Just a quick one inspired by Playa Samara, Costa Rica. This is my effort for the Earth Day contest, and as such I hope I haven't gone too flowery with the philosophical musings of the principal character herein; I was just trying to justify the link to Earth Day.
Anyway, as usual, there may be errors, if there are, forgive me. Send feedback if the mood takes; let me know what you like -- if anything -- or what you didn't like. If you do send/post feedback/comments please make 'em constructive.
I hope you enjoy it.
GA -- David, Panama. 27 March 2012
The Dutch boys' departure changed things. Their dusty backpacks were slung into the rear of the mini-van, the thin leather cords and gaily coloured wristbands flapped as they waved and smiled their white-toothed farewells, and with a cheery so long and good luck they were gone; on to the next party. That left the two of us, virtual strangers. But if we were strangers, why did I feel the way I did?
Unspeaking she picked up her plate and, with her fork, scooped the melon rind, watermelon pips and banana skin, the remnants from her breakfast, into the bio bin, an old plastic tub that had once contained rice. After rinsing the plate and coffee cup Ulla left them drying in the rack next to the sink. Moments later I heard the sound of water splashing as she showered in the cubicle at the end of the dorm. Slurping the rest of my coffee I then munched a slice of toast before I copied Ulla's earlier actions and washed my breakfast things at the sink in the open air kitchen -- cold water, there was no alternative, just as Ulla's shower would be cold. Not that it mattered much at a hostel on a beach in Costa Rica.
A drink of water would be a good idea, and I took a litre bottle from the fridge, a bottle with my initials etched into the cap. All the food and drink in the fridge was labelled, a customary necessity given the transient nature of the hostel's tenants. I'd seen bitter arguments leading to festering ill feeling erupt between travellers who'd spent months in erstwhile harmonious wanderings, spats about who ate the fucking pasta. I needed water to stave off the hangover that threatened behind my eyes, and took a few quick swallows to deflect the ache pulsing in my head, during which I mused upon the previous night, and the unsettling effect the woman had on me.
When I'd first seen her the previous day, upon my arrival, straight off the bus in my grubby tee-shirt, in need of a shower, cold water or no, and a change of clothes, Ulla had been aloof. There wasn't the usual cheery exchange of names and nationalities, but a rather more perfunctory nod and subdued, almost surly hello. German I guessed at her accent, assessing her age to be mid-thirties. A bird's nest of dark hair was piled carelessly atop her head, held in place with an improvised Alice band. Intelligent and interesting blue-grey eyes, a little shorter than me, slim -- in my head I heard a snatch of lyrics by Shawn Mullins: but she'd be a whole lot prettier if smiled once in a while. -- Then thoughts of Ulla were pushed rudely aside when the Dutch boys bounced into the courtyard like eager puppies. With their surfer blonde hair these unkempt beach bums, tanned, baggy shorts and no shirts, were a pair of tightly muscled, twenty-something good time boys perpetually on the look-out for the party.
"Good to meet you, man, pleased to see you," said one, I can't recall which since they looked so alike it was difficult to distinguish between them. "Party tonight, on the beach." He grinned after the touching of knuckles that passed for a handshake as was de rigueur, and mimed smoking and drinking. I noticed his eyes flick towards Ulla, after which the boy grinned and laid a lascivious eyelid against his cheek; a wink that spoke volumes man-to-man. "We gunna make the big fire wiss lugs." His fingers pantomimed leaping flames, which I interpreted as, we're going to build a big fire with logs. "Den we gots de meat to roast, de beer to trink ... Music ..." He danced and laughed, a joyous, infectious bubble, and I found myself agreeing to chip in ten thousand colones. I wondered if Ulla would be there too, although first impressions told me it probably wouldn't be her thing.
I dumped my backpack in the dorm, an arrangement of two-tier bunks, four in total, a skeleton of a wardrobe, and a languid ceiling fan. Three beds were already made-up, one neat and ordered, the remaining two in chaotic tangles. No prizes for guessing which bed belonged to whom. I took my shower and then decided to take a walk back along the beach into what was the commercial hub of the pueblo -- a dusty main street punctuated with hotels, apartments for rent,apartmentos a alquila, souvenir stalls and eateries; even a trio of horses trotted about the place unmolested. I needed some cash and a supermarket.
On my way back along the half-mile of crescent beach, blue plastic bag containing the essentials -- water, beer and potato chips -- in hand, I saw, in the distance, silhouetted against the diamante sparkling of the Pacific as the sun slid into the blessed cool of late afternoon, a lone figure ankle deep in the water. As I passed by I had a feeling that it was Ulla standing there, a Lowry figure incongruously displaced to this beach paradise. I hooked left, away from the water's edge, moving inland a few yards towards the path back to the hostel. I couldn't be sure but it looked to me as though the woman was naked, and a ripple of desire shivered through me. I'd seen the distinctly feminine outline of Ulla's body and, despite her imposing demeanour, imagined what it would be like to lick the salt from between her breasts, to trace a path with my tongue past her navel to finally reach that place between her legs. I wondered: was she smooth or natural down there?
A shout from Peter, or maybe it was Dirk, I still couldn't tell them apart, interrupted my reverie and deflated the sudden erection in my shorts. "We gunna make the fire at sunset," the boy grinned. "See you on the beach." He indicated the spot with a finger. I nodded, paid him the twenty U.S. dollars I owed. When I glanced towards the ocean, after the boy had departed on his wood gathering errand, Ulla was in the water, swimming. Time for a cold beer I thought, leaving the woman to her bathing.
The barbecue was a success. The boys, their enthusiasm and lust for life ensured nothing less. Beer flowed like blood on a battlefield, and there were a few casualties as a result. I smelled the sweet scent of something other than tobacco, and being in ignorant middle-age myself, pretended not to notice. There was music, dancing and hilarity as the Earth, ancient and elemental spoke to me. The fire, a leaping war dance of flames, with the poetic murmuring cadence of the waves, a timeless, endless susurration, a lullaby beneath the cold panoply of moon and stars above, held my gaze until I looked up and fell in love.
I'd thought her nondescript, but I was a fool. She was beautiful. When I looked up from the fire she was laughing at some inanity from one of the Dutch boys. Her hair was loose now, a glorious mane of waves and ringlets -- in the light of day I'd see the colour of her hair, a rich, gypsy chestnut. Ulla's teeth flashed brilliant as she threw her head back and let loose a deep laugh. I saw her throat exposed and vulnerable, and longed, with vampiric desire, to kiss her there, on the tender part, where life pulsed.
It was so simple, so perfect, and I fell in love with her on that beach, with the sand between my toes while the tide whispered endearments.
Then came the crash, a flare in my guts like the suicidal shooting star etched in the sky overhead. Ulla took the boy's face in her palms, spoke to him seriously; I could see the gravitas in her expression before she kissed his mouth. The kiss lengthened and I saw their tongues entwined. The logical part of me understood the inevitability of their attraction to each other, and that I'd been an idiot to even consider that Ulla would be drawn to me. All the same a heavy plumb line, weighted with a brick of disappointment, sank to the pit of my stomach. I walked away from the scene.
"Great party, eh, man?" one of the boys, the one without his tongue in Ulla's mouth, said, his eyes glittering with the excitement. "Some pretty girls, eh?"
I nodded agreement in the direction of several figures dancing in front of the fire, bottles of beer or plastic beakers of rum in their hands. I drank steadily until, with middle-aged circumspection, I left the party to its inevitably chaotic climax.
Ulla returned to the dorm not long after me, with the boys crashing in just after daybreak. After packing their stuff and with zero sleep the energetic bastards breakfasted with Ulla and myself; both of us old people bleary-eyed and a little worse for wear.
The boys left and, dressed in shorts and tee-shirt, after needles of cold water woke me properly, I was disappointed when I ventured out into the courtyard and there was no sign of Ulla. At a loss for anything else to do I settled into a hammock with my book, only to stare at the pages, unable to concentrate.
After fifteen minutes of rereading the same page I heard a voice behind me. "Would you like to walk along the beach to the supermarket?" Ulla regarded me, her hair falling to her shoulders. It was then I noticed the deep colour of it for the first time. "I thought, since it's just me and you ..." She shrugged and pulled a face. "We could prepare our meal together this evening."
I couldn't see any reason why I should turn the suggestion down. OK, being close to the woman disturbed me on a level and to a depth I couldn't define. Why she had this effect, I hadn't a clue, but I wanted to be close to her, I knew that much. Physical intimacy wasn't on the cards I realised, not after her night with the Dutch kid, but just to be near her, to watch her face as she talked, to smell the scent of her, would be enough. Or so I kidded myself.
As we walked barefoot through the listless incoming tide we swapped stories. A writer from Berlin who'd started out travelling with a boyfriend, and for whom it was a case of familiarity breeding contempt, solo now for three weeks.
"And you?" she asked, igniting the full wattage of her smile.
Oh how I wanted to kiss those dimples in her cheeks as when she looked at me. How had I been so wrong in my estimation of Ulla when I first saw her?
I told her of the inheritance, modest but enough to fund an indulgence. "Central America to start," I said. "After that, who knows?"
We shopped and lazed the rest of the afternoon away cocooned in hammocks and taking it in turns to fetch a hair of the dog from the refrigerator. The beers had been her idea.
"We should go to the beach and swim!" Ulla suggested as the day cooled into evening. "Come on," she insisted. "Don't be so ... English." A memory of the previous afternoon came to mind -- Ulla down at the water's edge. Had she been naked? We had the beach to ourselves. Minute specs, dog-walkers, tourists, whoever, were far along the beach from our remote end. The woman didn't even look at me as she blithely pulled down her shorts and yanked the tee-shirt she wore over her head. "Come on," she grinned back over her shoulder. "Don't be so English! Swimming nude is wonderful!" The taunt spurred me and, after appreciating Ulla's winsome rear, followed her lithe, tanned body into the waves. "It feels good, yes?" she asked, her hair limp and plastered to her skull. I spat water and nodded at those perfect teeth smiling in her face. And it did feel good, I had to agree. Liberating, free, I told her. "Did you have a good time last night?" Ulla asked, treading water a foot away from me.
"It was OK," I replied blandly, feeling the tide pushing me gently shoreward. A twist of eifersucht, the green-eyed monster who respected no national identity, griped my stomach when I recalled Ulla and the blonde man kissing. I couldn't resist the petulant self-flagellation of asking, "How about you? You seemed to be enjoying yourself."
There must have been something in my tone of voice for Ulla cocked her head to one side and looked at me quizzically. Her eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"
"Nothing, I just meant ... Uh ..."
The woman sighed, muttered under her breath in German and swam to the shore. I was stuck now; feeling foolish at having caused this awkwardness between us and, in my typically English way, embarrassed by my nudity. With there being no alternative, other than to wait for dark or Ulla to leave, I mustered as much dignity as I could and left the water.
"You saw me kissing Peter," Ulla said as, still nude, she sat on the sand and reached into her bag for cigarettes. My face told her the answer. "I kissed him to shut him up. He was ..." She searched for the word. "Belästigend" ... She blew smoke towards the darkening sky.
"Pestering you," I suggested in English.
"Exactly. All the time he was asking me ..." Ulla fell silent, smoking and surveying me with those narrowed eyes again. I could almost hear the cogs turn in her head. "Tell me, Steven," she said softly. "Did it bother you? That I kissed him?" My red face supplied the truth.
It was a fair cop. I sighed, sitting on the sand next to her and shrugging. "A little," I admitted. "But I have no idea why. I hardly know you ..." I feigned a sudden interest in the water in front of us, inky now as night descended suddenly.
"Would you like to kiss me?" She tasted of salt water and tobacco. There was a tang of the afternoon's beer on her tongue as well. To me she tasted delicious. "I prefer a man with a mind," Ulla whispered to me when the kiss broke. "Someone like you, Englishman."
Desire flared and my hands went behind her. I felt the muscles of her back and the knobbles of her spine as I traced my fingers down her body, pressing my sudden, urgent tumescence against Ulla's stomach as I held her buttocks in my palms. She moaned into my mouth and wriggled against me, rolling my erection between us while the kiss lengthened.
Ulla took hold of me, squeezing my girth in her fist while murmuring softly in her native language as my hands found the peaches of her breasts, high and tight on her chest; whereupon I leaned in to suck at each long teat of her nipples one after the other.
Then, as the light quickly faded, while the fronds of the coconut palms hung languidly, whispering gossip on the breeze, while the Pacific sighed a few feet away, Ulla took me into her mouth. I looked down at her face and could just make out her features, watched as her lips stretched around me and the pale sclera shone like twin moons and her eyes stared upwards.
When I came, she swallowed all of it, keeping me between her lips until the last dribble oozed from me.
Not a word passed between us for some time, several minutes. I had no idea what was going through Ulla's mind as we lay there on the beach with the sounds of nature all around us. Stars twinkled and a lazy moon slid into view over the horizon. It was then that I felt the power at my back -- the Earth behind me rushing through space. Understanding came to me, more clearly and simple to interpret than Steven Hawking's mathematical explanations. I would be the first particle to come into contact with whatever the planet's headlong rush dash into the unknown met. It was me, the infinitesimal dot on the cue ball, the mascot on the prow of this great vessel of rock and ice and gas as we rushed through the vacuum of space.
Ulla's voice cut through the lofty, philosophical thought. "We must make a fuck," She said. "Outside. Here. With the ocean and the stars. We must make a fuck."
I couldn't have agreed more, and I didn't need asking twice but needed a few moments of recovery time. Repeat performances were a thing of the past for a man of my age. I grinned to myself, embarrassed at where my thoughts had wandered. Just how many beers had I had that day/ "Shall we go back to the house?" I suggested. "We could eat, maybe drink another beer, and then ..."
Hand in hand, giggling, we hurried along the track, through the closeting, conspiratorial dark towards the house.
There was a newcomer there, waiting, a gangly man in his mid-forties; a foppish Hugh Grant type with a chastened, tentative smile on his face. Someone Ulla knew.
Crushed with anguish and cursing the gods I heard Ulla gasp. Of course, I knew immediately; the erstwhile boyfriend returned for another chance.
Another year, another continent.
I woke to the chaotic sound of Bangkok traffic, albeit muffled by glass and several storeys. Smugly congratulating myself on the decision to rent an apartment with air-conditioning I rolled onto my side and nudged the sleeping woman with my usual erection. She mumbled but still nudged her buttocks towards me, gasping as I entered her. As had become the norm over these last few weeks, in the latter phase of her pregnancy, she was wet and accommodating.
"Good morning," she sighed, speaking German.
Without replying I began the slow, luxurious glide to our inevitably mutual climax.
Poor Manfred, I thought briefly before the sensation of my wife's clenching sex took all thought away. He'd had his chance with her ... his loss.
I leaned in and kissed Ulla, there, on the tender part of her throat, where life pulsed.