Tuesday, 15 March 2011


There follows the third and final part of the short story 'Ocean', described by the always excellent Pernambuco Gypsy as 'saucy and well written'. Parts I and II can be found below.

Here the garden is thick and a heavy striped green and the dark leaves push noisily up against my window. It is where I came after things ended with my husband. Here is by the ocean. There was not by the ocean. After my husband, it seemed important to go from somewhere that was not by the ocean to somewhere that was by the ocean.

But being by the ocean here is not really like being by the ocean. Here the ocean is like water in a warm grey swimming pool lapping desultorily against the shore.

It is not bracing.

Bracing is what I had in mind.

Our Portuguese was coming on like gangbusters, as they say. Sometimes now I did not go to self-service restaurants but to real restaurants, and I asked for the cardapio and then I ordered picanha with arroz and feijao.

Dark lights lit the night, the streets, when we went out. Now we did not go just out, but we went out. Would you like to go for a meal, my husband would say, or, let’s go dancing on Friday, and we would go to forro clubs and watch Brazilians dancing while we shimmered palely with our drinks in the corner.

Sometimes we would not come home until five am when the sun rose and spread pink warm light along the tops of the mountains.

We tried to speak Portuguese together. At first it was like walking through long tangled grass. But then it got better. Once, we even had an argument in Portuguese.

Do you think she is beautiful, I said. We were sitting in a bar. The beer we had drunk we marked by the thick brown bottles at our feet. Of course he thought she was beautiful. I thought she was beautiful, the lustrous shank of her hair, the gleam of her midriff, the cling of her jeans.

Not very, he said. His eyes followed her thirstily as she swung through the crowd and disappeared.

Liar, I said.

Shut up, he said. Not everyone is the same as you, he said.

Fuck you, I said, and I tipped my glass over so that the beer ran across the table and fell in small waterfalls onto his lap.

Though as I walked home I thought it would be a good inscription for my headstone.

Not everyone is the same as you.

Who, really, is the same as anyone?

All of this, remember, in Portuguese.

When he came home my husband looked for me and found me. I was in bed pretending to sleep.

He rolled me over.

Sorry, he said.

I’m sorry too, I said, feeling I should.

He kissed me, and then he took off my t-shirt and my shorts and we made love.

As we made love my husband used a lot of Portuguese sex words, many of which I did not understand.

This time, I more than just liked it.

I almost really liked it. I liked it more, I think, because of the Portuguese sex words, and because I was a little drunk, and being a little drunk made my husband’s hands softer and my skin warmer and the room smaller.

Afterwards, I wondered where he learnt the Portuguese sex words.

I ask my friend Marcia what she thought. Marcia is French and therefore understands such matters.

Maybe he learnt them from his friends at work, she says.

Maybe he learnt them from a book or a movie, she says.

Maybe, oh, I don’t know, she says.

Later I found out, of course, that he had learnt the Portuguese sex words from the Brazilian girl he was fucking.

You were wrong, I told Marcia.

At first I was not angry.

My first thought was, you scored, husband, you scored, one-one!

But then I was angry.

You can’t be angry, he said. You did it too.

This made me more angry. If this was a movie, I said, and the actor said what you just said, you would walk out of the cinema in disgust.

It isn’t like stealing from the biscuit jar, I said. Even I did not know what I meant by this.

Can’t you forgive me, he said, like I forgave you?

Do you know what the funny thing is, I said.

What, he said.

The funny thing is, I said, no, I can’t.

In the kitchen I hear Paolo Two talking to Maria. Maria is the woman who cleans and cooks breakfast. Maria lives a long way from here and gets up at five am in order to get here at six am and cook breakfast. Maria has been married to her husband for longer than I have been alive. If you think of each month I was married to my husband as being one year, like dog years except twelve over one not seven over one, Maria has still been married to her husband for more years than I was married to my husband.

The smell of breakfast creeps in through the crack beneath my door, fresh rolls and coffee and eggs and sausages. Paolo Two and Maria talk for a long time. Here, people like to talk.

Sometimes they talk for hours. When I listen to them talking I try and understand but I feel like a mountaineer clinging to a ledge, and I know I can hang on for the first few minutes, but after that my grip will begin to weaken and I will feel myself slipping, falling into the chasm of not-understanding-anything.

I hear Paolo Two’s other girlfriend come downstairs. The sunlight through the tangle of green is silver and weak. A cock crows in the garden next door, strangled and throaty. It crows over and over. I had thought cocks just crowed once, and then went back to whatever else it is cocks do.

But it seems as though I was wrong about this too.

I hear Paolo Two talking to his girlfriend. I have decided I will call her the girlfriend from now on, not the other girlfriend, for I am not really his other girlfriend, and if I am not his other girlfriend, then she is not his other girlfriend either.

I am not really anything.

Still, as I lie in bed I wonder if Paolo Two is looking at my door, thinking about me, as he talks to his girlfriend.

They are laughing about something.

It starts to rain, hissing tropical through the leaves and into the swimming pool, chopping up the water. The sky turns black.

I know they will exclaim and comment on the rain, and they do. Why, wherever you are, do people always comment on rain?

I hear the girlfriend leave for work. I hear them kiss.

Eu te amo, she says.

Te amo tambem, he says.

Ha, I think.

I jump out of bed and open my door. I am wearing a small t-shirt and underwear. I stretch drowsily, lift my arms above my head. Paolo watches me. I know it. I close one eye, lazy as a cat, and say, morning.

I do not mind that Paolo sneaks into the girlfriend’s room. After all the girlfriend was here before me.

For I am unbetrayable, alone, above.

I am beyond.

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