There is a remote place at the end of the beach where the tourists don’t venture. They feel uneasy making the long trek past the censuring eyes of their fellow patrons and to leave all the creature comforts of their rooms so far behind. There are only a few of us who make the trek. It is an isolated spot that is suffused in a pale blue haze of sea and sky. It has a narrow stretch of sandy beach butting up against the towering face of a tawny cliff. The ridgeline of the cliff arches overhead and then bends precipitously down and tapers out into a rocky sickle-shaped jetty that juts out and disintegrates into the sea. It is there that the ocean has carved out a deep cavity in its floor, engulfing its tumultuous dark blue water and making the swimming treacherous.
I go to this remote spot daily just after lunch when the sun has cleared the cliff and ascended over the blue, aquatic expanse. This afternoon time slot frees up my morning so I can work in my bungalow and then leisurely lunch at the Lanai restaurant where I can ensconce myself behind a newspaper at a table shrouded in white linen and lavishly lay out. There I can casually nibble on morsels of fruit and pastries and sip my tea as I guardedly observe the tourists that lounge and play about the shore. After lunch, I return to my bungalow and finish up the loose ends and prepare for the beach. It is a pleasant routine that provides an excellent diversion from my otherwise hectic schedule.
Today I find a perfect spot near the center of the beach and unfurl my towel and lay it out over the sand. An image of an Aztec sun god dominates the center of my towel, its one triangular eye enshrined in a sunburst of bold orange and yellow rays. I slip off my swim trunks and lie down on my back and close my eyes and let my body bake in the prickling heat of the sun.
Most of my friends are off snow skiing as they do every year at this time, but I’ve chosen to come here. I wanted to avoid the exertions of such an outing and the buzz that comes with such gatherings. I wanted to leave all the daily demands and nuances far behind and enjoy the simple pleasures of the flesh in my self-imposed exile. Everyone needs to escape once in awhile and find some solace from the dissonance of the mob.
I sit up and slide my sunglasses down off the crown of my head to shield my eyes from the glaring brightness of the day. There are peering teenage boys hunched on the boulders at the foot of the cliff and a flabby nude man lies prostrated on an air mattress that drifts on the water. An old woman, with sagging breasts, sits in the breach of wavelets running up on the shore. She gapes out at the sea while her hand repetitively dredges a hole in the sand that the agitated wavelets quickly reclaim. I remove my glasses, stand, and walk out on the rocks of the jetty to the very end of landfall and dive into the choppy, ultramarine surface of the sea.
I swish down through the effervescent waters to the shadowy floor of the basin where I come to rest, immersed in the soothing belly of its domain. I linger here in a weightless suspension until my temples throb and my eyes burn and my lungs ache to burst. I rotate my arms and thrust my legs together to burrow through the weighty depth of the waters. I give two more powerful thrusts that propel me onward and then another thrust to rocket upward into the atmosphere where I gasp the replenishing air that awaits me there.
I rotate over on my back and float here in a relaxed repose while the flux of the ocean gently laps up against me. There is a misty rain falling from a small nimbus cloud that passes overhead. I feel isolated and liberated in my carefree buoyancy and wish to stay here forever. There is a ringing, though, stirring in my ear, like a distant siren, that is unsettling and intruding in on my respite. I roll over and briskly swim back to the beach and walk ashore.
I stroll toward a woman, who is gazing out at the sea. She has a splendid posture, with slender arms dangling at her side and a fine form packed tightly into a creamy coffee-toned skin that is embellished only by her currant-color nipples and the black hairs of her genitalia. Her head is crowned with cropped, lustrous black wavy hair and her face is angular with proud black eyes and her lips and nose hint of royal heritage. She serenely swirls circles in the surging flow with one foot then the other, seemingly unaware of her motion.
I walk up and stand in front of her and ask: "Aren't you swimming?”
"Later," she answers somberly as she squints out into the glare of the sea.
"Are you waiting for someone?"
"The water is wonderful this time of day," I tell her.
"Sometimes," she says, still looking at the sea, "I come here just to wait for the brooding ocean to swell up in an enormous wave and wash me away with it." She rubs her hands up and down her folded arms as though a chill has come over her, then she glances over at me and faintly smiles. "Then again, there are times when I just want to be alone and enjoy the quietude of its immense indifference." She cast her eyes down and then diverts them back to the sea.
"It's a beautiful place for that," I answer and I head back up to my towel.
I sit on my towel and examine her womanly form that glistens in the sunlight then it darkens as a shadow from a cloud sweeps over her. I stretch out on my back, close my eyes, and fade into a scintillating, airy blackness. I’m invigorated by my plunge into the sea and with the woman looming so near. There is a gentle breeze that tickles the hairs of my body and beads of perspiration roll down my sides. The baking heat of the sun permeates my flesh and wards off all the doldrums that has been residing in me lately. I listen to the incessant, muffled roar of the surf that breaks just beyond the shore as it entices me with its applause-like sound or is it just shushing me to sleep.
I open my eyes to see the woman standing next to me like an unabashed colossal goddess. She is fresh from her swim and is toweling herself off. Her body is unadorned except for the glossy red nails of her fingers and toes. The beach is deserted now and, overhead, storm clouds had moved in from the sea, to blanket the sky. "It is wonderful!” she tells me in a deep, mellifluous voice.
"It is," I answer.
"May I join you?” she asks as she spreads her towel on the sand next to me. She has a marvelously sinuous body and the contours of her rich, tawny skin stretches out over her womanly form like polished marble. "I love the ocean," she tells me as she stretches out on her back and faces skyward. "It has such empowering qualities. It always gives me complete absolution when I come to it…always!”
"I can't see where you need absolution," I tell her.
"I have a notorious reputation and am not received well in proper society," she answers gravely and then rolls on her side and faces me. "I have a scandalous way about me that doesn’t bode well for some,” she apprises, portentously. “But that doesn’t bother me,” she concedes, lying back down with her hands beneath her head. “You see, I am as sinless and shameless as a newborn baby. I have always been sinless and shameless, I suppose – and as indifferent as the sea. And it’s probably my shameless indifference to my naughty ways that frightens people the most.” She turns on her side again, examining me closely and then asks: “Does this frighten you?”
“No, I’m intrigued.”
She stretches back out on her towel and her face glows from a passing ray of sunlight that strikes it. “You should be frightened,” she candidly warns with closed eyes. “I’m a seductress, proud and bold, in search of men who are as proud and bold as me. It gives me such great pleasure to give them pleasure. I find them so deserving and worthy and what emboldens them, I’ve learned, in turn, emboldens me.” She glibly tells me all this as though she’s talking in her sleep. “But it will all end soon,” she sullenly sighs. “The executioner will be coming to drag my pretty ass off to be burned at the stake—Coitus Interruptus,” she enunciates the last two words slowly and distinctly. “I do pity the man that’s in me then; he may be dragged along by mistake and then not be so proud or bold. But it’s this provocative life I’ve chosen for myself and I’ll gladly pay the price for it on the stake.” Her lips seem to be amused with her impending demise and she finishes off with a lamenting sigh of resolve and then rolls back on her side and looks right into my face. “What’s your choice of execution, baby?" she asks intently. “Or are you so above reproach, so pure of heart?” She stares into my eyes, a smug smile on her lips. “For all us proud and bold people are executed in the end. Will it be a firing squad...hanging?"
I rise up and lean my face in close to hers. There is no startle in her eyes, just a languorous come-on look. "I'm not going to be taken alive," I aver. I lie back down on my towel and chuckle. “This is all quite amusing, my dear—so pure of heart. Indeed!” I chuckle again.
She lies there silently on her back with her eyes closed as drops of rain begin to splatter on us. She props herself up on her elbows and conceitedly throws back her head, arching her voluptuous form upward. Then she lets her torso go slack. “It will rain soon,” she states with some umbrage. “If you have no need of me, I will be on my way.”
“There’s no need to leave,” I tell her and as I approach near so our bodies touch. She surrenders as I mount her as she demurely and coolly looks away.
So she wants to take me on, and rightly so, for what emboldens her only emboldens me more. I’ll be your master, baby, and your lascivious spirit will be mine to mold and wield for as long as I please. So forget your taunts and cajoling, my little tart, for they’re just contemptuous and no avail to you in the end. That’s right, my dear; there is no executioner to whimper out to, no henchman standing in the wings to drag me away. Should I keep looking over my shoulder for their entrance? Are they near, my dear? So where is your executioner now, my sweet nymph, to chasten me? Is he so intimidated by my success that he dreads to come forth? Is that it? Does my achievements frighten him – my boldness and pride? Does he skulk in the shadows waiting for me to fail? Then there’s no rescue for you now, my dear, for I will not fail and your executioner will need to remain cowering in the wings.
She opens her eyes that mirror the flinty sky. Rain is pelting down on us. "It’s raining," she says dispassionately, "I need to head back.” She reaches her arm out and flips out her thong from her tote bag and, disengaging herself from under me, hurriedly slides the thong on, stands and grabs her things and begins to jog down the beach. I tug on my trunks and follow her. “The windows are down on my car,” she shouts back at me. She scurries down the beach, then through the dunes to the asphalt parking lot. She goes to her black XKE Jag with its lustrous black clothe roof. We quickly plop ourselves down inside the car and slam the doors shut and roll the windows up tight. She starts the motor and slowly pulls away.
“Let’s go to my bungalow,” I suggest. She slowly drives along the narrow street that leads back to the village. She sensually rubs her palm on the shellacked mahogany knob of the gearshift.
"Nice car," I remark.
"It's a trophy from my first marriage."
"I can't imagine you being married," I tell her.
"My ex-husband can,” she jokes and then states: “I take it you never bothered to get married.”
“You’re very clairvoyant for such a lovely creature.”
The car creeps along in no great hurry as though in a procession, following the headlight beams through the murky deluge. Its tires swishing through the water, its windshield wipers whipping back and forth while heavy raindrops thump on its the roof.
"I'm down Seadrift here," I direct.
She slowly turns in and drives down the narrow cobblestone lane pass a row of bungalows that seem to sullenly crouch in the low overcast of the storm. She stops her car and turns the engine off. We disembark, dash up to the door, and enter my bungalow.
“Do you need a towel?” I ask.
“No, I’m good.”
“Martini?” I ask as I enter the kitchenette area and switch the light on as she nosily lingers around my drafting table, snooping through my work.
"You’re an architect?" she asks as she folds back some of my drawings.
“Yes,” I claim as I pour liquor into a shaker and watch her browse through my work. “I was a partner in a large firm in Manhattan, but am now on my own,” I add.
“Looks like low-income housing,” she says disparagingly.
“Don’t be silly” I reproach. “It’s a bid I’m working on for a very upscale resort in Bermuda. The furnishings alone will be worth more then the GDP of some third-world countries.”
“There’s not much money in designing apartments,” she snubs.
“I see you know nothing about architecture, my dear,” I retort.
“Is that all you do – design apartments?” she queries, unimpressed.
“I have built skyscrapers, my dear, that reach to the sky,” I boast as I shake and pour our drinks. “I am well-known for my avant-garde and post-modern style. But don’t trouble your pretty little head about such things,” I advise as I return to the living room and present a glass to her. “Here’s to our execution,” I toast, “may it come swiftly and thoroughly.” We clink glasses and she sips her martini. She stares mischievously at me and then gives me a whimsical smile.
I put my glass down on the drafting table and rest my hands on her hips, fingering the straps of her thong. “Now where were we?”
“You were telling me you used to design really tall buildings,” she drolly says as she ignores my advances and browses through my drawings again.
I go over and sit on the upholstered, wicker couch and watch her childish curiosity. I know she’s toying with me, playing some new, perverted game she’s made up to keep me waiting and pique my passion. She should know that I just want to be pleased and the hell with all this other malarkey. She pauses at my open attaché case that is on the floor next to the drafting table. She reaches down and puts her hand inside it.
“What are you doing?” I snap, getting edgy now and annoyed with her behavior.
“I’m fucking you, baby,” she notifies me without looking over and she draws a thick folder from my attaché. She brings the folder over to the couch and flops herself down with her legs tucked underneath her. “What’s this?” she asks and proceeds to open the folder and examine the contents.
I’m flabbergasted by her impudent banter and by her vexing probe into my personal affairs. I wish she would leave things well enough alone. “It’s a deposition,” I tell her, “a case I’m involved in. It doesn’t pertain to you.” I try to snatch the folder from her, but she quickly pulls it away from my reach.
“A case?” she purrs. “How proud you must be to be involved in a case. Some stately affair, I imagine—some noble cause to ward off injustice. Are you the star witness or the expert? No, no,” she gasps with alarm, “it has your name here as a defendant. Are you a criminal?”
“No, no, you’re being presumptuous,” I angrily rebuke as I slam my drink down on the table with such force that it splashes out on the wooden top, so to shock her back to her senses. “It’s a civil case,” I tell her as I turn and confront her. “Don’t you have any sense of decency or respect?”
“My, my, baby, we’re not the type to be modest,” she admonishes me and then murmurs aside something about how the mighty have fallen.
I should have known she was trouble the moment I saw her. I’m slipping, old boy--I should have seen this coming. I should have never let her get this far along. They take such liberties when you deign the smallest concession. But I’m on to her warped dalliance and two can play her game. She’s no match for my intellect and prowess and will sorely lose this one.
“A mezzanine collapsed in one of the high-rise hotels I designed,” I disclose with an air of impunity, “and we’re just trying to work out all the legal ramifications.”
“Yes, yes, collapsed!” I irritably repeated. “The owners wanted something bold and impressive to give their lobby a lofty and majestic feel and that’s what I gave them – an exquisite design only I could create. But some lousy incompetent contractor didn’t read the specifications properly and the mezzanine collapsed.”
“Was anyone killed?”
What a preposterous question! Why would she ask such a thing at a time like this? She should be coming around by now. She should be pleasing me. What else can I do? She’s twisting all this into some deviant ploy to intentionally dampen my spirit. Why be so cruel? Why be so obstinate now? How much longer can I put up with this?
“Six people,” I bluntly tell her as I take the folder from her drooping hand and put it aside.
“I never killed anyone,” she says looking at me intensely. “How does it feel to kill someone?” she asks with genuine wonderment.
“Don’t be preposterous!” I resentfully rebuke. “I’ve never killed anyone and what does it matter to you if I had?”
My annoyance is getting the better of me. She is trampling on things that best be left alone. And what torments me the most is her deliberateness and maliciousness in pursuing this forbidden subject. I need to get this under control now!
“You throw your body down on a bed so men can screw you,” I chide haughtily, “and now you expect to discuss issues of architecture and law that don’t even pertain to you.” I stand up and lean in toward her face and with blustering indignation yell at her: “What unmitigated gall! What brazen effrontery!”
“Oh, baby, do sit down,” she calmly tells me, seemingly undeterred. “I’m not done with you yet.”
“Done with me yet?” I query to myself in disbelief.
“Oh, baby,” she coos consolingly. “You’re so tense. What’s troubling you, baby? I know you weren’t satisfied back there. Was there something on your mind? Let me make it up to you.”
She taps the cushion disarmingly with her hand, beckoning me to sit by her. Her soothing tone is reassuring and I’m certain she’s gotten my message so I relent and recline back by her side and she lays her head down on my lap. I let my mind drifts off in search of that pleasure awaiting me.
“You need to relax, baby, it’s all right,” she encourages me. “Here, let me take these wet trunks off so you can relax more.” She draws my trunks off and tosses them to the floor. “I know what will satisfy you,” she says salaciously, and leans over and kisses my stomach and then begins stroking me. I feel her moist flesh tapping against mine, but feel nothing else.
“So the collapse left a lot of anguish widows, orphans, and mourners then?” she morbidly continues her interrogation. “Loved ones snatched away forever....people’s lives ripped apart?”
“No, no,” I decry as my patience wears out. “Why does it matter to you? The lawyers will sort it all out. Everyone will be well-compensated for their loss.” She has me baffled and disoriented. I should be excited now, but I’m numb and unresponsive. I can feel the rough edges of her teeth scrap me and her blade-like nails tear my skin.
“Were you satisfied, baby,” she continues her derision, “when they brought the body bags out? How does it feel to crush people? Were you proud, then, baby? Were you pleased?” she grates in her hot breath.
Why is she tormenting me so? –conjuring up such ghastly images at a time like this. Doesn’t she know how treacherous it is - bringing up this whole sordid mess? I should be enraged, impugning her impious affronts with pontifications about the majesty of my creations. I should tell her how meticulously I labored on the design to assure its everlasting magnificence. How it was a marvel of our times. She needs to understand that. She needs to understand that it is more my misfortune and tragedy than all the others. I should confront her on all these things, but instead I slump down on her, desperately seeking some relief from my afflictions – and…and to quell her doubting mind, to let her know it wasn’t intentional, just an unavoidable mistake.
“Oh, baby, baby, relax, let it just flow,” she needles. “You’re my master, baby,” she mimics me. “My whole lascivious spirit is yours. My taunts are haunting me, baby, haunting me.”
Why is she mocking me? How did she hear these thoughts? Surely, she’s not a mind reader? What diabolical trick is she playing on me now?
“Oh, baby, baby, I want your strength and boldness, baby. I’m just your sweet nymph, baby.”
This loathsome Jezebel! Can’t she see how displeased I am? That I find her clammy touches repulsive and insidious. I just want her out of here. Why is she doing this to me? Why make all this a miserable fiasco?
“The executioner is just outside the door,” she taunts in her raspy voice. “He’s waiting for you.”
“Enough, you wicked witch!” I roar as I toss her off of me with a thrust of my stomach, landing her onto the floor, knocking the coffee table and drinks over in her fall.
“No way, baby!” she decries in defiant outrage as she looks up at me and reacts in horror. She stands and straightens herself up and composes herself with that god-awful pride of hers. “I don’t put up with that crap, baby. No way. You’ve got a problem, baby, and it isn’t me. Just cause you can’t get it up anymore is no cause to get rough. You’ve lost it baby, that’s all. It’s over!”
“Just go,” I tell her.
“You’re not getting anymore of this, baby,” she derides as she readies herself by the door, covering her breasts up with her halter-top. “None of this no more, baby.”
I languidly wave her off and she slips out the door into the tempestuous rains, leaving me alone.
The room is made ominously gloomy by the storm, though I can hear the puttering of her car as it fades away through the din outside. I get up and in a stupor straighten out the coffee table and bring the two glasses into the kitchenette and begin running the faucet. Outside the window, the rain is relentless and diminishes the view. There’s a cluster of shadowy souls furtively huddled in the driveway across the way with opened black umbrellas above their heads. I turn the faucet off and shuffle listlessly to my bed and sprawl out on my back. I stare up at the dark ceiling and listen to the pitter patter of the rain on the roof. The rain turns to a drenching, tropical squall and its dreadful racket rattles through the hollowness of the room. A flash of lightning streaks against the walls and they seem to buckle in and crumble down on top of me from the strike. I try to get up and flee, but unable to. My limbs seem tethered to the floor and my chest weighted down by stones. I feel suffocated as I lie beneath the booming maelstrom of the storm.
The rain subsides and I get up and walk back out to the living room. The place seems so small and dull now and so uninviting. My drafting table and couch seem nearly on top of each other with no sense of separation. I slouch down on the couch and put my feet up on the coffee table and morosely stare at the door. A thunder clap rocks the room and startles me into thinking someone is knocking. It’s crazy, just crazy. “Go away,” I holler in half-jest at the ghoul that waits at the door. “No one lives here anymore.” There’s no answer, just the furtive wails and moans of a storm and the rattling of windowpanes in a room that keeps getting smaller and duller. They are all out there—waiting in the wings—the fractured skulls—bloodstained gauzes—the child’s leg half buried in the rubble.
I stand back up and step over to the sliding glass door. I peer out at the opaque patio veiled by a sheet of water streaming down off the eaves. Where’s my sun? I ask as I stare blankly at the dismal day and shudder at the bleak prospect that the sun may never return. I’m not a killer. Though that will be what the investigation will show. And a sanctimonious jury will find me guilty and condemn me to a barren and empty life that even pride will not overcome. Alas, remorse is such an absurd notion and does not suit me well.
A flash of lightning reveals my executioner standing there in the patio, naked with garlands of seaweed festooned about him. I pound my fist on the glass door and holler at him: “Get out of my yard. Leave me alone!” I throw the door open and lunge outside to grapple with the henchman, but he slips over the fence and runs down the drive. I swing the gate open and chase after him. The cobblestones tear and chafe my bare feet and raindrops pelt my body like bullets. I reach an intersection and see the executioner scrambling up the path that leads to the cliff. “Come back here,” I shout, dashing after him, across the dunes where the tall reeds whip and thrash me. I hurdle over a clump of grass and tumble to the ground, twisting my knee. I lie there in wait, catching my breath, listening for the sounds of the fleeing executioner. Overhead, seagulls cry, winging their way inland under the opalescent sky. My naked body is soiled and gritty. My thigh is scraped and oozes thick, dark moisture that smears off on my hand. There are chanting mummers weaving through the tall grass towards me. A fleeting shadow darts out up ahead and I go after him. I reach the trail to the cliff and begin clambering feverishly up its rocks and boulders. The footing is loose and slick and I grab hold of the slimy branches to help pull myself upward as I charge up the steep and narrowing pass. I feel the thick bracken closing in on me and encasing me like a rabid mob, a mass of mendicant souls, clinging, nipping and tearing at me, preying on me with their petty grievances and pleading arms. They want my mortification; my repentance. They ‘re beseeching me to be like them, to be another poor soul left to act out his piety. I can see it in their miserable eyes and feel it in their sheepish touch. I see them now. They are the executioners!
A branch thumps my scrotum and I buckle down to my knees in agony and roll to my side. The horde piles on top of me, suffocating and crushing me. I struggle to free myself and wrestle my way up to my knees, shoving them off and pushing them aside as I crawl upward. I see the top of the ridge ahead, arcing away into the sky. I stand and race toward its edge that overlooks the benign sea. The cliff doesn’t possess contrition or absurd notions; it doesn’t feel pain or pleasure. I see the starkness of our insufferable plight hovering there at its brink. There’s no redemption for our fallibility, just persecution– a fatal flaw in design.
I reach the crest of the cliff, groggy, reeling from my climb. Lofty and majestic clouds that soar motionlessly up in the air populate the lilac sky. Sea gulls glide effortlessly below me over the shoreline. Stretching out toward the pumpkin-orange sun is the dazzling glare of the sea. I gaze down and watch as the womanly form enters and wades out into the emollient waters. She seems to be bathing now, cleansing herself and I find that quite amusing. On the beach below is my towel that I had left behind. I can see the orange and yellow sunburst of the sun god rising up toward me in its giddy array. I will go to it.