Friday, August 22, 2008

Orchestra of Morning (part 1)

My name is Hermes and I am tired now and ready to go home. Though I did not come to this shore, this beach to tell you that, nor did you come here to listen to me talk about myself. You came with me to hear about Sereia.

It's finally quiet here, as dawn laps at the shore, the air wet and salty. The air is heavy as my eyelids now, heavy as the cuffs of my pants rolled above my ankles, wet and stained with water and sand.

Flowers lie crushed in the sand behind us as we gaze now out in the water. Did I say quiet? The breeze brings a laugh, a note from a guitar, a crash of a wave. the call of a bird. If the drums of the night are silent now the concert of the new day has begun. I crouch in the shallow water, and rinse my hands of sand and nicotine. I look up again, trying to guess which small paper boat, now flotsam on the waves, sprinkled with petals and fine ash, its precious cargo of candle stub and bits of bone surrendering to the immensity of the ocean. Good-bye Sereia.

"I remember when I first saw her," I tell you. And I am brought back to that night, so many years before. That old club, right on the beach. Quite the scene. It was before I met Ze, too, that old crowd I ran with. Eddie, Zizi, Roberto, and that American boy, what was his name? He was so easy to tease. So serious until he started to drink. Then the object of everyone's attentions, all of us trying to sound so sophisticated, so serious, so grown up.

We were at a table near the stage, hanging lights and clinking glasses and laughing women and the breeze from the sea. Very chic these club patrons, for the night, though who went the next day to their fancy office jobs and who went out looking for the next hustle and who was there drinking off the tabs of friends was anybody's guess. And the subject of much gossip. Zizi always had money but then her father was rich rich rich and though he didn't love it when his only daughter spent his money buying drinks for faggots and negroes he loved to see her beautiful and admired and never told her no. So now you know two of my secrets, the only one that embarrassed me being the one that my pockets were empty.

Musicians filled the stage, and the din of the club narrowed with expectation and polite applause. Oh now we think we are so sophisticated in our tastes with so much to choose from. Very liberated. But then it was all the season of the bossa nova. It made our drinks more delicious, and it caused our bodies to move involuntarily, charging the air around us with cool erotic tension.

This band was like any band that played at this club by the sea and it made us delirious with each other. Zizi kissed that American boy and Eddie rested his hand on my thigh beneath the tablecloth and we were very happy. Zizi stood up to dance, the American boy oh so drunk and clumsy smiled awkwardly and did not follow. Eddie, whose ass was made for the bossa nova, saved the day and rose to carry Zizi off to the dance floor. Roberto, who it must be said spent most of our evenings together gazing longingly at the American boy's blonde hair, slid over to Zizi's chair to engage in subtle flirting with that poor sodden soul, oblivious I used to think, to Roberto's intentions.

Which left me to gaze upon the band and the most remarkable creature I had ever seen. She was playing the guitar. This was no statuesque beauty. Short, with mysterious dark eyes, skin much whiter in color than her bandmates, she couldn't have been thirteen years old, and I realized she could really play. Thick auburn locks fell over her face as she played; bangs heavy on her forehead; a small birthmark on her left cheek. Concentration framed her face as she strummed her guitar. When she started singing it was with the voice of a girl, yes, but a girl who felt things she couldn't have understood, could she? It was haunting, sad, this first song she sang, oh yes lilting in our tropical way, but full of the pain of life beyond thirteen girlish years.

The song ended and she bowed her head into darkness and a smattering of applause and couples changing on the dancefloor. And then the drummer began a fast song, and she looked up, darkness wiped from her face, and she sang exuberantly joined by other members of the band. Freed for a moment from something this girl's eyes twinkled and her compact, androgynous body swung to a different sort of life with this new rhythm.

The song ended and I swear before she left the stage Sereia's dark eyes met mine. Such old old eyes. The deepest saddest gaze I have ever seen. And then the drummer, a very big and very black man very much older than thirteen wrapped his arm around her neck and led her backstage, laughing and gesturing to the other players as they disappeared from sight.

Zizi and Eddie returned and shortly after the waitress brought us more drinks. Surely eventually Zizi handed one of us a wad of paper to settle our bill and we walked out upon the nighttime street to push Zizi into a taxi. Roberto--of course--offered to walk the weaving near senseless American boy off to his pension, leaving Eddie and me to walk down to the dark sands to lie for a while in the invisibility of a moonless night.

"That girl...that singer," I said. "She was something special." Eddie laughed and smiled and kissed me. Here, on the beach, in the sand. And for a moment I forgot about Sereia. For a moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment