Sunday, June 13, 2010
Of Sundays and Hemingway
The sound of the TV filtered into his room, and he stirred to find that the sheet he was lying on was a mess .He was now sleeping on the mattress.He smelt the coir or he imagined that he did. His bed was always a mess when he got out of it. Sunday.
He shaved his week-long stubble, wiping off the lather instead of washing his face. A hurried breakfast. A quick shower.
The sky was cloudy and the curtains were drawn.A Cuban movie was on air. Lilting Spanish with English subtitles. Old Chevy cars. Sounds of Viva José Martí . Framed photographs of Che and many cries of Compañero. A light house, a bearded speleologist and a Labrador named Champion.
Something reminded him of Hemingway. A vague Cuban connection. He had read his "A Farewell to Arms" a week before, interspersed with rambling walks and moments spent staring at the Arabian sea. The book, the sea and the approaching monsoons only had made his melancholy take deeper shade of blue. He wondered what it would be like to spend a week, or a couple in Havana.
He stepped out into the cloudy day, with a Maugham that he had started the previous night. The Maugham remaining unread for the rest of the day. He had a bunch of photographs that needed to be sent out and an entire afternoon to kill.
The Italian Cafe was almost full, but one could also classify it as almost empty depending on how long one spent there. South Korea and Greece were playing their first matches of the World Cup. It was a re-run of previous nights match-up. He knew the result. Korea-2.Greece-0. One goal had already been scored before he had entered the cafe. He spent a while waiting for the second, before he zoned out with an Ethiopian filter coffee.No milk. A couple of German student tourists sat next table. His attention piqued whenever he heard a familiar phrase. He was reminded of Stuttgart, a rainy evening waiting in the drizzle for an old friend, followed by an evening of Bier at the crowded local pub. Wichtel.
They left unhappy after they found something wrong with their bill. The one with the spectacles, noted down something, probably the expense tab in her notebook with a pencil.
He chanced upon a photograph of an old friend unexpectedly in the midst of random link clicking on his Facebook page. A woman he had not seen for more than a year. The unmistakable asymmetry of the smile, punctuated by an upper left canine which just chose to grow in a different direction to her upper right. Symmetry as a virtue to describe beauty was overrated..but then were so many other things too.....
It seemed strange to him that another pretty woman he was reminded off was also someone he'd met off chance, with two front teeth which parents silently and unnecessarily worry about without letting their children know, but the children know that the parents don't want them to know.They added character to her animated face.He was not sure if she was the first person to have used "manifestation" in a conversation with him. Itreminded him of Pulp Fiction.He fished her name out of the ether, smiling to himself at what search engines could do. A short message was sent.He was again reminded of the impending monsoon and a city he loved.
In, the meanwhile, the TV had switched over to the England-USA match. He didnt care much about the proceedings and went downtown to his favorite bookstore. He picked up a James Joyce, a Hesse and Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. It was 4 when he walked out and the clouds made way for the evening sun. The streets and the people looked prettier in the light. He made way to a department store which he knew had a quiet cafe where you could see the people on the street, but the people could not see him. He had been there once and he had happy recollections and a bunch of photographs of the evening.
The umbrellas with the Coffee shop logo had been removed from the balcony. they were there the last time he was here.He settled in for the evening with the Hemingway.
Santiago, the old sailor and Manolin,his apprentice discussing DiMaggio and how they rued not inviting him onto their boat. The dreams of lions on the white sandy beaches of Africa. Santiago's intuition that his luck would turn tomorrow and he would catch his big fish. His mast and the sails of the skiff patched with bags of flour.
He was interrupted by a waitress eager to clear his table. His coffee mug was not yet empty and it was quite an awkward moment, when she lifted the mug to put on her tray and found that it was half full. He brushed her off with a silent wave and she made an embarrassed and hasty departure into the kitchen.
Santiago and his skiff, moving effortlessly into the Gulf away from Havana with the current. Santiago and his skiff and his fishing lines cast precisely and baited with sardines and tuna.
Santiago and the marlin. Santiago and his brother.
The evening was metamorphosing into night, unobtrusively. The pigeons were putting in their final shows of formation flying. Swooping gracefully over the evening skies before returning to familiar roosting spots for the night.
Santiago locked in a battle of attrition with the marlin. Santiago, sees the purple and silver marlin. Santiago kills a dolphin for dinner. Santiago. Hail Marys.Our Fathers.
A group of friends were spending their evening making conversation with lots of interspersed laughter. One of them, wore a pink shirt over which she pulled over a shawl when the wind blew hard. Her shoes were pink too, and she dangled one on her toe tips when she crossed her feet.
Santiago reels in the marlin. The first shark. The harpoon is lost. A couple more sharks. The marlin is devoured. His noble friend, far nobler than those who would eat him. His friend whom he had killed with treachery. He rued going so far out. ..All for nothing.
More people walked into the cafe, the chairs were soon all taken. He was the only one sitting alone at his table. A couple discreetly stared at him from the doorway wishing him to get out.
Santiago ploughed into his shack, leaving his marlin..or what was left of it after the sharks were through on the beach. Manolin found him in the morning. Asleep. He cried. He went out for the newspapers of the last three days . Baseball results.
The couple must have wished hard enough. He woke up , put the book into his bag and went out into the street. He had his marlins to catch and a cake to buy.........