What can I tell you about the dinner…two freshly caught fish, some breadfruit, a couple of coconuts and the bottle that we drank without realizing it.
I took out my pipe and while I was carrying it, I noticed his look, you have to understand that I have hardly seen the inhabitants here smoke, I could tell you that I have spent many hours among them and I could count on the fingers of one hand the sight of any of them with a cigarette in their hand, so I was surprised by the look he gave the pipe while I was loading it with tobacco.
Needless to say, I offered it to him, and I don’t know if it was more out of courtesy or because he wanted it, but he took a puff and then jumped with a grunt of pleasure!
I smiled to myself, so when he gave me back the pipe, I went back to smoking and we both remained with our eyes fixed on the waves that were trying to jump beyond the wall of rocks that formed the corner where we were.
He got up and said something to me, which I obviously did not understand and disappeared into the darkness, and then, after a few minutes, he came back with something like a pipe, but it seemed to me that it was made with the bone of some animal, I don’t know, something very strange, but not his gesture when he asked me if I could give him some tobacco…let’s see, I don’t understand a word of his language and I understand that he wants tobacco?..well yes, because there are things that are universal.
So, there you have me rummaging through my backpack and pulling out a new pack and offering it to him, his face all genuine expression of surprise at the gift, and so, between murmurs of thanks, he loaded the pipe and lit it.
There you have two strangers, black and white, one younger, the other just a little older, both looking out at the waves, in the middle of the night, smoking slowly and that’s when …..
He started talking, remember I can barely understand two words of his language, but you know, I think you’ll believe me if I tell you that I can understand him, I think you will believe me if I tell you that he told me about his life, how he grew up between the two islands, how he lived in his childhood the independence of his country, how he fished every day to feed himself and his family, how strange the tides are, how there are waves that do not warn you and put you in trouble, how many friends he lost because they thought they were stronger or smarter than the waters around them, how he made his boat with the planks he found after a sailboat wrecked, he laughingly told me how he was more at ease in the middle of the biggest of storms than at home when his wife yelled at him because he had noticed someone else, something common in this society, how proud he was of his children, those who had survived the early years, and who were now beginning to bring sustenance to his family, He told me about the nights he was stranded in the middle of the ocean, seeing similar nights, no longer with fear, because with fear you cannot sail, but with the resignation that there are things that are stronger than you and that you must accept and honor them, because they make you great…. . and I still know that he told me more things and if you are going to ask me if I understood everything, when before I told you that I barely took two words….has to know that there are certain things, certain stories that we human beings will repeat over the millennia and that no place other than where we were born can prevent them from arising.
So there you have me, nodding from time to time, drinking the palm wine that, don’t ask me when it had been, was by our side, grunts on my part when I lit a pipe that was going out, silences that from time to time arose in his story, complicit glances that we directed towards the sky, towards the water, towards the wind that insisted on blowing stronger and stronger.
And it was my turn, I told him the reason for this strange trip for many of those who knew me, even for the manager of the travel agency, who was not very clear if I would not come before, with some excuse, I told him of my dreams, of the women I have loved, of those I have loved, some in silence, at a distance, of how alive I felt for feeling my heart beating, for a thousand and one successes and no less mistakes, I told her that if someone’s life could be measured by his legacy, mine was covered by a thousand lives with the existence of my favorite headache, my daughter, I told her about my surprise when I arrived to her island, the first time I ate banana bread, that big snail they make with an incredible sauce, the palm wine, the Rosema beer, a beer that does not usually carry a label, the resignation with which they face day by day these people, their people, the smile they give you if you stop long enough for them to look you in the eyes and not see you as just another tourist, but as another human being, only different because of the color of the skin, I told him what I felt, many years ago, on a stone wall, hanging from a thin rope and shouting all kinds of obscenities, understood as tacos, insults, and other words called mockery, I told him about the rainy nights that my companions and I walked, looking for someone who was lost, the cold that came to us at every rest of those nights, I told him how we laughed at angels and demons alike, when we refused to give up.
There were enough hours between the two of us to see how the sun began to rise, the wind no longer roared with the same force, the waters began to rest from so much combat and we made our way back to the boat.
The trip back I did it almost with my eyes closed, not because of the dream of not having slept, but to notice how that sun that arose was warming every inch of me, even closing my eyes, my hand caressed the water as we sailed to the other side and, I know you can not believe me, but I will tell you, that with my hand in the water, I thought I noticed the life that, a few meters below, was swimming.
It was when we reached the shore and docked when I didn’t really know what to do, and in fact, Francisco didn’t seem to know what the hell to do either, so we did what I imagine all men do in a similar situation?
We faced each other and shook hands.
It’s a good tobacco, he told me….
The fish was amazing, I replied….
In case you don’t know, in that handshake, there was enough pressure to create a diamond, one based on which two strangers had shared tobacco, fish, wine and the experiences lived by both of us and that perhaps, we never dared to tell anyone else.
I left the beach, without looking back, and I suppose he did the same to try to snatch some of his fruits from the sea, and if you want me to be honest…
I never stopped thinking about you.
*** Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) ***