Near The Frontier

He did not follow. He only looked after her for a while. Ana distanced herself from him slowly, walking on the edge of the sea, bending from time to time to pick up an empty shell. She was wearing nothing but her yellow bikini that Al could not persuade her to take off, although now, on the last day of September, the beach was deserted.

The blues rhythms of Tom Waits were flooding them from the direction of the bar. The bartender had been listening stubbornly to only this tape since their arrival.

Their first argument. Al had waited it with a certain apprehension, same as he had waited his first visit to the dentist as a child. His friends had been boasting about the horrors that happened there and how heroically they had faced them, and Al had been afraid that he would not raise to the expectations, that he would cry or faint. Things had proved less serious, he had coped successfully, then.

He was pleased this time too. He did not regret anything of what he had said. He hoped that they would never argue, least of all there, at The Frontier, where only their tent was keeping watch over the strip of golden sand. And, of all days, in the last one! Next morning, early on, they would leave. The row had started from nowhere, voices had raised, reproaches enjoyed a very straight approach from her part. Al had defended himself like a duelist, with a cavalier attitude, without attacking. Phrases had crossed openly, humorously, in a fight that now, when he recalled it, was putting a content smile on his face.
It was a real fight! "We do well even the fights! That's great!", he was thinking, especially since not long ago he had discovered that they did well the silences too.

He was a little afraid that this argument would have a different echo in her mind and in her heart; he had learned from other stories that it was not a good idea to rely on the other's sense of humor, and he would not have wanted her to perceive the fact that he was letting her walk by herself now as a sign of detachment.

He was lying face down in the sand, under the gentle autumn sun. They had had nice whether. The Old Frontier was, not only the ending point of a country, it was the beginning of a world. The expanse of the sea, the seagulls, the sky and the two of them.

"Young master! Let the gypsy read your future!"

Al stood on his elbows, then turned to face her. He expected to see an old gypsy woman, but she was a young girl, with hazel skin, extraordinarily beautiful. She was wearing traditional clothes, with several skirts and a white cotton shirt. The back of her head was covered with a cloth embroidered with ruby flowers and green leaves. Her locks were gathered in two long plaits, twisted back and tied behind her ears. From each lobe there were dangling copper coins, and she was wearing a necklace made of red-died small sea twirls. Finally, she was carrying in her left hand a basket with grapes, on top of which she had placed a single peach, while two beautifully-crafted purses were tied to her right wrist, one green and the other yellow. Her nails were polished silver.

The beach was deserted. There was no trace of Ana.

"Come on, young master, I'll predict something interesting for you".

"I don't have any money", tried Al to fend her off.

"Without money! I'll read for you without money!"

She was proud, the gypsy. She was holding her head straight, slightly pulled to the back.

"What do you want me to read for you? The past or the future?"

"The past. For starters. Then the future. Would you? «With the past, it is easy to check if she is right. Then I'll see if I keep listening to her rubbish...»"

"Yes, why not", said the gypsy, as if she started a very serious and complicated business.

She put her basket with grapes down in the sand.

"Here you are!", she held out the big, fleshy peach for him.

Al took it.

"Show me your hand now"

She sat down in the sand, next to him. From the direction of the bar sounds were no longer coming. A few seagulls landed close to the fortified building. Far away, at sea, a ship was crawling lazily, like a snail.

"I'll tell you about small things that happened to you, without any connection to each other. This you must understand by yourself. I won't tell you the meaning. Why don't you eat it?"

"Fine", said Al, biting into the peach.

She had warm hands, the gypsy. For a few moments, which to Al seemed out0stretched, she did not say anything. She only searched the palm of his hand, with her eyes, with her hands. "What could you say?" He almost regretted that he had spoiled her game, asking for "the past".

(Excerpt from The Snake’s Footsteps, T Publishing House, 2003)