Tuesday, June 13

Apartamento



There was no air conditioning in the apartment; instead, all of the windows and doors were opened so that a great wind might blow off the sea and run through all the rooms. If one stood in just the right spot – in this instance, outside my room, between the bathroom and the stairs – a number of draughts converged and whipped about the body. After a shower, it was a joy to stand in just that spot as I brushed my teeth and the converging draughts dried my body. There was sand all over the tiled floors. The sand disappeared and reappeared, it evaded the broom, it was always felt, and dusted off before bed. At night I lay in bed picking grains of sand off my chest and from my hair.
We were on holiday and I was glad for the break.
For the first two days a fallen leaf, brown and brittle, tumbled around in the gap between the buildings out front. It made the sound of knocking on wood. Its voice was deep and low. If I went out to check on the leaf, it would stop moving. It ran in circles all day for two days. I stood in front of our apartment and listened to the leaf—‘Rock knock clock.’
My niece fell in love with the beach. At first she called it—‘Sandpit’ until she recognised the suffix of the sea, and learned—‘Beach.’ During walks along the coast she would point her chubby finger and exclaim—‘Beach! beach!’ When let loose in armbands and a swimming costume she would run back and forth, chasing and backing off with the waves, her legs scampering, her laugh wild; back and forth; she was shadowed up and down the length by my parents or I. It was enjoyable to only watch her simple amusement. Then she would take her bucket and spade, dig a hole and watch it fill with water from the poking waves. She would stand her bucket in a nook of sand, then go to the sea and back with a watering can, gradually filling the bucket, spilling it as she walked clumsily. When the bucket filled, she would pick it up and empty it back into the sea. I began to understand the concept of infinity. However I watched her play in the surf and study the holes other children were digging, and I felt quite happy at her happiness, wishing I, too, were so simply amused. She would point at me, beam, and then run into the waves.
During the day we would relax by the sea. In the evenings we would wash the suncream and sand off our bodies and go out for long dinners, during which my father and I would drink too much and then stumble home in the moonlight. I was in good spirits. I had cast aside my bad mood and was feeling right about things, most of all I was happy to be with my family. Occasionally I would stare enviously at a young couple walking hand-in-hand, holidaying together, in love, but otherwise I did not mind my being alone. I would not be alone forever, and then I too could walk hand-in-hand in love in some foreign country.
On the third day I went for a walk. Everyone had scattered for the afternoon and the apartment was still. I packed my bag with some things and set out on a walk. There was nowhere that I planned to go, other than to walk. Often I would end up in a cul-de-sac, the entrance to a hotel, and my entrance would be frowned upon, so I stayed for a moment to look at everyone, perhaps somewhat shiftily, and then turned on my heels and went back the way I had come. The sun was very strong but I was wearing protection, and that blessing of a wind cooled my skin. I arrived at a cafĂ© and stopped, ordered two coffees, taking a seat outside. The waiter set down my coffees, one in front of me and the other opposite, as though I were to be joined by someone else. No one else was going to show up. I rounded them both up in front of me and set about drinking them until I felt quite sick in the heat. Even in that sickness, I felt good; it was strange. In front of me, some brothers and their father were playing football between them, while their mother and wife sat nearby with a book. They played very well together. After my cups were drained, I paid the bill and left. ‘Where are you?’ I asked the telephone, then went down onto the sand to see my family. My niece was running in and out of the waves. She did that for forty minutes and the time passed wonderfully just so.


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