By Diyana Boeva
Translated by Hristo Boev
Dresses remind me of colors, women and the movies. The banana dress, however, belongs to one dark-complexioned woman.
There she was, walking briskly materializing like a gauzy curtain into the street. She was like a child carrying the sea and the sand in her eyes in an impish and somewhat touchy way. Feminine and stunning, she made things definite with her exquisite body. Beautiful and abstracted she savored the evening breeze. Perhaps it was in the state of dizziness and finesse that someone had zipped up her dress, banana yellow in color. It was something in between orange and pink with this banana shade. She reminded one of a female daffodil but with her there, the world was more spirited reflected in her bright brown eyes. If she looked in a certain direction, she gave a special meaning to what she’d seen, shaped it and somehow turned it into ovals. Oval was her dominating form. Slender and quick-witted she struck one as a woman who understood the small and simple things in life, and was completely unaware of the ones belonging in the realm of the unearthly and celestial. Standing still by the beach, she seemed to float over the fairy tales with the known beauties and lovingly fall for monsters, which she then transformed into people. The low altitude of the place made her dizzy. The short banana dress she wore made her look unpretentious, lonely and fragrant.
Short, too short it was bordering on the indecent, but not quite. She seemed to skate along the quay as if winking at the speechless seamen there. It was impossible that you could accost this lonely ambler and offer her a cheap motel. Impossible. The shoulder-strips to the banana dress were a shade darker than the dress itself. Some bizarre short-cut seam ran across her breasts, too in a line that was three times still darker. Her stays bodily colored popped just slightly above her well-corseted bust. One could see the lace as well; if one strained the eyes, and there came it came, almost imperceptible, orgasmic. The lace strips melted into her flesh – a couple of shades whiter but creamy tanned by the sun. She walked. Few women are capable of this – wild, earthly, inspiring, loving, and somehow defying all laws of the sky and the earth. She exuded reason and passion. The impossible combination. The color she had on the dress really suited her. The peaked cap she had on her head, made her looks sporty barely concealing her short hair-style. She had beige sandals on her legs. She stopped and suddenly seemed to look at some point again. Then she made a sharp gesture fixing the position of her handbag on her and again the landscape was fascinating. No doubt it would be wild and desolate if robbed of her presence. The bums, fishermen and the seamen were used to her. I was still in the process of getting adjusted.
I came to look forward to her walks and couldn’t imagine this to be some routine. The beautiful dark-complexioned woman couldn’t be a habit or some part of it. Her walks were never enough for me although I could see her there every day at sunset, every summer in August.
Her eye seemed to lose color as she watched the sea. August was her month. It was the time when she parted from the people and the horror of the big city. She looked around. Everything she saw, she had known for years. Her radiant smile waved at the fisherman and then she smiled at someone on the quay, too. She gave a deep sigh. She loved the feeling of being along in this place. She loved the feel of the harbor and the wildness of the sea. She felt calm and somehow safe from the hubbub of the passing season here like a recluse and heretic daring to do something otherwise.
She was not looking for love at this time of the year. She knew that passion and love are elusive and come only once. The sea loved her and so did I. There was life and loneliness, tenderness and sympathy in her. As she walked, the girl, for indeed she was a girl, lifted her hands up in the air. This gesture of hers gave her away – it gave her an air not of a voluptuous flirt, but rather of a woman who knew where her strength was and who used it sparingly. She didn’t seem to be on the look-out for something particular. She was just taking a walk in her own way. I followed her and saw something curious. Banana-like and sunny she ran, dashing towards someone or something so suddenly.
The fisherman held out his hand and helped the girl in the banana dress into the boat. This somehow brought back the memory of her mother – of some years past. She wasn’t like her. There was something the summer was doing to her short brown hair. The locks of her hair appeared to take on a slightly reddish hue.
Her mother, by contrast, had a fiery red mane, not something garish, but rather subdued and billowy in waves reaching her waist.
“The little one is too smart not to see me through – I have to find a way to distract her one way or another,” thought the fisherman.
She smiled a banana smile at him and fixed him with her eyes. She had an insight; one had to grant her that. She could advance or retreat at will. There was something in her bearing resemblance to the liveliness of her mother, but she was also different in so many ways - more discreet as far as feelings go and more conquering. She was also somewhat unyielding and adamant when need be, but there was more to be discerned – there was some softness to her. He felt amused and kissed the girl on the forehead. She’d been coming here for years, first with his parents and then in big and rowdy parties. Then in several summers in a row, with different boys. For the last two years she had come here alone. There was some ritual in what she was doing. Her mother was different. She did not possess this straightforwardness her daughter had and lacked completely that playful look. The dainty girl seemed to be in fine possession of her feminine faculties – she would turn her head and look the other way when need called. Could anyone in the world ever break this girl? She knew that there were circumstances that could make her stoop for a moment but in the end she might as well prove that she’d only stooped to conquer. I watched the thoughts of the fisherman and the conduct of the girl at a distance in that peculiar play of inexplicable symbiosis that seemed to bond them. There was something that kept them together and at the same time pulled them apart. I felt I did not belong. Once again at sunset I liked this woman.
“Her smile is vaguely reminiscent of her mother’s, just ever so slightly, by the two dimples she had on the cheeks.
The red-haired one… I haven’t forgotten her yet,” the fisherman noticed as he thought back in time.
“I felt fine in the boat. I put on my cape – well padded on the inside so that it wouldn’t let in moisture. I knew I was in for a most beautiful evening far out into the sea. Then I felt there was someone else watching me. Those were a stranger’s eyes, not the eyes of my friends from the harbor or of the mariners chatting up to me. Who was looking so hard at me? I can always tell when someone’s doing just that. That look, it’s like the other moon, like the pain in the ribs, like a gesture exchanged between two people at the table, the little smile of the ones in love.
Someone had been looking at me like that for about an hour and seemed to be stalking me. I didn’t dare turn around. This is a rare thing with me, indeed for I can look wherever and whenever I like. This time around I felt absolutely helpless before the unseen power of that stare. I knew that if I’d turned around I would have seen something and then I’d need time to fall asleep. Not that I was running away from someone on the quay. There are so many boats in the area. Perhaps mine is somewhere out at sea and is not waiting for me moored to the pier. My friend, the fisherman, pushed the boat out, smoothly and neatly.”
And then the girl in the banana dress told the fisherman that some day she wanted to have a daughter.
“I watched the sea. The sun had already gone down. It was the moon that was shining now and the stars were twinkling clumsily. I blinked at the fisherman and smiled at him. I knew he liked that. One day I came from somewhere and cried before him. He treated me harshly then. Time had to pass before I knew why. If he’d shown sympathy he would have cried himself and shown weakness. I’ve been careful ever since for I intend to bring my unborn daughter here someday. Would she cry before him like I did, I wonder. Once I had the feeling that he’d be here after I’m gone. Only the fishermen are eternal. They are nameless, ageless. These boys seem to live someplace between the waves, the sun, the sky and the stars. Living on the edge, the very thought of it! Strong are his hands, but he has a steady and good heart,” thus thought the girl and breathed in deeply the vapors of the splashing waves.
They were silent and looked on the vast expanse of water. The sky was clear. There was no sign of an approaching storm. It was only proper for the girl to have the cape on her back for it was chilly in the evening.
“The sea is sometimes like a desert,” the fisherman thought. He looked ahead and swallowed his tears and then smiled at the girl in the banana dress who had huddled in the warmth of the cape, which he kept in the boat for her only.
The man was doing lengths in the swimming pool, every now and then asking her to jump in. A bunch of devils seemed to be chasing one another in her. She had never felt like that. It had to be blamed on the sea. Her life rolled like a film on a reel before her. The sea had whispered its secrets to her in August. She had learned a lot about herself, too. She’d realized certain things about herself. Others she had spoken. There were still others she was in no mood of talking about.
Her banana dress was ruined after last night’s sea trip. Nothing bad had happened during the trip but in the following hours in the café someone had spilled coffee on it and it would be no good until well washed. In the jeans she wore now she looked like a chimneysweep without a chimney. There was nothing else left for her to do but enjoy the sunrise. She remembered leaving the walnuts on the sidewalk. The hard brown shells looked like tiny scraps of life. Or could it be said that they were more like tortoise shells? Someone had broken them all.
She felt him stalking her again, the same man from the quay, the one with the eyes of a stranger. It was the man from the swimming pool. He took her by the hips and then the legs and lifted her high up. Sure she knew him then and she knew what he was after. There was no resisting him. She felt in his arms light as a feather and then he threw her into the swimming pool. As she entered the water she felt holding in her hand a tiny bit of a walnut shell or was it the shell of a tortoise. Perhaps at least some bit of it could be saved for she knew as he jumped into the water, too that the next summer she would have a new life contained in the hardness of the tortoise shell, the taste of a walnut and the eyes of the stranger from the swimming pool.