Los Varados (1)
At dawn I heard those heavy stomps and hurried strides. I pulled on my shirt and stepped outside the door to Estrecho Avenue. As usual, this road lay dead and coolness hanging in air. Orange glows from the beacons on remotely placed posts glimmered through the leaves of branches hanging low. Rosewood planted in rows on the sidewalks and down the middle.
I heard clamours from a distance. Lights came on at the eatery standing by the corner facing main street. Fishermen on the island picked early breakfast. I rubbed my hands and glanced up. Few movements out there and a couple of guys entered the bistro. I saw another bloke pedalling up on a tiny bicycle.
There were very few motor vehicles. Folks used to tread on foot. Many chose to ride those bicycles with a basket in the front.
Few others joined outside the eatery. Now that was a crowd in this sleeping town. A couple of guys came up jogging a bit early in the morning. They passed down the other side of the lane behind the ferns heading south towards the end of the road. Still unprepared I refrained to ask.
This road isn’t wide enough. Down south lay half a mile of grassland climbing to the dunes enclosing south boundary. A coastal road lay beside the dunes but riding on Camino Costero doesn’t allow to see the shores over the humps. A quarter mile of beach grass descends to the rock-surfaced sandy beach called Arena Roja. A reddish-toned gravels usually accumulate there. Some lucky ones may pick few other colours. The ridge of dunes known as the Muro or sometimes referred as ‘muro de la perdición’ stretches few miles west to the woods of ‘Enselvado’.
Beyond the wall of doom, mighty Atlantic brings in rising swells of tides without breaking the tops like a range of mountains. Break occurs deep below in the rocks miles out and waves roll in dispersing spindrift in air and crush to the shore spreading fizzing white foam. Nobody goes beyond the wall apart from few surf addicts. Those who did never return. So is the story behind ‘Isla de Los Varados’ – most of them got stranded. Those who leave never come back and those who reach never go back. This island is nowhere to be found on a map.
And that gives an insight to the demography of the small community in the town of Saint Nadie. No one belongs to a religion. There are no churches, no tribes or races. No police station and law virtually absent in a no man’s land.
Necessity knows no law – folks keep an unusual custom in their heritage; faith in black magic and scares in Gods whom they believe run a White House…as above so below. Folks wear talismans and a silver chain bound in sevenfold around the waists. They draw eyeliners and dip in bare skin in moonlit waters in the northern shores. They enter in a sacred piece of garment wearing a black wrap; falda. Each man on his own and womenfolk shy to the eyes.
Northern shores extend two great arcs of white sandy beaches into crystal clear waters of a breath-taking lagoon; the Azul – a natural harbour protecting a marina to moor fishing boats while big ships anchor at the inland sea. Costa Este also serves a small airstrip on the beach.
A blue gate hidden in the shadows opened and a tall spooky woman in her mid-forties peered. She wore a tiny little nightie. “Traves!” she called me…not my real name. “What’s going on out there?”
“I didn’t ask,” I replied motioning to the joggers reaching the long end.
“A whale washed up on Roja beach,” she said.
“Who told you?”
Her sparse opened wide spilling almost a secret she was keeping. “I heard on the radio.”
“You’re lying,” I said, “Are you sport?”
“No,” she clamped.
“Why won’t you drop in?”
She stepped out of the gate standing tall on bare legs. “I can’t, I have a date.” I knew and she won’t be able to keep a secret.
Juliette was a single mother raising a kid and she got no family on the island. She got raven hair and green eyes, broad lips and a pair of bursting teardrops in a thin nightie. A smashing figure and obviously the tallest one on the island.
“Let me...” I began to walk towards the long end in my short pants to catch a cold. Perhaps, I could catch a glimpse of motorised activity on the coastal road from half mile distance if a whale washed up.
I thought about Juliette. I slept with her several times. She was my neighbour and kind of a servant at her place. My hobby was dating girls. For that matter, there were plenty of girls on the island, most in their teens. My choices were few and chances even fewer.
She wouldn’t know how she ended up here and my being remain yet another mystery. For instance, Mode who claimed he belonged to Kenya, climbed a cargo ship in dock and hid in the bottom. Halfway through the trip, he was apprehended. They dropped him on a raft in the middle of the ocean.
The ‘Maldive Garden’ located between this town and Enselvado took its name not because Maldives grow anything botanic. A group of seafarers lost at sea ended here. Those men were tasked to lay a garden. Now only a fraction remained of the botanical garden. Land utilised for crop cultivation.
I was keeping three lodges by the junction and little wondered how to meet my budget. The shack I kept by the north corner stood next to my home and the house rented to a retiree. Out of respect, less I live up to, I dated a student girl there and took blame for it.
I heard the hum of a generator set as I reached the long end without streetlights. Folks used their own generators. The sky lit in a replenish glow. It remained so into daybreak. The sun never shown to this part of the world. I could see few headlights moving on Costero half a mile away. Wind got in my legs and I turned back having got no clue.
Closing on to north corner, I reached the row of lodges standing identical, each with a single glass panel on the façade to Estrecho Avenue. I could see sleepers in bunks placed so close to the roadside and in grave states; none draws a curtain and all the lights on.
Third in the row, I caught Juliette lying in bed on her back with ankles stretched out from the footboard. I stopped to gaze. She was the most beautiful creature. She lay there a span below my eyes, next to a guy in bed. She was smoking a cigar in sport. Nobody inside could see me outside.
I grabbed a flash and pulled on a windbreaker. I spread out still in shorts. Reaching the panel, I placed my torch on the glass and switched on. Juliette narrowed her eyes and stared at the spot. Next I turned it on my face and dropped a tongue. She beamed with that wide smile and threw a pillow at me…to hit the window.