On the night of the great storm, as I rushed toward my cabin, I saw a fisherman with a white beard senseless on the beach. Though it appeared I was too late, he still had a pulse, and I hurried him to the nearby shack of a fisherman I knew. It is the way of such men to care for one another. When I went back the next day, I found to my great joy and relief that the gentleman had recovered.
Apparently the storm had blown his boat into a rock and washed him up on the beach. With smiles he added, “The sea is my best friend. I have loved her from the time I took my first breath. I have always known I would live and die with her as my mistress. As a fisherman I could ask no more.”
“Have you ever heard of Santiago, the boatman?” a young French girl asked him. “The man who told his story is an American writer named Ernest Hemingway, a very manly man, but I think you are like this Santiago.”
“Why is that?” asked the rescued fisherman.
“Because , you act as he acted and speak in the same way.”
“All fishermen speak the same language,” he responded. “The sea is in our blood, in how we speak and who we are. That is our bond, both with our fellows and with the waves that wash through our souls.” He laughed out loud.
“What is your name?” I asked.
“In Goa, everyone calls me Pedro.”
Two years later, as I neared my hotel in Calangute, there was an excitement among the fishermen. I walked towards the huts and some of the fishermen looked at me. I often went to Goa when I visited India. It’s a place where one can find solace and solitude and contentedly listen to the sea.
Talking to the folks there, I learned that an empty boat was found floating out at sea. Some of the articles found in it were recognized by local fishermen who were familiar with the boat. “Whose boat?” I asked with my heart in my mouth.
“A fisherman named Pedro.”
I looked at them in shock. “Then he has drowned!” I said.
“Perhaps not,” one of them answered. “He is a great swimmer. The best among us.”
That night in Goa, a storm struck at midnight, I recalled a similar evening two years before on a Friday, the 13th of June. I strolled down the beach, as was my manner, and could barely walk for the wind. The lighthouse mirrors nearly blinded me, but a shadow ran before me towards the sea, a young woman, by its shape. My first thought was that she intended to drown herself, so I chased after her.
A huge whitecap rolled in, and she jumped. I jumped too. The next thing I remember was the touch of a woman who asked me if I was okay. It was the first time I saw Amy. She was completely drenched. Her clothes torn, the strap of her brassiere exposed along with half of her breast, but she was oblivious to that. “Sorry,” she said. “i was chasing Pedro, but now I know he never will come back.”
“Pedro?” I asked.
She turned her face towards the sea, grabbed me and started weeping.
The next day, I heard from the people in the village that Pedro was a Portuguese fisherman, and his ancestors had always lived in Goa. Three months before a woman named Amy came in search of him. They met. She was a woman from a rich family, fifteen years younger than Pedro. But she fell in love with him. Though Pedro was unmarried, he asked her to go away but she didn’t. One night when they all were drunk Pedro disclosed the truth. Amy’s great grandfather was a Portuguese man who once lived in Goa. After staying for ten years he disappeared and no one heard of him again, till Amy came and fell in love with Pedro.
I didn’t say anything. The rest of the story could only be explained by Amy.
Five years later at a cafe in Lisbon waiting for my writer friend who invited me to attend his workshop, I ordered a cup of coffee when a woman came towards my table wearing sun glasses. She called me by name, much to my surprise.
I nodded to this beautiful creature, full of grace and dignity. When she took off her sunglasses, it was pleased to see that it was Amy.
I asked her to sit and have a coffee.
“Did you find Pedro?” I asked.
“I’m happy Pedro is alive! How did you meet him? How did you find him. Tell me the whole story.”
“Quite a strange story,” Amy began. “I was too young when I first met Pedro, but I quickly grew obsessed with him. Finding Pedro every time he disappeared became my mission then. I was twenty seven when I read the diary of my great-grandfather in a cupboard at our ancient house sale. Every single day of his ten years in Goa is described there. The clean, honest people , the Portuguese churches, the hilly undulating village roads, the white crosses everywhere, the sea gulls, the boats, the fishermen and of course the sea. My great grandfather loved Goa. He was in the foreign administrative service there and after retirement, he stayed there for more three years. Till that night.”
“One night there, great grandfather got drunk. He said he became a devil. There was a Portuguese woman in his bungalow, the wife of his head servant who was also a Portuguese and traveled everywhere with him. My great grandfather went out of his head and took the Portuguese woman. He’d been returned to a widower for ten years, and I think he always had an eye on the woman. That night he called the woman to his room and raped her. When his servant came raging at him, great-grandfather shot him dead. The woman was three months pregnant at that time. The whole incident never came to light as my great-grandfather had authority, power and money. Within a month he went back to Portugal and never returned to India. Before his death he confessed it all. He was a rapist!”
I came to Goa at once and learned that Pedro is the grandson of the servant who is alive and still lives in Calangute, Goa. When I met Pedro, I immediately fell in love with him. He is a free spirit, a sailor and from the very first day I knew I could never make him into a family man. He was born for the open sea, for adventure. I became like him. He is older than me by almost fifteen years, but though he fell in love with me too, though he tried to push me away. But that never happen, I was too consumed and too overwhelmed with passion for him.”
“Then?” I asked, hooked on the story.
“Then Pedro and I settled in Lisbon. I became a diving instructor. Today , I found out from a friend Augustus D Rosario the writer in his advertisement that there is a writer’s workshop and you are coming there. I need to find you.”
“Why , Amy?”
She sipped the last coffee. She looked towards the sea again. Then towards me and said, “Pedro is dead. He jumped in the sea two days ago and died the way he dreamed of. His body has been found. Tomorrow is his funeral. You are an old friend of his. I want you to come.'”
Next afternoon, after the funeral, Amy came to me and said, “I heard you are staying in Paris now? As a writer you deserve to be there.”
“Thanks. But I will always travel. And come here to Lisbon too.”
“But you would not find me here. I will be sailing away.”
“Sailing away, Amy, where?”
‘To the seas. I have bought a boat with the money I saved. The sea is in my blood. Moreover, I am Pedro’s wife. I was never meant to settle on land!”
With the dusk settling around us, she kissed me, and we walked out of the cemetery.
Author Subhadip Majumdar
Subhadip Majumdar a writer poet from India. He is certified in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. He also edited a reputed Bengali poetry journal. Wrote a short novel as Tumbleweed writer in Shakespeare and Company, Paris. Two poetry books published and one novel in process of publication.
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