To Alba Carvalho,

If I were blind, I wouldn't be making faces at the sun. Nor would I be able to see the light that every January hits this beach.

"Hey, you. You're making a shadow. Please, don't stand in my sun," she exclaimed. It was a woman's voice; the same woman who just a little while before was considering the possibility of being blind.

"The sun's not yours, ma'am. But I heard you yesterday, asking Zequinha to go on his dinghy," answered a man's voice. Not exactly a man's. Let's say a very young man's voice.

"And he said no. He said he didn't take women to sea," she explained surly, mimicking the said Zequinha's way of speaking.

"True enough. He doesn't. But I do," readily proposed the lad.

"And you are ¾?" she asked the busybody.

"I'm his son. My name's Humberto."

"Mine's Alba."

"I know. Here everyone knows everything."

I can bet they're checking me out. I was this week's talk of the town in this fishing village. They're so funny. They're so different from everyone I know, mused the young woman.

He sat down beside her. This was a public beach after all. He sat close by, trying to get even closer, already dragging up affinities, longing to start a conversation, already intimate. He badly wanted to experience a tourist like this one, one of those gorgeous ones who came up from time to time to the village. All so beautiful, all from the big cities. If he could but date one of them some day, it would be grand.

It's with this intention in mind that he started to chat,Rolex Replica Watches telling her stories about the fishermen's lives and about the comings and goings of the sailing dinghies as, cleverly, he perceived Alba's interest in them.

She listened patiently, listlessly. Here was the first native with whom she was making friends, and making friends was her foremost wish. She had come to that small village hoping to meet uncomplicated, simple people; who knows, maybe even a new man, someone who'd be pure, different from all those she had known up to now and who just made her sick. Someone special, who'd give meaning to her life; that secret dream women will never give up, their eternal chasing after the adventure of romantic love.

Humberto became her shadow. He thought she was a real dish. Ah, if only it could really happen, he wished sighing, following her everywhere in the village, putting his duties aside for her.

He'd walk for miles just to get her the lettuce and tomatoes for the salad she set such a store by. Whenever a crab was caught entangled in any of the nets, it was immediately put aside as a gift (city people love crab meat). Ripe cashews, found on the roads they strolled on during the day, were taken, bit by bit, by his fingers to the red lips she always wore. She was never seen without her dark, provocative lipstick.

In the evening, they would go to Mamede's bar. She would lie on the net hammock on the terrace and he would lounge on a chair, facing her, utterly fascinated, talking big, either boasting or playing the guitar. He was smart lad. At dawn, without being seen, he'd sneak out and go gather bouquets of jasmine for her which he left on the doorstep of her bungalow. The sea was always a deep dark color at that time.

The light would awaken her at six in the morning. Her room had a window that one could never close properly, impeding darkness to make the night linger just a little longer. She used that to her advantage, going for long walks, stretching, breathing in the salty sea air, listening to the sound of the ceaseless sea. At her side, also ceaselessly, was Humberto.

"Look, over there. There's a dinghy coming in. I can distinguish them from one another already. This one's your father's," exclaimed Alba, pointing to the horizon.

"I'll take you for a ride today. I heard he was going to town. As soon as my old man leaves, we go."

"Why doesn't Zequinha like me?"

"You got it wrong, sweetie. Really wrong. He likes you all right."

"Then why won't he let me go on his sailing dinghy?"

"You want to know why? No fisherman ever takes a woman to sea."

"But, why?"

"Go check if you want to. It's not just dad. No one's going to take you."

"But why? I can pay. I said I could pay. Just name the price."

"It isn't a matter of money."

"What then?"

"Just nonsense. They're ignorant people. Don't let it upset you. Do as I tell you: don't worry. I'll take you. Just don't tell the others. I'll take you one of these days ¾ " he would promise.

She had already taken many refusals. This young fisherman was her last hope. Going for a ride on a sailing dinghy seemed such a simple matter. She couldn't understand why they made such a fuss about it.

They would swim, diving under the waves, early, very early in the morning, still warm enough however for sweat and salty water to mix on their skin. He'd go deep down the ocean abysses to fetch her corals, starfishes, shells and bits of mother of pearl. He'd take on all challenges just to make her happy. They would play in the turquoise-blue water as perhaps people had done from other, more primitive, times. And it was all so beautiful one can't even begin to tell it.

Once, they got it into their minds to go fishing for crawfish in the ponds left over from the ebbing tide. They pulled them from their hiding places with their bare hands, causing her beautiful fingers to bleed. His eyes burning with multiple desires, he licked away the blood, lustfully, and, for the first time, they plunged into each other's eyes, deep down into each other's soul, saying that nothing that says it all.

"Let's go to the inn. I'll just cook the crawfish in the steam," suggested Alba, breaking the mood.

At the inn, they wouldn't let her cook that wonderful food the sea gives us. Fishing was not allowed. It was the crawfish's spawning time. Should they be caught by the inspectors the inn would be closed and there would be a fine. And the fine cost a fortune.

"That's got nothing to do with it. It's just spite on that dirty little nigger's part, the one called Teca. She thinks she's somebody just because she got herself a job as cook in that shitty inn. Don't be upset, honey," he crooned tenderly, "let's go home. We'll cook the crawfish there. Mom won't mind, I'm quite sure."

"Was Teca your girlfriend?" she inquired, her voice spiteful.

"She was. Thank God, she's not anymore. We used to go out before you came."

"Brown-nose. Busybody."

"Yeah, that's just it. She did it to toady to her boss. She's doing it with him," said Humberto, allowing a small flare of jealousy over Teca to appear.

"No, she's not. I know her boss, Otavio, the innkeeper. As if he'd settle for that. No, she wants to get at me because of you," she asserted jealously, trying to underrate the cook. "Whenever she can, she nags me. I'm going to complain about her."

"Don't. Let it be. She's a poor wretch and besides, she needs the job," he soothed her, changing his mind and protecting his ex-girlfriend. "After all, we do have better things to do," he argued.

Baby crawfish steamed in their own shell. Afterwards, all you have to do in order to eat them is to remove the flesh from the shell and dip it in melted butter. A delicacy that should be eaten kneeling down in gratitude.

He climbed on the coconut tree with his machete between his teeth. She just had to express a wish for coconut water, or anything else for that matter, for him to go and get it.

"Be careful, Beto. For Heaven's sake, don't fall," she cried, looking up, blazing in the sun.

"So, now his name is Beto, is it?" jeered Maria. And she cried to her son "Hey, Humberto. You've become Beto, now, ugh? How come? That wasn't the name you were baptized with, you know?!"

One evening, after having a swing of sugar-cane rum, just to get warmed up, they went for a walk behind the graveyard. Half crazed with desire, he pinned her down with his body, pressing her female body against the wall. A fragrance of jasmine. He smelled the nape of her neck, drowning in her scent, while she felt the male rigidity of his body leaning against her tights, rubbing itself against them. He lifted her skirt, impatient, and almost got what he wanted. But she wriggled out when he relaxed his grip to unbutton himself. Advised by the devil in her, she ran to her bungalow and locked herself in. He couldn't catch her and spent the night moaning, imploring at her door. She remained adamant.

"Please, my darling. Please. For pity's sake. Open the door. Open it. Please. Open the door, my sweet. There's no one around. No one will know."

But the next morning, everyone knew. Everyone looked at him and laughed, even Teca.

This episode, instead of deterring him, made him even more tenacious, more attentive, more passionate. There are things about love one just can't explain. From then on, her wishes were fulfilled even before they were uttered; that reading-the-other's-thoughts thing. But she still hadn't contrived to go on a sailing dinghy yet.

"Why can't you take me today? Look, the dinghy is just over there."

"My father is keeping an eye on us. Just the other day, he was telling my mother he wasn't going to town, as he had to, just to prevent me from doing something unfortunate."

"Unfortunate? Why should it be unfortunate? Can you or can't you manage a dinghy?"

"Of course I can. And I'm good at it too. You can ask anyone. But here, they believe taking a woman to sea is unlucky. They're just ignorant people, you know," he explained, proud to be among the very few who had had some study in that small fishing village at the end of the world.

"But I want to go. I don't believe in that kind of stuff," she protested, challenging him, while Humberto held her from behind, his hands cupping one of the breasts sheltered in her bra.

She always wore a bathing suit. Sometimes she would just tie some colorful cloth to her slim waist. Maybe that is why the lad's body could not behave properly in his trunks. His organ was always jumping out of his clothes, like a live fish jumping out of the net.

It was Maria who plainly told Alba, in a clear menacing voice, that all fishermen made a pledge to Janaina, the powerful goddess of the sea and of the hearts, promising never to carry another woman in their dinghys beside her. She accompanied them always as a carved wooden image stuck to the mast.

"She punishes those who break their pledge by taking them to the bottom of the sea."

From then on, she started to take a closer look at the icon stuck to the masts and to understand better the mysteries of that deeply masculine world. But even so, she could not resign herself not to go and so increased the pressure on her boyfriend, making it quite clear that he'd only get what he craved so desperately if he took her to sea on a dinghy. She would drive him insane but she wouldn't yield. What a delicious game it is to come close to these limits. It is a matchless moment of sheer power that in which a man does anything, but truly anything, to try to entwine his body with that of a woman, and when we are that woman.

She decided to gather oysters to eat them. She liked them raw, lightly seasoned with a sprinkle of wild lemon juice. She taught the village children how to pry the oysters loose from the rocks with an old knife since, though the beach was crammed with them, they were not in the habit of eating or even selling them. She spent many an afternoon in such a harvest, leaving an increasingly impatient and jealous Humberto to follow on her trail. All he could do was make the most of a few stolen moments in which the attention of the crowd wavered and he would sneak his hand into her bikini bottom to fondle her. She would quiver, but she never let him see the effect he had on her, just to torment him. The poor wretch felt ready to ignite. He was on the brink of explosion. Such was his state that he once even neighed like a horse, out of sheer passion. The sun was so hot it hurt on one's back. The sea was of superlative beauty.

It had to happen, Humberto kept repeating himself. It had to happen. Life demanded that it happen. Whenever he ate, he felt her taste on his lips; whatever he smelt, he smelled her perfume. He dreamt about her in his arms, lovely, passionate. After it happened he was absolutely certain she would never want to do anything else in her life.

Laughing, crushed in his arms, she would provoke him: "Take me for a ride on the dinghy, darling. Then we can do all you want. With the sun on top and the sea underneath us."

"I will," he would say between two kisses on the mouth.

"When?" she would ask, pushing him away.

"Tomorrow," he decided, starting to kiss her once more, trying to taste the venom in the saliva of this woman who was driving him to madness.

They woke up before dawn to make the most of the ebb tide and walked across the salty water of the many fringes of the rivers who joined on their way to the sea. The cocks were crowing.

They went to another village, where Humberto had an uncle who was also a fisherman. He would try to catch him unawares. He would steal his sailing dinghy. He was ready to do anything to fulfil her wish and, at long last, his own, since they were interdependent. He was so happy he sang, ran and skipped in the froth that still clung to the sand.

Sliding the boat toward the waters that were beginning to rise was no problem. The tide was getting higher. When they passed the rolling point of the surf, the sun was already up. Finally, they reached the solidity of the high sea.

Janaina, tied to the mast, looked at him with arched brows. He made a silent prayer to the goddess, tied the rudder with a rope to have more freedom for the dainties of love and threw his clothes in the wicker basket. Dressed only in sunlight, way up high, and sea, down below, as she had suggested, he showed himself stark naked to the almost childish wonder of that woman he coveted so ardently.

"It's huge. It looks like a fish. A huge fish. It's smooth, hard, it's indomitable and as alive as a fish."

"The fish wants the sea," he whispered hoarsely, caressing the naked body she presented to him.

And he looked in fascination at his own organ. He proudly held the dimensions nature had endowed him with, as a king holds his scepter, the symbol of his power over other mortals. He smiled.

They fulfilled all of nature's demands to the full, repeating the ritual all along that day.

"This fish must go back to the sea, otherwise it will die," he would coax her, starting all over again.

"I can't. Not any more. You're going to hurt me if you go on. Please, be careful," she would ask plaintively, always taking him back nonetheless.

The sun was setting when they returned. The beach was thronged with people, but nobody said anything. When they saw they were both safe and sound, they all left silently. There was not a soul left to help them roll the vessel to dry land or to help them up in that terribly hard work of getting the dinghy to slide over two coconut trunks.

Later, much later in the night, he went back home. As soon as Maria saw him, she started to cry and lament herself. Zequinha, his father, barely controlling himself, muttered between his teeth: " In my opinion, you're as good as dead. She's going to take you away, I know for sure," and, unable to control himself any longer, he too started to weep.

The following morning, when the sun rose, Humberto saw his father getting ready to go fishing. He didn't feel like going along. He wanted Alba. But, against his own wish, he decided to follow his destiny. Who knew, he might yet conquer it?

He started to help around, tidying things, getting them ready, with the attitude of one who will go. Zequinha slowly relaxed his features, only saying however what was absolutely necessary. He gave the orders because he was the master. Father and son left together.

They left headed for an horizon of enchantments, bound for the rest in the arms of a woman whom they believed to be the only one who could ever accompany a man to sea: Janaina, the one who had put a fish between their legs.

Copyright © by Joyce Cavalccante