music blasts from tinny speakers behind me, while a single flood light illuminates an area of sand in front.
I drink my beer and watch as people walk by: a man selling popsicles, two boys kicking a soccer ball, lovers hand in hand. Ze, dressed as a waiter, rushes through the light with a tray full of drinks.
Ze—Ze! I call out, but he’s already gone.
There’s a couple down by the water. Are they fighting? He grips her raised forearms. She leans back, resisting. When he slaps her on the face I get up from my table.
I’m standing beside them. She’s beautiful — a native — tall and slender in a simple white dress. Defiantly she looks back at me, large eyes partly veiled by thick locks of coal tar hair. Her lips are full and pressed firmly together. She’s struggling, strong hands cuffing her, proud chest heaving under thin material.
This is none of your business! the man hisses.
His body is average. I can’t see his face.
Go! she warns me.
Yes—go! the man spits.
I’ll go when you let her go, I hear myself saying.
Suddenly the man starts to dissolve. Wait! I reach out to grab him but he’s already gone — vanished! My arms retreat and a soft hand touches me. She is smiling now — bright sunshine — her defiance a memory.
Brushing the hair from her face she steps toward me. I feel the heat of her body as she draws me near. Her face tilts to mine and our lips crush together. Cane juice floods my mouth and I swallow it down. Some leaks out and she leans back laughing. Her voice — polished silver — she has diamonds for eyes.
Come! Gripping my hand she pulls me to follow. We run on the sand just above the water. The beach is empty, the buildings have vanished. The night is pitch black yet I see it all clearly. We come to a hill rising up from the shore. A path is there and up we go.
The higher we climb the steeper it gets. We pass by a shack but no one is in it. More shacks appear and still they are empty. Abruptly the hill turns into a valley with a giant fig tree standing at the center. Its limbs reach out over most of the clearing.
Come! Still holding my hand she walks toward the tree. The closer we get the taller it grows. Shimmering grass swirls at our ankles, each step we take broadcasting ripples.
The tree now towers up to the heavens, its root folds, mammoth talons, clawing into the earth. A sky-blue carpet appears at its base, floating like magic over deep green turf.
Wait! She drops my hand and steps onto the carpet. She walks to the center and turns back to face me. Her smile now is as wide as the pampas and in one fluid motion she pulls off her dress. A breeze sails the cotton up through the branches.
Naked she stands, arms relaxed by her golden sides and her head held high.
I am spellbound by her treasures. Curling a finger she lays herself down.
Come . . .
I feel a rush when I mount the carpet. The force increases with each step I take. Reaching her side I am also naked. And she is looking up at me — smiling.
She pulls me down and rolls on top, binding me with her ironwood thighs. Her power envelopes me. Tiny lights appear in the branches above. And she is now looking down at me — smiling.
She bends to give me the softest kiss. Her scent — sweet vanilla. Time stops and we melt into each other. Her energy is in me — in us — we are one. My heartbeat is her heartbeat — her breath my breath.
I hear a murmur but it isn’t her murmur. I hear a sigh but it isn’t her sigh. When I hear a child giggle I open my eyes. What . . . The branches above are filled with people, all holding candles, all of them smiling. Crowded around the carpet are even more people — also holding candles. Everyone is smiling but one. I can’t see him but I feel him.
We are standing on the carpet — she in her white dress, I am still naked.
I must go, she says and is suddenly gone. And with her go the people and the tree and the carpet and the lights — all gone. The energy is gone. I hear someone laughing.
I know it’s you . . . I know it’s you . . .
The cackling grows louder and louder and louder—
Next chapter: Time Ticking