Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sex on the beach

We were driving down the coast with two girls who had never seen the island before. It was late in the day and we had to get back to town soon to catch connecting rides, but all the same, we asked our driver to stop at Praia Frances (French Beach) so the girls could get out and look.

Praia Frances is an odd beach. You can't see it until you're right next to it because, at the last minute, just before you hit the water's edge, the rocky coast drops out a meter or two below you, forming a minor cliff. Only in the small space below and beyond the cliff do you encounter fine black sand, reaching out a short distance and then disappearing again under the waves.

The cliff overhangs the rear of the beach and juts out into mini-peninsulas every 10 to 20 meters, creating a series of horseshoe-shaped semi-self-contained coves. This is important.

As we walked out onto one of those peninsulas, I looked down into the adjacent cove. In the back, nestled under the lip of the cliff, I discerned a pair of feet in flip flops. And then another foot wearing a different flip flop. And then movement — slow, rhythmic, circular movement.

At first I didn't believe what I thought I was seeing. Where'd they come from? Hadn't they certainly heard us, or at least felt our car rumbling to a halt on the ground above them? If so, shouldn't they be scrambling to put clothes on? As I turned to one of my friends, my eyes answered my own first question: there was a car parked right next to ours. I just hadn't noticed it.

I asked my friend: "Are they having sex down there?"

He walked out towards the sea for a better view and looked where I had looked. Then we both turned, incredulous, to a Cape Verdean who was with us. He didn't understand our English, but he knew what we were saying, because he just gave a wry smile and nodded in confirmation.

Snuffing my voyeuristic impulse to get a better view myself, I turned my attention to the rest of our group, who had ventured much further out on the peninsula (where they could potentially see deeper into the cove) but were — like normal people — still focused more on the ocean than on the coast.

Then it happened.

One of the girls — the one that has only been in Cape Verde for a week — turned to face the flip-flopped feet. Except from where she stood, she must have been able to see not just the feet, but everything from head to toe (and everything in between). Immediately, her eyes lit up, she gasped, she covered her mouth with her hand, and then she struggled to stifle her giggling as she walked briskly out of the line of sight.

Of course, after that, everyone else had to look too. But M—'s reaction was the best. The sight of sex made her feel the way I think sex should: she laughed like a child, and then she felt happy, knowing, perhaps, that life is a pretty sweet gift even if we only get one.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010


A dog with a smooth golden coat just walked out of a building with a piece of buttered bread in its mouth. A man and a woman stood by and laughed at the dog while I watched silently from a balcony. As it passed by me, I noticed rows of swollen nipples drooping from its underbelly. My eyes followed it about a hundred feet, until it disappeared into a gap in the wall on the far side of the road.

I looked elsewhere, but then in my periphery, the dog returned to view. Bread still locked in its teeth, it jumped atop the wall and trotted back in my direction. When it came to a gate, it paused for a tic and then jumped to the other side. From there the dog descended into a field of sugar cane across the street from where I stood.

Propped up against the wall in the corner of the field were about twenty tall bundles of sugar cane leaves. As the dog arrived, two small puppies with exactly the same golden coat emerged from the dark, protected gaps between these bundles. They followed their mother to the middle of the field, jumping at her teats and — when she threw it on the ground for them — pouncing on the piece of bread. As puppies do, they took opposite ends and nibbled at it. One would occassionally try to tug the bread away from the other, but lacking any real strength or determination to do so, they ended up dividing it pretty much equally and then laid down at their mother's side.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Love (again)

I just rode back to my town in the bed of a pickup truck. There weren't many passengers; one ancient man with glassy eyes sat on the bench across from me, and inside the cab there was a woman.

Even these few companions disembarked by the time we crested over the mountain. And so, I thought, it was just the driver and I for the ride down the hill to Fajã. But when I peered into the cab more carefully, I saw another passenger I'd missed.

The driver was an old man, no less than 60, and next to him was a young girl, no more than two. She was curled up on her side, feet toward me, head toward the engine, face toward the passenger door, and eyes shut.

The weather was cool, but the sun was bright. We drove slowly, and yet the wind still blew the hair out of my eyes, so that as we rounded each curve I could see the shift in the angle of light that filtered through the windows of the cab. Chunks of shadow and brightness rocked back and forth in lockstep across the seat, one moment shading the sleeping girl's face and then making it brilliant again.

What I loved was this: Every time the road straightened for a stretch, the old driver looked down at the little girl. If the sun was on her face, he took a hand off the wheel and held it over her eyes. Not that her eyes weren't closed — they were, and I'm sure that in her dreaming mind the blackness was total. But out of concern that she might be burned, or that she might waken too soon, or perhaps merely on the principle that a person shouldn't have sun in their eyes, he protected her.

And to think: she'll never know she was loved today.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Something I couldn't handle

It's nearly 10 in the morning when I go to the bakery to buy bread. I'm almost sure that I'm too late, but I decide to go anyway on the off chance that it may be a slow day.

I go the back way, which requires me to pass briefly through the yard of an old woman and her young son (grandson?) Helder. Sometimes the yard is empty, but when I approach, they are both standing outside. I greet them with the usual "bom dia."

Helder, being the friendly, amicable fellow that he is, asks me why he didn't see me at Carnaval in Estância Brás on Sunday. I say that, yes, I did go, but on Saturday, not Sunday. I ask him if it started earlier on Sunday. We're cool.

I walk by him and then come to face the old lady. "Tudo bom?" I offer with a smile. I stop and lean against the wall to give her a moment to respond. She doesn't... at least not to my greeting. Instead, seeing the bag in my hand, she tells me, "There's no more bread, you've come too late again."

She speaks as if I were haplessly convinced that I could still buy bread at this hour, and it's clearly clear to her that the reason I didn't come earlier is because I'm lazy.

Insulted and annoyed and angry as I am at that moment, Helder defuses the situation with his relentless positivity. "Now is the perfect time to get cookies, though," he says. "They'll be hot out of the oven."

Unfortunately, I'm still posted up against the wall, facing the old lady, who begins to inspect my long, flowy hair. I took extreme care to pull it away from my eyes before she saw me, but all the same she can't help herself. She tells Helder and I that it needs to be cut, and says I need to let her cut it.

I often get crap from her about my hair or about coming late for bread, but usually not at the same time.

Disgusted, I do something I've never done in Cape Verde: I spin around silently and walk away without looking back or saying another word. The entrance to the bakery is only 10 meters from this woman's house, but I walk past it without even checking for bread. Thrilled as I would be to buy the last three rolls just so I could throw them at her, I am indeed likely not to find any bread, and I don't dare risk that I might give her the satisfaction of seeing me walk out empty-handed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


It's 4:55. I'm sitting down and all I'm doing is watching TV, but she asks, "Where are you going?"
"Fajã," I reply.
"What time?"
"Pretty soon."
"Later? What hour?" She points to the 7 on the wall clock. "This hour?"
I shake my head no.
She points to the 6. "This hour?"
I point to the 5. "This hour."
"Oh," she says, and walks away.