Wave / Roberto Martínez Bachrich


Agora eu já sei
da onda que se ergueu no mar
e das estrelas que esquecemos de contar
o amor se deixa surpreender
enquanto a noite vem nos envolver.

Antonio Carlos Jobim

We’re young and thoughtless, Verónica and I, and we’ve always been proud of it. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t too hard for us to lie to our parents. Verónica assured my mom we wouldn’t go to the beach, that not for anything in the world would it occur to us –with the signs of that horrible storm approaching the coast– to go to the sea, no way, we’d stay at her aunt Carmelina’s house in Coro, and spend the weekend visiting the colonial center and getting to know the city. Likewise, I promised Verónica’s dad he didn’t need to worry, we’d stay with my aunt Dulce and my cousins, no beach for us, because the truth is I hate the sun and the sticky sand, besides, those beaches there are full of jellyfish that time of year and I can’t stand those slimy things, but more than anything the possibility of hurricane Sabrina hitting the coasts of Falcón terrifies me too much (I often have nightmares about that). So, we said, Vero and I have our whole lives in front of us and don’t plan on taking stupid risks and ruining our future with any old carelessness. Our parents were absolutely convinced and relieved, so Verónica and I hit the road.

As soon as we arrive at the guest house in Adícora, and after dropping off our things, we put on our bathing suits and take the road to the beaches on the north end of the peninsula. The weather seems perfectly normal: the same thick heat as always and the salty breeze typical of any coastal zone. I ask Verónica whether Playa Blanca or Saledales, it’s her turn to decide, because I chose the guest house. Vero checks me out from head to toe and decides Playa Blanca, arguing that sand dunes ending in the sea are profoundly romantic and beautiful. It seems perfect to me, but not only because of Vero’s reasons, but also because Saledales always has too many people and that means submitting ourselves to prudence and chastity, such undesirable things when considering Verónica’s erect and recently operated breasts. I blush foolishly and quickly return to my color. I know it: desire is duplicated at the sea. There’s something in the sea breeze that tears off all the layers of habit: the salt water seems to irremediably induce the games of the body, the sea makes us sensual. And this becomes pure delight when things go just beyond a pair of perfect breasts: it’s love, ardent as a Guadalajara blood sausage sea urchin, sweet as a Viennese pastry cream dolphin, tasty as a piña colada octopus, big as a eucalyptus whale. Yes, the marine air duplicates the endlessly reformed and cloying syntax of silly love.

We stop at a liquor store to stock up on drinks. It’s my turn to decide, so I choose gin and orange juice, though I know Vero would have preferred vodka with lemon, but everyone knows that lemon on the beach stains and I imagine the corners of Verónica’s lips darkened can’t be too appetizing. Then we keep going and she discovers, along the way, a little restaurant she finds very picturesque. She suggests we have lunch there and I tell her it’s better on the beach, in any kiosk by the shore, but she looks at me severely and says it’s her turn to decide the fate of our next lunch. I accept, slightly annoyed, because honestly I’m dying to lay her down on the beach immediately and kiss her, caress her whole body, lick every single bit of her and make love to her until night falls to finish counting the stars in her eyes; but following the interpolated decisions has always been the single law of our relationship and, besides, that gives me the power to decide exactly what we’ll do when the beach is finally in front of us.

We eat lunch without too much appetite because the food isn’t that good and the buzzing of a noisy radio whose signal comes and goes keeps the only waiter in the place occupied, completely lost in the news of the storm. Afterward we continue with our route and, just up ahead, some National Guardsmen stop us trying to make us turn back and wanting to warn us about the hurricane. I tell them we’re headed to find my poor aunt Dulce, who lives alone in the next village and is probably really scared –she’s an elderly woman, you understand– about the approach of Sabrina. So they let us go through and a couple miles up the road, Playa Blanca appears in front of our eyes completely solitary and paradisiacal. I park the jeep at the edge of the road and we cross the dunes that separate us from the sea on foot. The salty storm has grown slightly and the sun seems too drowsy for it to be midday. Verónica starts to say that maybe it really is dangerous, wondering if it might not be better to turn back and leave the beach for another day, since anyways we have our room at the guest house where we can have fun together in the sweetest way, but I plant a long, warm kiss on her mouth and assure her there’s not the slightest reason to worry, she’s with me, nothing’s gonna happen to us and the sand on Playa Blanca is much more comfortable than our sad cot in the guest house. My effervescent animal desire, however, won’t last very long. As soon as we’re facing the sea the sun seems to hide completely in a thick, dark cloud. The sea is choppy and the storm has become a gale. We stop and Vero holds on to me scared. The wind keeps gathering strength and in a matter of seconds the last dune before the water starts to move toward the point where we’re standing. Verónica sinks into a strange trembling and I’m invaded by a deep and paralyzing confusion. The water stirs furiously and each minute a new immense wave is born that crashes a few feet from our paralysis. Vero demands that we leave and a few tears the dust clouds make disappear within milliseconds flow from her eyes. We try to go back, get to the jeep, but the effort is useless. The dunes have decided to merge into the sea and run in the opposite direction of our escape. We advance three steps and a great shapeless dune in perpetual movement returns us to the same spot. Verónica starts to cry in panic as her glance is disfigured. We keep trying, panting, and it’s all useless. The sea convulses ferociously, the waves –each time more voluminous– crash into each other and produce a horrific din. My car, which can barely be seen through the sand in the air, suddenly disappears buried by a dune. Verónica holds on to me with that superhuman strength despair grants us. And we stand there, amid the slaps from the sand and the terrible rumor of the waves. The chorus is now joined by dozens of thunderclaps that tirelessly burst in the celestial vault. And suddenly a rain storm explodes that seems to fracture the firmament and tear it apart in liquid pieces. Then the sea seems to open up, the waters rehearse a horrible contraction and drain toward the sides, leaving in the center of our visibility a distant and mysterious small blue island that makes a sinister silence coagulate in the wind. At that instant we realize: it’s the wave that grows. An enormous, monstrous wave that marches full speed toward us and seems to scratch the air as it moves producing a dry and clamorous sound, an unbearable roar. It’s the same wave I’ve dreamed of so many times before, it’s the same recurring nightmare, that repeats itself with a rigorous and macabre perfection in reality: myself, hugging the body of a woman with firm breasts (in the dream the woman was faceless, I couldn’t have known it was Verónica), watching the wave approach, both of us terrified, paralyzed in front of the final horror. Then I know this time I won’t wake up. And it’s my turn to decide how all this will end: either letting us be dragged, crushed and drowned by the wave or handing ourselves over to the sepulcher of the immense white dune moving furiously from the other side. “I’ll pass,” I think, but it’s too late for me to tell Vero.

Translator’s Note: This short story is included in the new book by Roberto Martínez Bachrich, Las guerras íntimas (Caracas: Lugar Común, 2011).

{ Roberto Martínez Bachrich, Prodavinci, 3 June 2011 }

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