sky made the foamy waves seem intensely blue. I faced the horizon of the sea,
floating away from the multitudes that would congregate at the beach every Sunday
to tan themselves, talk about the latest scuttlebutt, and stroll on the sandy
catwalk to show off their hairy chests, well-trimmed moustaches, and neon color
bathing suits. The line that divides the sky from the sea, its infinite distance,
astounded me as the warm water swung me from side to side, soothing my body.
I heard a shot, and screaming men and women ran into the sea, towards me. I turned
to look at the the oncoming mob, their faces possessed by terror; on the beach,
a man held a pistol to the head of a young man that sat next to my belongings.
The young man struggled with the mugger, who finally tore what looked like a fourteen-karat
gold chain off the young man's neck. The assailant raised his gun and fired twice
into the sky as he ran away like a soul escaping from the devil. Nobody remained
at the water's edge; everybody had fled into the sea as if they'd jointly decided
that was better to drown in the depths of the ocean than get shot in the head.
the mugger had fled the scene, people returned to the shore. " Baby, what
a scare! You see? This country's fucked up." "I always see that thief walking
around here, cruising on the beach."
left the water and went straight to my belongings as the young man was being questioned
by the police. I gathered my knapsack and walked to the bar in the courtyard of
the "Beach House", where I'd hang out at the end of the day, find man
to hook up with, and snort a thin line of cocaine.
opened the iron fence into the guesthouses courtyard and shook the sand
off my feet. Then I put on my sandals and carried my things to one of the lounge
chairs close to the fence that faced the beach. I opened my knapsack and put some
old short khakis over my swimsuit. After straightening myself out, I went to the
bar to have a drink. I had to push my way through two peacockish types who held
drinks adorned with a little pink umbrellas. They checked me out from head to
feet as if they'd lost something somewhere on my body. I ordered a Piña
Colada and returned to the lounge chair to watch the parade of queens about to
come in from the beach. Ten minutes later, the same folks who ran into the sea
during the assault began to enter to guest house in small groups; they placed
themselves strategically in corners of the bar that offered a panoramic view of
the scene as well as a posing platform.
young man that had been mugged entered the guest house and a few queens started
to harass him with questions and comments about the incident. He scanned the courtyard
in search of a place to sit and paid them little attention. Then, he walked toward
For the first
time, I really noticed him. His body language was gentle, but firm. His face betrayed
no shyness. His dark and wavy hair highlighted his piercing blue eyes, a blue
similar to the sky that made my feel peace when I floated on the sea. As he came
closer, I noticed his fine features, the tone of his silky skin, the contours
of his masculine body. Shadows delineated arms and legs rounded with muscles and
covered with a moderate pattern of soft, straight hair. The color of his skin
was as white as virgin sand. Once he stood in front of me, his mouth smiled tenderly.
He kept a trim moustache over his fleshy, pink lips.
you mind if I sit here?" he asked.
course, why would I mind?" I said. "How are you holding up?"
fine. To tell you the truth, even though I tried to fight back, it freaked me
out. That chain meant a lot to me, but what can you do?"
at least you survived it. What's your name?"
he said. "You?"
Would you like something to drink?"
thanks, I think I'm leaving soon. Are you staying here for the night?
don't expect to," I said. "I'll just finish this drink, go have a quick bite to
eat somewhere, and then head home."
I was thinking of going home and watching TV, or go to the movies, just to get
out of my head... If you like, we can go to Kasalta for a sandwich. We can order
to go and eat at my place. I live nearby, in Calle San Jorge."
good to me," I said.
hands got sweaty as he took a moment to shake the sand off his feet by the guest-house's
gate. He returned to our chairs, took some broad cotton trousers out of his bag
and put them on while I finished my drink. The weekend boozehounds that filled
the courtyard bar tracked our path as we left the bar. I could feel their eyes
following our every movement as they gossipped.
walked out the guest-house and he pointed toward his car. He opened the passenger
side door for me. His car was a this year's model Volvo in red with black leather
seats. While starting the car, he pretended to face the road ahead while turning
his sea-color eyes towards me and smiling. Then, he sped off to Kasalta.
parked the car a few blocks away from Kasalta. He scrutinized me silently as we
walked to the bakery. The aroma of fresh baked bread coiled up our noses to welcome
us as soon as we opened the door to the shop. Edgardo began to say hello to everybody
as if he were gladhanding on a political campaign trail. While he ordered our
sandwiches, I looked at the glass-encased displays of cheese pastry fingers, sweet
buns dusted with fine sugar, and shelves of tinned caviar, spanish olives, soft
and hard almond brittle, and other imported pleasures.
could have been dead meat," Edgardo said, pointing to the sausages, salamis and
hams hanging from the ceiling.
you look like this instead," I answered, pointing toward laminated pictures of
flamenco dancers leaning seductively against brick walls.
you eat here often?" Edgardo asked.
have breakfast and lunch here on weekends, when I come to the beach."
do you do for a living?"
work part-time at the University library -- I'm a student," I said. "And you?"
got a flower shop at the Caribe Hilton in El Condado."
we returned to the car, Edgardo opened the door for me again. We drove off to
Calle Loiza and turned to a Calle San Jorge of pastel-colored buildings in the
tropical style of the 50s and 60s. Some buildings sported damage by countless
storms and decades of filth and crumbling paint, as prominent families, for one
reason or another, had abandoned these architectural jewels. Closer to the beach,
these houses were kept in better shape. But I could see, at a short distance,
the neighboring third world slums of wooden houses with aluminum roofs. Looming
behind of the outline of the shacks, the Autopista highway, the Pavía
Hospital and the Bellas Artes Fine Arts Center announced the arrival of
progress to the people of the barrio as hundreds of abandoned dogs sniffed around
the neighborhood's garbage cans. Finally, we arrived at a fairly well-preserved
pink and blue building stained with the tracks of storms and downpours. Edgardo
stopped the car in front of the building and clicked on the garage door's remote
to open the garage from inside the car," Edgardo said. "You never know if a bum
from the barrio will try to take your car when you're opening the garage."
grabbed the bags with the sandwiches while Edgardo closed the garage door and
turned the lights on with the remote. We took the elevator up to the top floor.
We entered his apartment through a living room that opened to a terrace with a
view of El Condado and the sea. He gave me a tour of the apartment and showed
me the other rooms. The first door to the right past the living room was a small
closet that one would normally use to store linen or small things in boxes. Instead,
Edgardo kept rows upon rows of vitamins of all kinds and for all deficiencies
in that closet. It felt like a tiny health shop.
I have never heard of this brand of vitamins," I said.
are the best brand," he said. "I get them through my roomate who owns of the company
that makes them. The company's in New York City; that's why he's almost never
here. He's always traveling to the niuyores."
was the first time that he mentioned he had a roomate. The next door to the right
of the vitamin closet opened to a bath, painted pink. The toilet, the sink, the
bathtub, the floor tiles, the drug cabinet over the sink -- they were all perfect
examples of local architectural design in the 50's, with curves and rounded corners
that exuded tropical sophistication. Then we walked to the last door to the right
to find a room with two small beds, an empty desk, and an old computer, covered
with dust. "This is my roomate's bedroom," Edgardo said. "Right now, he is in
New York on a business trip."
he took me to the master bedroom at the end of the corridor. In the middle of
the room sat a huge bed with a dark green-colored bedcover adorned with many cushions
and pillows, all with tropical prints in yellow and pink. House plants and floral
arrangements almost overwhelmed the clutter of photos on the bed table and the
stacks of papers, magazines, books and computer hardware on the mahogany desk.
To complete the tropical ambiance, he kept a ceiling fan, with a red silk scarf
intertwined between the blades, constantly turning over the bed, mixing the scent
of chlorophyll with the humid aroma of brine that seeped through the open windows.
took me by the hand and walked me to his kitchen. While making small talk, he
took a couple of plates for the sandwiches and two trays from the kitchen cabinets.
He suggested we take our sandwiches to his bedroom. We sat on the bed and talked
about life in general, and he told me all about his florist and designer business
at the Hilton. I talked about school, about my dreams of being a university professor.
We talked about our families, friends, ex-boyfriends, our politics, and our most
terrible moments of loneliness. As we talked, his feet touched mine with a tenderness
that dissolved any fears that hid themselves in the corners of my body.
you want to listen to the Pachelbel Canon?" he asked, while already walking toward
his stereo to start the tape.
the music began to play, Edgardo returned to bed, but this time he sat very close
to me. He ran his fingers through my hair and slid his hand down the back of my
head. He held my neck and drew me closer to his face. He opened his lips and playfully,
slowly, touched mine. It was as if he knew how to find my most sensitive nerves,
knew the most precise way of exploring my mouth with his tongue. His kiss was
soft, deep, and diligent, as if it were designed for my mouth. With his pale,
furry arms, he undressed me, kissing my body as he removed a garment. He ran his
hands down my back with a tenderness that relaxed me. He separated my legs with
his. He raised himself over me and grabbed my legs, settling them over his shoulders
with the care of someone in the presence of something beautiful. He pushed himself
into my body with the power of the sea during hurricane season. I focused on the
sensation as he made his way into my soft, warm tissue. His eyes did not gaze
back at mine; he closed them tightly as he knit his eyebrows and whimpered in
a manner I could not quite understand. I could not tell if he was taken by pleasure
or disquiet. Finally, his blue eyes opened and found mine, and a tender, more
intensely felt moan escaped through his lips, and I felt his juice pool inside
me. His body continued to shudder against mine as if reeling from a shock. And,
suddenly, he began to cry; he dropped on top of me and hid his face on the pillow,
his head next to mine. The overhead fan with the red silk scarf turned and turned
above us, keeping us cool.
that night, we saw each other daily. I met most of his friends within a week.
All those days were as intense as our first encounter. I followed his every step,
appreciated every peal of laughter that left his mouth, welcomed every caress
that he gave me, admired every part of his body, every room of his apartment,
everything he owned, everything he did at work, anything that had anything to
do with him.
Saturday, he told me he couldn't see me for a week. Some friends from New York
were flying down with his roomate for a visit and he wouldn't have time for me.
He asked me not to call him during the week, either at home or at work.
week and a half later, I still had not heard from him. I called him at home and
left a message; two more days passed without word from him. Finally, I decided
to call the flower shop.
s up?" I asked. "I called you, but I have not heard from you. Are you all
stayed with us a few days longer -- thats why I could not call you,"
he said. He seemed a little annoyed by my call. "What are you doing tonight?"
come on over to my place tonight, I'll cook."
the afternoon shift was over, I ran out of the library to take the Number 1 bus
to the Calle San Jorge. While I waited at the bus stop, I could not help but feel
butterflies in my stomach. I had not seen Edgardo for too long, and the desire
to see him, touch him, kiss him made me feel desperate, mad. The bus arrived an
hour later, and it was packed. I could not wait until the next bus as I was already
late; I had to push my way in. When the bus finally arrived at my stop, I rushed
out and sprinted to his building. I arrived at his apartment and rang the bell.
Edgardo did not answer. I rang the bell again, then noticed that his door was
unlocked. I pushed it open and let myself in. I called for him but he did not
answer. When I turned toward the kitchen, I found him in front of the cutting
board, slicing tomatoes. I walked towards him, ready to hug him, but he shrugged
me off and turned to the stove. He dropped sliced vegetables into the stewpot.
"What's up with you?"
tried to kiss him, but he turned his face away from mine.
you upset?" I asked. "Forgive me for being so late, but the bus took forever to
you'd planned your trip, you could have called me to let me know when you were
coming." His annoyance took me by surprise. I struggled to engage him in a conversation,
but he kept to himself, cooking as if nobody else was there.
without looking at me in the eye, he said: "Sebastián, I think you're a spoiled
I couldn't figure
out where that came from, what it had to do with what had just happened in the
kitcken. I stayed silent for a moment.
do you say that I am spoiled?" I asked.
a few minutes to think about what you've just said."
stormed off to the terrace, anxious and confused. I could not understand why he
was so mad at me and why he had to insult me that way. After five minutes, I returned.
"Why do you think I
am a spoiled brat?"
you are," he said.
choked up, unable to argue with him. I turned away from him in silence, and almost
couldn't make it to the door without crying.
a shame that you think that way," I said.
continued on my path in life. Boyfriends, lovers, heartbreak -- they all became
a part of the social routine one sinks into after years of living in the midst
of the same old circuits of queens. I moved to New York two years later. Every
time I returned to Puerto Rico I would see him in the bars. If I didn't approach
him to say hello, he would ignore me as if I were a stranger.
one of my trips back to Puerto Rico, I went to the beach on a Sunday with a group
of friends. We unfolded our small beach chairs in front of the sun. It had been
so long since I'd been on a beach that I didn't wait long to slip out of tank
top and shorts and run into the surf as if I were running toward an old friend
who I hadnt seen in years.
was one of those spectacular beach days. The sky made the foamy waves seem intensely
blue. I faced the horizon of the sea, floating away from the multitudes that would
congregate at the beach every Sunday to tan, to gossipt, and stroll slowly to
show off their hairy chests and well-trimmed moustaches. The water swung me from
side to side, making me feel so good, so still.
thousands of needles pricked my legs -- the sting was painful. Alarmed, I looked
down into the water to see a jellyfish coiled against my leg. I ran out of the
water screaming. My friends ran out to me to see what had happend. My leg began
to swell up and redden, and the sting itched like crazy.
pee in your hand and then rub it on the sting," a friend said. "Then grab some
wet sand and scrub it on your leg. Dont stop, keep doing it for a while."
there, in front of everybody, I peed on my hands and scrubbed on my skin until
the pain and the itch actually began to go away. I decided to go into the guest
house to use the restroom. I opened the gate without looking at any of the people
hanging out in the bar.
glanced towards the voice that called me. In the same spot where I had met Edgardo,
I saw all of his friends -- the friends I had met the one week when we saw each
other. They'd always treated me very kindly.
were just talking about you," they said. "We had no idea you were in town. You
know, this morning we threw Edgardos ashes to the sea... Did you hear that
he was quite sick for a while? Every time he was hospitalized, he always asked
us if we had seen you. And look, here you are..."
memory of Edgardo, his blue eyes, his tenderness, the beauty that he allowed me
to enjoy for a week, returned to me. I did not know what to say. A knot climbed
up my throat. I looked at them and the only thing I could do was offer my condolences
and excuse myself. Then I ran toward the restroom, closed the door behind me,
pursed my lips, pulled down my bathing suit, and began to pee on the ache that
the jellyfish had caused me.