He registers the dry scabby smell of sweat. The funk of decay and shit pops his eyes open. Gonzalos stands erect and awake too quickly for his slumbering self to catch up. In a thin white patch on Rosita’s underbelly Gonzalos stares into a forest wall of black hair. Savage unintelligible strings of clicks and scratching fire towards Gonzalos from the darkness like a warning.
The heat is unbearable and joyous. A craving swoons through him, like strong morning coffee making him dizzy and nauseous. It’s unlike hunger or thirst – primordial, powerful and uncontrollable. Gonzalos can hear Rosita lapping up sea water and crunching on seaweed with her fat, red tongue. She begins improvising, ‘Mi amor acuático, mi salvador de marfil.’
She’s gone mad Gonzalos decides. But without warning, or another word to boast on the matter the caustic mammalian pinch swells and entangles his senses with the fruit salad lingering from his sleep. The clash of redolent and fetid odours fashion a brutal gustatory reaction. Gonzalos leaps to edge and dry wretches over the side of the boat.
Green blood fills his eye balls and fresh salty tears smart and makes him wince. He almost misses the monstrous apparition glide silently under the boat. Gonzalos observes it, terrified as it disappears in the murky depth. Then with effortless dexterity and aplomb the watery ghost loops about and makes for the surface. It floats along the boat on its side, brushing beneath Rosita with its wide heavy paws like a horrific hairless offspring of a walrus and cow. The tubby, tubular beast’s bald albino face has deep wrinkles of character like humans and every slight change of angle brings on a whole transformation of features. One beady black peeper stares up at him while a grin hides under its chin as if it’s amusing itself with jokes it won’t share with terrestrials.
Gonzalos staggers back in shock and awe. He stumbles and falls back onto Rosita’s hide. ‘That stupid fat bitch,’ Gonzalos curses. He knew it! It was all starting to make sense. A plot of insatiable desire and denial.
‘Forbidden love – it’s textbook,’ Gonzalos hollers. Mental frenzy strikes Gonzalos. His mind moves too fast to control and he descends into madness. Salivating fissures of irrational and incoherent thought erupt over reason, which dodge and jump and try grabbing all the loose threads of the mystery and tie them in a knot.
He rationalises without tools of evidence or witnesses the only way that lazy cow could ever be in a lifeboat alone is if she planned her own escape Rosita must have learned her fate on the voyage, fell in love with a bovine freak of the sea and sabotaged the journey for her own selfish ends. Gonzalos doesn’t stop to consider his assumptions from morsels of his unreliable memory and measly facts are flawed. He is full of sea water and is stacking a house of feeble cards. His is convinced. And now he is lying in the thick hair on the rump of the perpetrator to all his ill fortune.
Rosita’s hide vibrated as her song of love travelled up through her diaphragm and compounded Gonzalo’s nausea. He couldn’t shake the image of Rosita and the sea cow and didn’t hear the approaching sounds of something alien and frightening.
Gonzalos’s delirium breaks with a renewed chorus of clacks and clicking ticks. They grow louder and more discordant and sibilant like a barbaric war cry.
Gonzalos froze in fear. He watched and listened.
Pink denim tentacles slowly sprout through the dense follicle divide – fluttering like blind tongue flower petals parting Rosita’s coarse hair like fingers. Three univalve entities emerge. They slide on a moist finger slowly over Rosita’s thick scabby skin like salty sea dog’s tall tales of deep sea monsters. Each has one giant protruding eye, in which two black pupils swim in the white soup of their sight. And their fistful of tentacles sways in front of them like a distraction. They click and tick at each other in a gibberish, ancient dialect. The unmistakable language of parasites convinces Gonzalos they are related to the indigenous Amazonian blood suckers of his homeland. But these obstinate creatures are some giant prehistoric aberration, measuring thrice Gonzalos’s height – an indestructible prototype long forgotten in the pregnant waters of a young planet.
They were seaweed pirates hitching rides on the massive ocean belts of kelp for eternity until they find a suitable host. Their names were all Gonzalos understood, Ko, Tu and En and that was all they appeared to say to one another, incessantly repeating each other’s names like some depraved, primitive sonar.
Gonzalos clears his throat. Ko spits a silky thread of purple ink over Gonzalos’s left shoulder. ‘What we have here gentleman, and possibly ladies is a failure to communicate,’ Gonzalos announces.
In reply another purple string sails directly overhead. Gonzalos protective instinct kicks in automatically. He stares absently like he is lost, looking for a street sign, or wondering abstractly about the time.
It makes Gonzalos a peculiar spectacle in a tight spot. But bamboozlement was his only weapon, and it was very effective. In his experience confusing one’s opponent always bought enough time to make a cowardly escape. It fails miserably. A third well aimed spit-bullet rockets out of En’s tentacles.
Gonzalos didn’t notice Rosita had stopped singing. He did momentarily hope she was aware of his minuscule world and would come to his aid with a flash of her tail. But bovines were imbeciles. And his want was swallowed before he exhaled. It turned to despair in his throat that he and gulped back down.
Gonzalos instinctively ducks but the acidic saliva catches his sorrowful wings. Their delicate glass wire frames sizzle and melt down to stumps like hot wax. Gonzalos feels the remnants run down his back in a warm goo. He can’t stand to survey the damage. He know he is fucked, castrated, mutated and about to die alone and sober. To look over his shoulder is an indignation he won’t allow.
Suddenly Rosita bellows an ungodly wail. The life boat violently flips starboard and swings back with equal force portside. Gonzalos is catapulted into the air. He hears a great splash. And the world goes black.
Gonzalos knew where he was before he opened his eyes – in the stink of dead fish at the bottom of the boat. He looked up. Rosita was gone and his terrifying foes vanquished with her disappearance. Gonzalos didn’t know how to react. He didn’t shout. He didn’t move. Instead he closed his eyes and let the odious piscatory funk wash over him until it didn’t bother him.
Gonzalos drifted for three more days and three more nights with the futility of purgatory – through blistering sun, unrelenting wind, rain that flew in from heinous angles like poisoned darts and a midnight tempest with waves that glinted in the dull quicksilver light like skyscrapers of apocalyptic destruction. He wept uncontrollably and laughed hysterically until he was dry and exhausted and drunk on his own psychosis. His deranged spurts, pops and nefarious giggles filled the boat and echoed in the empty belly. And when the wind held its breath and the water turned to glass the way that gave sailors the heebie jeebies he felt his voice take flight across the ocean. Dreams and waking moments integrated into a fog until Gonzalos couldn’t tell if he was alive or dead. His loneliness and desperation sunk deeper than single malt whisky. He had no energy left to surrender. He wished he was dead and wondered why it was taking so long.
In the raven pit of self loathing and defeat he heard Rosita sing in his head like the sun breaking through the graveyard morning mist in La Paz. It’s funny how the tumbler of time and nostalgia skews our memories like childhood holidays. Gonzalos declared to the dingy he missed the Argentinean heifer and he wasn’t lying. A faint waft of sheep and crap arrested Gonzalos’s delirium. Is he awake, or asleep or dead? he asked the sea.
He peers over the starboard bow and sees a cargo ship floating like Lego on the horizon. Gonzalos briefly questions if what he sees is real, but he remains obedient to carelessness. For the second time in his life he knows exactly what to do.
Rosita had decided her own fate and Gonzalos knew his time had come. He smells rain in the air like wet bitumen. He has never smelt the rain before and he likes it. Gonzalos knows he can’t go back. The sea has changed him. The great silent deep all around that only gave him consternation compels him to his feet and onto his rope shackle rostrum like a Pina Colada or Mint Julep. It is the irresistible voice of the ocean speaking directly to him like a siren song driving him – possessing him. He looks over his back at the plastic spatulas that were once his escape and freedom. If this cursed water erased his past, it is now his home.
He is one with his new form and surroundings. And Gonzalos concludes quickly so he won’t be struck by doubt, these winds must carry his future. He thinks of Watto and Rosita and the gorgeous metallic taste of his first love Maria and leaps out over the water with a spirit full of faith.
It was a strange sensation wearing infinity and nothingness on his feet. He leapt from the life boat, his island and saviour and launched him into the unknown. A peculiar calm overtook him. It scared him in fact. He had always carried fear with so much familiarity he felt uneasy and naked for an instant. He almost willed it back. But now he didn’t care. From somewhere unknown rose a deep sense of assurance like a mother’s lullaby he would be alright.
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