We shall have no more visitors this year. The sky has turned an unrelenting grey that grows lighter or darker but never another hue, even after the cloudbursts early in the morning or late in the afternoon. All day and through the night, we hear the sea roaring as it crashes upon the crags bounding the beach. Sometimes there is a lull, and the soft waves roll over the shore with a kind of humming. But we have learned not to trust the calm.
In the summer, they come, young men and women with bright eyes and loud laughter. They play in the glistening waters and frolic on the plage, taking pictures against the backdrop of a clear blue horizon, framed by rocky promontories embracing the cove. They rise before daybreak and run barefoot along the strand, the fine, firm sand padding the soles of their feet, as the sun tinges the sea and sky a fiery orange. In the afternoon, they ride the waves atop great, lightweight boards until the sun sets behind the blue-grey mountains and everything turns a pale shade of indigo.
We open our homes and offer our beds to them for the night, though a few prefer to lay mats and blankets on the beach. I think it is foolish, for there is nothing to see, and even in the summer, the nights here are cold. The driftwood is too scarce and too wet to build a fire with, and the heaviest of penalties fall upon those who cut the bakawan for coal. Wax and oil are precious, but we light lamps and candles to allay the terror some of our visitors feel of the vast blackness beyond the flickering light in our homes. When dawn comes, they are as gay as ever, as warm and bright as our summer days. But that time is still several months from now.
Now, the days are dull and damp, the air heavy and brackish from the sea and the sweat of our toils. Even the clothes at the bottom of the baul smell of sea spray, and those we hang out in the open do not dry under the hiding sun. We get used to the clammy awareness of each other’s bodies in our cramped huts, and the feel of salt on our skin.
Around this time of the year, we cannot even stay out or roam about. Should not, anyway.
Startled, I jump up to my feet, turn around, and see my grandmother hobbling a short distance away. I run to her and take her arm.
“What are you doing here, Nana?” I ask her. “You’ll catch a cold.”
“Why have you not turned back home, child?” she answers. “Don’t you smell it?”
I sniff the air. I catch the scent, but barely so. Maybe I spend too much time by the sea that it is no longer so sensible to me.
They say that when the breeze begins to reek of fish, it is time to steer the boats ashore.
I wrote this fragment one rainy morning while commuting to work. One day this will be a full story.