It was her gaze into the deep blue of the ocean that caught his eye, as he strolled inside the café called lovingly by its owner Luigi as “The Shack”. As a rule, evenings in The Shack were thronged by beautiful women and men, some of whom came for perhaps a midnight companion, while the others preferred a quieter Latte. The curious mind of our protagonist, Stephen, considered this for a moment as he studied the profile of that exotic member of the female species seated comfortably ( and fortunately alone) in a table by the side, just next to the railing that separated The Shack from the azure waters of the Mediterranean.
But heroes of life do not worry over minor matters as this, and quite confidently he walked upto her table and spoke, in his deep voice, “Good Evening, Signora. Would you mind if I took the freedom of having this empty seat?”
She shifted her gaze, from the azure blue of the ocean, into the deep blue of his eyes. She was only stirred, not shaken, by this good looking stranger and she replied, “Why not.. After all, it is an empty chair, and it is a beautiful evening.. “
With the smile that Captain Ahab must have worn when he spotted antagonist Moby Dick in his pursuit, Stephen sat into the chair that overlooked the splendor of the
The woman’s gaze shifted to the sea again. And for a moment Stephen thought he saw pain in her eyes, but quickly she re-wore the mysterious smile that he would soon have etched into his mind for a very long time. Slowly she looked at him and almost in a half whisper, she said, “Yes my friend,. Love.. Love is what the ocean has stolen from me.”
He was taken aback and his senses screamed at him WRONG MOVE. But before he could pick up the reins of this curious game, she spoke again in her husky voice, “What is it that brings a good looking Signor alone into this beautiful place? Seeking diamonds to keep, when you return home? Or just a little pleasure, searching for warmth?”
He smiled, the smile that had fell innumerable beauties in his hometown and replied,” I am always free, like a ship on the high seas, my friend.. Am not one to tie myself to anyone.”
The woman, lets call her Selena, leaned forward and spoke , “ Really.. But for how long? Not eager to know the safety of a shore? The warmth and assurance of a shelter?” Stephen winked, and the object of his attention giggled once again, he felt that indefinable feeling radiating from this unknown woman, overwhelming him, as the evening breeze played with her luxurious black hair. Her deep brown eyes were becoming too much to handle for Stephen’s senses. He spoke, “The safety of the shores is but a mirage. I prefer the salty winds and the capricious waters any day, to the stillness of the land..”.
Selena smiled, and there was a lusty hint in her eyes when she started to speak again, “I see, that mermaids have a chance to board this precarious ship..”
His face turned impassive, as he considered her again, the last rays of dusk lending an artists touch to the frame of her figure. He said,” Mine is but a lonely ship.. and I have nothing to promise the mermaids, but the cold of silent nights..” Selena leaned back and smoothed her hair. It was turning out to be an interesting evening for her, with this juggler of words by her side. She replied, “Don’t be so sure.. I’ve heard the mermaids like nothing more than the promise of a silent blue night in the company of a brave man of the seas.”
Stephen could see that now was his chance, and he laid his cards on the table. Wearing a serious smile, in the deep lustful voice that many a girl would love to hear, he spoke,
“Are you a mermaid, dear ?...”
Selena looked into his eyes and she could see where she wanted to be for a very long time in her life. She said,
“For tonight, I’d love to be a mermaid..”
Stephen rose from his chair, and extended a hand to the woman we know as Selena, and her soft fingers clasped around his. They walked together, holding hands, out of The Shack, into the sands by the
The old man Luigi, owner of the Shack and the proud grandfather of the 5 year old Paulie, patted the kid as he lay comfortably in his bed. Paulie’s grandfather may have been known for making lattes that even the Pope couldn’t resist, but he was a talented storyteller too. Luigi caressed the young boys face and started his story for the night.
“Once, long ago, in our pretty little town, when I was a little baby, there was a beautiful couple in town. Juan and his woman were known all along the coast of
Juan was never seen again after that evening, and Selena, his woman was found hanging from a street lamp.” Legend has it that her spirit still continues to walk these sands, and in cool December evenings, more than a young man have disappeared into nothing, tempted by a seductive spirit. So my boy Paulie, before you go out with any woman, you have to stop by your old grandfather and make sure she is not gonna take away my Paulie from me!”
Luigi broke off into his ancient laughter, and the little child joined in, for children learn only to laugh, sadness being fused into us from the time of birth.
Stephen arrived at the Lounge of the Panaji airport, with a briefcase full of his dusty clothes, and his heart full of emotions, unexplainable to a common man, unspeakable to anybody, least of all his young wife who was waiting quite eagerly for him ever since his business trip to the Europe.
Luigi continues to sell Lattes and pastas to the tourists who come looking for the beautiful beaches, and his grandson Paulie is old enough to see the lonely woman who sits by the table, next to the railing, seemingly invisible to the throng of the men and women who enjoy their evenings in The Shack.