I sat on the wooden bench, the only one in shadows and looked out at the sea. The golden light of incandescent lamps lit the path along the sandy beach of Fort Cochin. I could see the flies around the lamps, teeming around the filaments as if they found their saviour, only to have their lives extinguished by the flaming heat within. Much like most people I know. I hear the sound of the waves against the sandy shore. In the horizon, I can see the yellow lights of the distant shipyard. I see the twinkling lights of the floating buoys, and I see the guiding light of the lighthouse. But I also see the faint light of boats in sea, each of them a beacon of hope for some family, some child hither.
My bench was in shadow, cast by the branches of the gaunt old tree. It suited me just fine. My name is Ishmael. Like my namesake from Captain Ahab’s crew, I too share a fondness for the sea, as I do for all things beautiful and elusive. Speaking of beautiful and elusive, here I sit, waiting for one such elusive creature.
Nights bask the streets of Fort Cochin with a haunting beauty. Like a lady behind a curtain, she beckons you with her candle lights. Yet, as you reach for her, she fades away into the darkness. But the woman beside me now is not fading away. I can feel the warmth of her touch on my arms. Even in the darkness, I can see the twinkle in her eyes and her slightly crooked smile.
Some would say I’m a man of poor morals. Some would say I’m a godless man. They are both right, of course. I define my moral lines, the ones I shouldn’t cross. And it is well off what the society would have drawn. I’m godless because I don’t pray to any saviour in my time of need. I whisper a silent curse to myself, and set about making wrongs right. Perhaps this is why this woman is clasping my hands tightly as we walk along the walkway. More golden lights, more flies and more death.
Her long black hair flies across her face. Her eyes are on the road ahead, yet I can feel her mind’s eye on mine. Her slender frame and the gentle curve of her hips are intoxicating, even in the dim light of the street lamps. I’ve never had a dearth of female company. I’ve known quite a few female friends and have known some as well as a man could possibly know a woman. I’ve always enjoyed sex, but I’ve enjoyed them moaning my name, screaming my name in our moment of harmony, in that moment of excruciating pleasure.
“Ishmael!” they all called. None called me baby, none called me darling. For I was no one’s baby, no one’s sweetheart. I was Ishmael, and in that moment, I would know the persistence of my existence, my place in the universe.
We had reached our room for the night, in a house over a century old, built by our British overlords. The floor laden with a hand-sewn carpet and the room’s ceilings high above, with a majestic mahogany bed in the centre adding an aura of royalty to the setting. She glided across the room, to the bed, glancing at me with her expressive, intense eyes. The air in the room was filled with palpable tension, an electric need for each other’s body and soul. I sat next to her as she lay in the bed, and touched her lips. They were wet with anticipation, yet dry with thirst. I reached for her mouth with mine, and kissed her slow.
“Is Ishmael your real name?” she asked after. She was lying peacefully, my arms around her, her eyes on the slow ceiling fan above. I could see the tiny strands of hair on her hand, and hear her slow breath. Her body was warm, and her scent was of jasmine flowers. She turned, and looked at me in the eyes. “Is Ishmael your real name?” she asked again, with the persistence of a child.
“It has been for a while” I replied, regretting the words as soon as they were out. She sat up in bed, and I could see the questions in her eyes for an instant. And then she went back to being comfortable, perhaps sensing my discomfort. Life was peaceful, again.. Yet in the lingering depths of my mind, I could still remember that day, the Father in white, and Gabriel beside him. Gabriel, it has been so long..