Mandrem

Mud houses were scattered across the coast. Dogs yapped and howled their short giddyups in the backyards and white light glow, and I wondered if they sensed me, the foreigner, perched atop the high balcony above it all, my feet propped to the stars, listening to them and looking over their home. The ocean was there, out there in the dark, awaiting the monsoon violence. I could hear Her slapping Her watery hands against the sand, touching the beaches Mandrem, then Ashwem, then Morjim and the farther Goan shores.

Earlier I had attended dinner with Blue, his wife Enya and the baby boy Leo. The restaurant hung upon a curve of the road tucked against the coastal cliffs. Our table was in a lofty open space, so we could see the beach and the thatched roofs of the huts and the tops of palm trees stretching forever away to the north.

I ate shark, breaded in semolina and fried in oil, and the taste reminded me of fish frys with family long ago–my uncles in plastic chairs in the grass, hot peanut oil in the great metal basin, their rolling laughter. The white flesh of the fried shark flaked in my mouth. I drank a lime soda, sweet and salty, in a frosted glass with a straw. I ate french fries, thinking how odd they were in this place, but like the rest, they tasted so different, but good.

I ate shark, breaded in semolina and fried in oil, and the taste reminded me of fish frys with family long ago–my uncles in plastic chairs in the grass, hot peanut oil in the great metal basin, their rolling laughter. tweet

We watched the light go out–the sun sinking in glow ball orange and then paler, and then a flash of sudden red, and gone. Venus marked her spot, and stars soon joined her. Lower in the sheet of black, shipping tankers punched pixel-wide holes in the distant cardboard sky, dots of a dashed line pointed towards Bombay.

Enya left, her scooter whirring into the distance, a sleepy Leo strapped to her chest and yawning in the heavy evening air, and Blue and I were left to talk and order more drinks.

Our discussion turned to the nature of fame–how original beauty and uniqueness attracts the world’s attention, how the world genuflects, and how too often this bowing tragically shutters the idols.

We spoke of Elvis and Michael and others. We spoke about raising children with creative support, not forcing creative fame.

We spoke about trauma’s role in shaping an artist. We spoke about many things, as Blue and I were wont to do. Was it the nature of us or the nature of that place that inspired such conversation?

Somewhere on the curvy road home I couldn’t help laughing, and over the motorbike’s own chuckling engine, Blue asked me why.

“What are you laughing at, Joe King?” My invented nickname, blessed by Blue; I could almost feel his grin in the foot pegs. “Do you a have a reason?”

Why did I laugh? I laughed because of how the headlight lit the poor edges of the land, because of the freedom of riding with no helmet, because of the ocean sound coming from beside us, because of the coolness of the wind stirring itself into the hotness that was the day, because of my arms outstretched. Because of all these things and so many more things indescribable I laughed.

I laughed because of how the headlight lit the poor edges of the land, because of the freedom of riding with no helmet, because of the ocean sound coming from beside us, because of the coolness of the wind stirring itself into the hotness that was the day, because of my arms outstretched. tweet

But whatever answer I gave, I doubt he heard–the air rushed so strong past our ears in the dark.

The air conditioner dripped; the balcony tiles were shining in condensation. The remains of a three-inch cockroach lay splattered in the corner. Another, larger one, died inside. My shoe lay next to me, ready for more insect murder. My room was four white walls, a thinly covered mattress and a naked light bulb. Perhaps it was the worst hotel room I’d ever seen. It would be my home for ten days. I was content.

There was the sea, there was the sky and there were the sounds. There was the thought of a girl. And there was that connecting something that filled me up during those moments of self-company and prayer to all the beauties.

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