Tuesday, September 28, 2010

story, lights, shadows

Now here´s a story. It is about 5 pm and the people are leaving the beach. As I walk beside the railings with my camera I notice a person lying on the wet sand. It is a young woman. She wears a patterned white and brown dress and his lying face downwards. Her feet are inches away from the braking waves.  She is perfectly still. Beside her are her shoes and a handbag. She is not dressed for the beach. She is lying face downwards. Her chestnut coloured hair, short and well  cared for, is all I can see of her head. At first I think that she might be dead. And I am beginning to ask myself what action I should take, when a man walking by the sea, passes her stops, bends over and questions her. She seems to respond and he moves away, but returns to reassure himself that she is alright, and having apparently done, so walks on. So do I, having first, rather guiltily taken a photograph. When I return she is still there. And later back on our balcony when I look again, I see that she has moved, but on to the dry sand, where once again, she is lying in the same position flat on her face. Perhaps half an hour later, she is still there, in the same position. Heidi thinks that we should alert someone. But we decide that we will take no action until we return from the shops where we are bound. Almost an hour later she is still there. No one appears to have approached her.
    We decide to tell the pharmacy which is opposite the entrance to the beach. Soon the pharmacist arrives with his mobile phone and appears to be calling the police. But no sooner has he done so, than she gets to her feet, staggers and collapses on her knees. But after a while she manages to put on her shoes  and  to walk without difficulty.
    It is then that a man in a red shirt who has been sitting further down the beach comes to her help. He joins her and the pharmacist, in what looks like an animated discussion. She uses her hands and arms with sweeping gestures more than most people. She appears perfectly  recovered from whatever was wrong with her.  What we think is the last sight of her is sitting on a bench opposite the sea beside the man in the red shirt to whom she is in profound hand-waving conversation.
    We meanwhile go to join some friends for dinner further along the promenade. On returning to the hotel we note that she is no longer on the bench, but when we look down from the balcony, to our surprise, she and the man in the red shirt are sitting at a table directly beneath us. Between then is an empty coffee cup and an empty wine glass.  They have not had dinner because their table is one of the bar tables which have no table cloth.  The conversation  continues as energetically as ever, until we begin to wonder whether they are talking in a sign laguage. Are they two deaf mutes who have met by chance? Or is one of them deaf and the other gifted with this means of communication.  Did they know one another before? One thing is certain:  it is not the conventional sign language used by deaf people. They may simply be talking excitedly. The most precise of the gestures is a circle made with finger and thumb and a spreading of the fingers on the part of the man.
    From our view point we cannot be certain of the precise nature of her gestures but they consist largely of sweeping movements of her arms to left and right. In the morning there is no sign of them. They leave a sense of mystery which still teases us. Answers to our questions could produce an  anticlimax. Perhaps speculation is the best way to keep alive the memory of this strange episode.

Every evening  when it is dark a young man with a bag over his shoulder walks up and down infront of the  restaurant tables. Without warning he fires a green illuminated projectile into the air which opens a helicopter like pair of blades. The machine drifts prettily down He makes no attempt to sell these toys until people approach him, which strikes me as a most gentle form of marketing.

After dark, all the light is infront of the bars and restaurants. Beyond the crowded and colourful  rows of tables there is only darkness and, now scarcely visible, the elegant stainless steel railings above the sea. People with dogs, bicycles and push chairs profiled against the sea as they walk past are almost without colour like shadows or figures in a negative.

4 comments:

CC said...

Captivating mystery.

Barrett Bonden said...

What makes this story is the presence - albeit, unidentified - of middle-class consciousness. I am there with you, experiencing the same interior dialogue, worrying about being too precipitate, worrying about not assuming my responsibilities, afterwards shaping the event into something that is more satisfactorily literary.

Plutarch said...

CC ... and frrustrating.

BB Literary, yes. It does help to shape the problems of existence into a recognisable patern. J-P Sartre would understand, I think.

Lucy said...

The internal drama, clearly very powerful if deranged, of the protagonists, the woman in particular, and the drama which you made of it as spectators, their points of contact and overlap, all very intriguing! She evidently wasn't any kind of known local character. Perhaps it was all just some kind of weird situationist experimental theatre...

Interesting that you resorted to the pharmacist for aid and advice. They are very reassuring people somehow, aren't they?