Island Summer - Part 2
by Jack Rowan Jack_Rowan@hotmail.com
For people, places and things mentioned in this part, please see the
end. Further notes about the story appear at the end of part 8.
Copyright information is at the start of part 1.
Stories by Jack Rowan: http://members.xoom.com/jack_rowan
My father was sitting on the patio smoking a joint. I got myself some chilled water, and went out to him. The car wasn't there, so my mother had to be away.
"What have you got?"
"Island stuff. It's very fine."
He passed me the joint. I took a large toke and released it with a sigh.
"Where did you get it?"
"Ah-ah," he said, warningly. "You want any dope, you get it through me, remember?"
I remembered his rule, and smiled.
"You're pretty good yourself, son."
We sat companionably for a while. The joint was getting to me; I felt relaxed and horny.
"So, how's it going? Made any conquests?"
I laughed. "No chance."
"Want to tell me about it?"
Suddenly I did, very much.
"I never have. Not at school, or here. I don't know... I've had chances, with the girls, you know, I... I was quite popular. But somehow..."
"I didn't dare think. I just... Well, at school, you know, that was the great taboo, the great no-no."
He passed me the joint and I took another toke.
"Tell me honestly. Who catches your eye? Boys or girls?"
"Oh God, dad. Boys, always boys." The awful days at school suddenly caught up with me, and my eyes filled with tears. "I tried not to think about it. I tried and tried..."
"Oh Kip, son."
"I just tried to shut all that off. I tried to make myself want girls, I really did, but it never worked out. I had a girlfriend for a while, but it just felt so false... She was nice, but she must have thought I was quite strange. So I just stopped. I just worked, and swam, and ran. I didn't have many friends..."
Tears were running down my face now, and my father reached across the table and held my hand.
"Have you ever, well, done anything with a boy?"
"Just once. That was here."
"Yes. That was... that was Pere." I smiled weakly. "We were in the woods above Tallers, exploring. This was about three years ago. I was... well, you remenber, I grew up very late, I was fifteen then and I'd only just started, well, you know... Anyhow, we found a ruined block house. Inside, it was full of pine needles, and cool. I don't know, I scarcely remember how it happened, but we... we ended up wanking each other." I blushed. "After it was over, Pere burst into tears. It was dreadful, he was screaming and shouting, he punched the wall and hurt his hand. I didn't dare touch him, I thought he was going to attack me, he was frantic. Then he made me swear, over and over again, never to tell anyone, and never to mention it, not even to him, ever. I never have, not till now. But I was devastated. It was just horrible. We walked back to village without saying a word."
"Poor Pere. Poor you. You never even hinted."
"Dad, I'm from here, remember? I'm an Islander. It was just... just impossible."
He handed me the joint again, and I finished it.
"But somehow you're still friends."
"Yes. He's my closest friend. But we still never speak about that, and there are things - areas we don't go. I never noticed that. Not till this year."
For a while, we were silent.
"So, how do you find the Island this year?"
"Oh, dad. I just love being here. I love the Island, I love everything here. In a way, I love everyone. Do you know what I mean? Sometimes I'm so happy here, I think I can scarcely breathe. I just want everyone in the world to love me..."
He looked at me, and his expression was serious.
"You should be careful."
"Oh, nothing. But if you want everyone in the world to love you, don't be surprised if someone does." He smiled. "Probably several someones. You're a very lovable person, Kip."
I heard my mother's car arrive.
Pere and I are driving down a long avenue of gigantic, ancient pinetrees. It's the afternoon, baking with heat, and each tree has its tribe of cicadas. I can hear them, and feel the cool ambience of each tree as we pass. We are going to visit his uncle Venancio, who is l'amo of the farm of Sos Pins; it's a few miles from the village, off the main road to The Port. The little collection of brilliant white farm buildings, surrounded with palmtrees, blinds me as we approach.
Venancio is a small man, stooped, much older than his brother Andreu, who is Pere's father. He's brown, the dark, wooden brown of someone who has spent his life working under the sun, and his face is quilted with thousands of wrinkles. He ushers us in, with small, stately gestures of hospitality. We move into the entrance hall, and it's beautiful, the walls white, an ancient wooden bench stands along one side, there's a huge blue vase of dried flowers and an old wooden plough hanging on the white wall. Inside the metre-thick walls it's cool, and everything is exact and neat.
We follow him into the kitchen, and there Pere's aunt Antonia is waiting. Venancio and Antonia are l'amo and madona of the farm, and even in these days that is a position of importance, of respect. We use polite pronouns and behave, but Antonia is delighted to have us.
"So, Cristofol," she says, using my full name, "You've grown, haven't you? I remember you as a child, and now look at you... And so handsome! I'm sure the girls come flocking!"
"Madona..." I'm blushing.
"You have to beat them off with a càvac, eh?" Venancio's laugh is a tight, wheezey giggle, and I smile at him.
Antonia gives us chilled water, and we chat about the harvest, the cost of water and electricity, problems with the cows and the hired help. Their use of the Island speech is elegant and antique, uninfluenced by Spanish, aphoristic and complex. They are giving us their time, which is a priceless commodity, and I am touched. This is the uttermost heart of the traditional life of the Island, and I am flattered to be at home here.
"Now, Venancio," she says, "You take the boys upstairs, and Pere can pick out a nice cheese for his mother, because I must get on. Cristofol, you are always welcome, you know that..." Politely she shoos us out. We climb the wide staircase, up to the first floor, and up again, into the attic, and it's huge, and stacked with the produce of the year. Even up here it's still cool; below our feet are the huge quart stones of the traditional architecture, and above us is the roof, stone inside as well. A single skylight lets a square column of blinding sun into the gloom.
The attic is spotless, and everything precisely arranged. In the corner there's a huge pile of barley, open on the floor, the edge neatly curved, not a single grain misplaced, and hanging from the roof strings of onions and dried tomatoes and garlic, rows of sausages and hams, bunches of basil, rosemary and parsely, and potatoes laid out in rows, each waiting for its turn in the winter pot. Then there are the shelves of cheeses, and over it all the rich, potent, nutty smell of everything, of their treasury, the total product of their endless labour.
"Now let's see," says Venancio, scanning the cheeses. "This one. Nothing but the best for my little brother, eh? Here, Cristofol, you carry it."
"Thank you, l'amo."
It's beautiful; rounded, heavy and luscious. I feel embarrassed holding it, as if I'm stealing something.
Outside, Pere took me for a walk across a field.
"That was amazing," I said. "Such a lot of stuff!"
Pere looked at me, eyes blazing, and I saw he was on the verge of tears.
"It's nothing! Nothing at all! They work and work... Most of it they have to sell to pay the bills, and what's left? A pittance! Nothing! Nothing, less forty percent!"
"Less forty percent?"
"What they must give to the owner of the farm, the patro."
"Forty percent of the profit?"
"Forty percent of everything! To some son-of-a-whore in The Port, who comes here once a year and does fucking nothing for them!"
Pere rarely swore. He was raging.
"But... but that's criminal!"
"We had a fucking war about that, remember? And the people who thought it was right, they won. And that's that." He kicked the earth. "Look at this ground!"
I looked. The thin grey soil was a finger deep at most, a drift of dust over the dark, twisted rock beneath, writhing to the surface every few inches, like scars from under the skin.
"Imagine working this! Tending it, centimetre by centimetre, reaping it with a sickle by hand. That pile of barley - he had to work for every single grain, back bent out here under the sun! Oh well, in a few years it'll be finished."
He made a ferocious gesture.
"If you came here thirty years ago, you'd see how it used to be, the farm full of workers and children. It was alive! Now it's just them, and they're old. It's all coming to an end. Who'd want to continue, when you can earn far more being a waiter in a hotel, fetching drinks for fat tourists and calling them 'sir'? Who'd want to be l'amo of Sos Pins compared to that? In another twenty years this place will be a ruin."
"No, it isn't. People are entitled to live. Why should they suffer, just to look quaint for folklorists from the mainland and - and foreign sentimentalists?"
He looked at me, and his eyes fell. There was a pause.
"I'm sorry, Kip. That was not just. Do you think I don't feel it too? A way of life is ending here, and it's my family, it's ending for our Island, and no one seems to care what we'll put in its place. But we cannot condemn people to live in this way! If people wanted to keep it going, they should have thought about it thirty, forty years ago. Now it's too late."
We walked back to the car, and I didn't know what to say. I put the cheese on the back seat, and got in.
"You're a good man, Kip," he said. "You're kind and friendly and you take everyone as they are. It's impossible not to like you, and I know you really love the Island. But sometimes you're just so... simple!"
We drove in silence down the avenue, and paused at the main road. He sighed.
"I need to go to Tallers. Like to come?"
"No, I'll walk back."
His words had stung me, and I wanted some time alone.
"Kip," he said. "Look at me."
I did, and in a moment we were embracing.
"You're growing up, Pere," I said.
"So are you, in your way. Despite what I said, don't change - too much."
We smiled, and I got out.
The sun was moving down the sky now, but it was still hot. The road to village was hilly and wound round many corners, and I set out on the long walk back.
I was glad of Pere's final words, because what he had said before had disturbed me greatly. The Island was my home, and I really did love it, love it almost in the way you love a person. And despite what he had said, I wasn't as naive as he thought. But I felt a sudden guilt about my feelings, a doubt. I was enjoying myself, and so were my friends, and they were glad to see me here, and all this was true. But there were other things going on in this place. I thought of Pere and Maria, and Joan and Cion and all their plans for the future, and Venancio and Antonia and the merciless labour which filled their days, and Bisbe, someone who lived through his friends but was, and I knew this, in himself a frightened and lonely man. And other things: all the people of the Island, their history and ambitions and tragedies. Was I guilty of treating all this just as a backdrop, just an inert landscape for me to live out my happiness? Was I at bottom rather a self-centred person?
Even worse: was I deceiving myself? Was I just a spectator here?
I'd been walking a couple of miles now, and I started to laugh at myself. All this because of a few scornful words! It wasn't as if what I thought or felt really mattered. Was it really news that the life of the Island went on around me, and without my intervention? Who cared? Who did I think I was?
I stood and watched a row of bee-eaters on the telephone wires, and smiled. The road had been climbing, and now it curved round a steep hill, covered with trees and bushes, and below me a line of cows were starting to walk slowly back to their home, the dipping of the sun telling them that they would soon be milked and fed. And tomorrow the milk would be in the village to be sold, and the kids on their morning errands would arrive at the shops with their little churns, and take it home to their mothers. That's the way it was, whether I was here or not, whether I cared or not, and I was content.
Down the valley I heard the sound of a small car start to climb towards me. It changed down and approached me briskly; a small, white tourist Seat. I stood still, waiting for it to pass.
But it didn't. Instead it drew to a halt on the other side of the road, and the driver hailed me.
"Er, señor? Donde está, er, San Pablo?"
Usually in this situation I would respond with a cataract of Island speech, and smugly enjoy their confusion. Suddenly I was tired of it. I answered simply in English, with a smile.
"Keep on down here for a couple of miles. It's right on the road, you can't miss it."
"Oh! You're English!"
"Well, yes, I am."
"Are you going our way?"
"Hop in the back, then, lad. We'll give you a lift."
He has quite tall, greying, with a fine and distinguished-looking face. Beyond him in the passenger seat I could see a dumpy, friendly-looking woman, smiling at me. I opened the door, the man sitting in the back slid across to make room, and I got in.
I blinked in the sudden shade as we moved off.
"Here on holiday?"
"In a way, I suppose," I said. "But I was born here. I've lived here all my life."
"Really? You're a good man to know, then. We're just here for three weeks, perhaps you can show us the ropes?"
"Sure. Where are you staying? At Son Fadrí?"
"No, in the village. Where is it, Adam? You've got the letter."
"Carrer d'es Fuster, number 18," said my neighbour.
For a moment I couldn't understand his wild mispronunciation. I looked at him in puzzlement.
And that's when I realised. It was like suddenly turning on a light, like waking with a start, like being slapped in the face. He was smiling at me, his eyes were grey, his hair was blond and tousled in the wind, and the thing that had been hovering in the background of my life, half acknowledged, half denied, suddenly swept over me like a tidal wave. I was overwhelmed; my life was changed in an instant. And I knew it.
I was staring at him, my mouth open, and he laughed.
"Didn't I say it right? Here, have a look."
He passed me the paper. Our hands touched, and I nearly screamed.
"I - oh, oh yes. I know it."
"Say it." He smiled at me.
My hands were shaking. I was terrified, and I really wanted to get away and think. I couldn't meet his eyes, but I said it, and he imitated me fairly well.
"That's not Spanish, is it?" said the man in the front.
"Er - no, sir, it's the Island speech. It means: Street of the Carpenter."
"Sir? Oh, please, call me Peter. That's my son, Adam, and this is Peggy. She looks after us."
"Nice to meet you, lad," said Peggy, turning in her seat.
"I'm Kip," I said. "In fact, we'll be neighbours. My parents own number 16, but usually they let it out. But we'll be staying there during the fiesta. That starts on Saturday."
"We'll be here for the fiesta?" asked Peter. "Dancing the streets?"
I laughed. Peter's enthusiasm made me like him.
"Oh, yes, and cavalcades of horses, everything. It's - well, it's a wild time."
"I wasn't expecting this. How exciting! Well, you'll have to tell us what to do, Kip. One doesn't want to offend the locals."
"Don't worry. During fiesta, anything goes. You'll see!"
They laughed easily. They were starting their holidays, and they were happy.
By now we were approaching the village, and I guided them through the tiny streets to the house. Still in a turmoil, I helped them in with their bags, not knowing what else to do. The hallway was neat and clean, decorated in the traditional Island way, but the kitchen was modern.
"I suppose there'll be nothing here," said Peggy. "I could murder a cup of tea!"
The others laughed at her. She had a soft Welsh accent, and I liked her at once.
"I expect Joanna left the basics," I said, opening cupboards, and she had.
"Joanna?" said Peggy. "Do you know her?"
"Well, it's a village. I know everyone."
"Oh yes, dear, of course you do. Like back home. Well, now, perhaps you can explain this stove to me?"
While I showed her how the bottled gas worked, the others were exploring the house and moving in. Soon we had coffee, and we went out into the back yard to drink it.
The little space was full of pots of roses and geraniums, and at the end a bed of oleanders. It was private, surrounded by high walls, but all around were the evening sounds of the village, voices calling, televisions and radios. Someone nearby was frying garlic and peppers; I could smell them, mixed with the smell of camomile and the dusty, sandy smell of the village itself, baked by the sun. I had grown up in the next house and all this was the essence of my childhood; now here I was again, and before me was this man, this man whom I didn't know at all, but who had turned me upside down. It was immensely disturbing. I felt like fleeing, or flinging myself at him, or bursting into tears.
But for the next half-an-hour Peter and Peggy put me through it; the best shops, the arrangements for collecting rubbish, where to park, where to get milk, where to swim, everything. I told them, but it was a struggle. I was suffering.
"We'll need somewhere to eat tonight," said Peter. "We can't ask Peggy to cook for us straight away. Is there somewhere in the village?"
"There's a nice place round the corner." I explained where it was.
"Will you eat with us, Kip?"
"Better not, thanks. My parents are expecting me," I lied. "In fact, I'd better make tracks."
"Oh, okay. Well, we'll see you soon, if you're going to be a neighbour!"
Adam walked with me to the door.
"Sorry about that," he said. "My dad can be a bit - organising."
To my surprise, he looked genuinely contrite. There was sympathy in his eyes, and a wry kind of wisdom. He was taller than me by several inches, maybe five years older, and I felt suddenly safe with him, trusting, and very young.
"It's okay. I don't mind helping."
"Don't be put off, Kip. Please."
We looked at each other for a long moment, and my heart lurched. He touched my shoulder, and I fled.
"Are you going to be here this evening?"
My parents were already cooking when I arrived.
"If that's okay, mum. I thought you could do with some help moving tomorrow."
"Nice thought, Kip. You look all in. Get yourself a drink and sit outside - supper will be along shortly."
I made a drink and sat on the patio with the cool evening descending around me. I lit a cigarette and tried to make sense of what had just happened, of the whole day, but my mind wouldn't work.
It was simple meal in the Island style when it arrived, a dish of potatoes with farm butter and green beans, and then a chop with some salad. My mother put bottles of cheap wine and lemonade on the table, and we ate. I was starving. My parents were discussing the move, arranging things, but I couldn't concentrate.
"You haven't got much to say for yourself, Kip," said my mother, once we had finished.
"I'm sorry, mum. I'm - I'm a bit tired."
"Hm. Well, I think you two boys should walk along to Sa Tanca for a drink. Maybe I'll come along in a bit."
I kissed her, and we left. We strolled through the urbanisation in silence, enjoying the cool evening air.
The bar was fairly quiet; it was Thursday, and the tourists were back at the hotel, having supper. The barman Juan, whom we called Vigo, brought us our drinks. Vigo was said to be gay, and although his slightly camp manner had always put me off, this evening I felt close to him, and we exchanged a few words.
"So," said my father, once we were sitting, watching the greying sea. "Who is it?"
"I can't fool you, can I?"
"Kip, you are not a complicated person to read."
I paused. Somehow talking about it would make it more real. I would be burning a bridge, but just now I didn't care.
"A tourist. I met them when they asked the way. They're staying in the village."
My father gave me a look.
"Okay, Kip. I'll ask, then. Boy or girl?"
I gave a huge sigh.
"A boy. Or rather, a man. He's older than me. I - I hadn't expected that."
"How much older?"
"Four or five years, maybe."
My father touched my hand and smiled, and I suddenly felt very happy.
"Sounds good. Is he nice? When did you meet him?"
"Just this afternoon. I - I don't know him at all, but..."
"But you like what you see?"
"Yeah. Okay, it's stupid, but..."
"No, no, it isn't. You've got to start somewhere. Has anything happened?"
I told him about our meeting, and he laughed.
"Love at first sight?"
"No. But something. You know, dad - the moment I saw him, I knew."
For some reason I started to weep again.
"I'm gay, dad. That's the truth of it. I just - just can't avoid it any more... Why do I always end up weeping when I talk to you?"
"It isn't bad." He handed me a handkerchief. "It just means you're doing good work, and it hurts. I'm proud of you, Kip."
I wiped my face and blew my nose, and smiled at him.
"Anyhow, they're staying in number 18, so you'll see him tomorrow."
"The boy next door, eh?"
I smiled wanly.
"It's been a hell of day. We went out to Sos Pins, and Pere tore a strip off me."
"Why? What about?"
"We looked round the farm, and I loved it. It's completely traditional out there, it's so beautiful - their store room, you should see it! And smell it! That's what I said to Pere, and he was furious. He told me a few hard truths about their life and called me a sentimentalist and told me I was simple. The trouble is, he was right."
"I can see why he said it. He's got a brain, that one."
"But I still can't see... The old way of life, it was hard, very hard. But hasn't it got something that working in a hotel hasn't? Doesn't it mean more? If they give it up, will the Island really be better off? In anything but money?"
"I don't know. Isn't it up to them to work it out? Is it really our business to tell them?"
"But dad! This is my business too. I'm an Islander!"
He smiled at me, a little sadly, I thought. And behind us, at the bar, I could hear Cion and Maria joking with Vigo and the other barman.
"I'm hungry!" Cion yelled. "We won't have supper till ten. I'd like a bocadillo, egg and tomato. No, not you, Matheu! Let Vigo do it. It needs a woman's touch!"
"Then you've never made one in your life, madam!" said Vigo, and Cion shrieked with laughter.
"Hey, Cion!" my father shouted in Spanish. "Come over here!"
"Max, hello," she said, kissing him on both cheeks. She and Maria put their drinks on our table and sat down.
"You're cruel to Vigo," he said.
"Oh, he doesn't mind." Like most Islanders, Cion had fluent if rather haphazard Spanish when she needed it. "If he's going to be queer, it's something he has to deal with."
"Don't you like queers?"
I knew what my father was doing, and for a moment I hated him.
"I don't mind them. Not one or two. Vigo's okay, we know him. But these days... there seem to be more and more. Really, there are too many." She wrinkled her nose in distaste. "You have to admit that what they do, it's piggishness, really, and it's not healthy for a village to have so many. And one worries about the children."
"Things were better during the dictatorship?"
"No, of course not. I should know that." And indeed, Cion's family was an old republican one and had suffered greatly. "But that doesn't mean we should drop everything, all the old ways. People leave the farms and stop working on the land, everywhere it's tourists, the bookshop is full of pornography... These things are not positive. When that old son-of-a-whore The Dictator died, my grandparents opened champagne and had a party. Did they do that to fill the village with queers? One or two are fine, they've always been here, and we know that, they're amusing people and they have their place. But now it's too many. Queer tourists too. Not good."
I stared at Cion with astonishment and dismay. Then Vigo called her to get her bocadillo, and they left us.
I stayed at my parents' house, but I slept badly. In the dead of night I went out onto the patio and sat in the silence and moonlight, trying to sort out my feelings. Finally, exhausted and baffled, I tumbled into bed and slept.
The next morning we rose early, packed what we needed and drove up to the village. Number 18 seemed silent when we arrived. I moved into my old room, looking out over the street, but it was emptied of the history of my childhood, clinical and blank, and the furniture was different. Disconcerted, I went back to the kitchen.
We were still sorting things out when there was a knock at the open door.
All three of them were there.
"We thought we'd come and meet the neighbours," said Peter. "Peter Yardley."
He shook my parents hands and we all introduced ourselves.
"Come right in," said my mother. "And your first lesson - never knock. Just walk straight in and shout 'Hola!'"
"Of course! It's a village. I suppose villages are the same everywhere."
My mother made coffee. I scarcely dared look at Adam. He was wearing shorts and a dark blue teeshirt, smiling and relaxed, and just the blond hairs on his smooth, tanned arms and legs were more than I could bear.
"Now," said my mother. "You must go shopping this morning. The shops will be shut till Tuesday, so make sure you buy enough."
"Oh, yes, I thought so," said Peggy, "I've made a list."
My mother scanned it, and made various suggestions.
"Why don't you go with Peggy, Kip? Show her round."
"No, I'll go," said Adam. "Come on, Kip, let's explore!"
He picked up Peggy's list from the table, and we were off. The little square was full of shoppers on the same errand as ourselves.
"First thing - meat!"
He smiled at me, and something about his manner put me completely at ease. I led the way to the butcher's, and we dived in. Several women were waiting and they greeted me warmly, one, a friend of my mother's, kissing me on both cheeks.
"You really do know everyone, don't you?"
"Well, I've lived here all my life."
I smiled at him.
"Yes, I know."
We had reached the front of the queue, and we bought a chicken and some chops and loin steaks, with me translating, and then we were away. The grocers, greengrocers; soon we were laden with bags, and I insisted on stopping at the bar in the square. Here in the middle of the village it was still quite cool, and we sat outside to watch the world go by. I went inside and got us two coffees.
"So, you went to school here and everything?"
"Yes, till I was thirteen. Then my parents insisted I should go to school in England." I laughed. "It was quite hard at first. I could barely read and write English."
"How old are you now?"
"Eighteen. I've just done my A levels."
"Eighteen? You look younger."
"That's what they say."
His grey eyes stared at me intently, and suddenly I felt completely out of my depth, almost panic-striken. I looked round the familiar little square wildly.
"Relax, Kip," he said quietly. "You're doing fine. This is going to be a lot of fun."
His hand touched my arm entirely naturally, the gesture of a friend, and I sensed a complicity, a feeling of the two of us doing something together, against any odds. I think that was the moment I fell in love.
Just then, Pere hailed me from across the square and walked across to join us.
"He's English, a tourist, he's staying in number 18. His name's Adam."
"Hello," he said in English, smiling at Adam, "I am Pere. It's nice to meet you."
"You speak English well."
"Ha-ha! Not really. You are here for the fiesta?"
"Yes, we'll be here. Your village is very beautiful."
"You think so?" Pere seemed absurdly pleased by this remark. "Come with me, I'll show you my house, it's very typical."
We followed him along the little streets I knew so well. His front door was open, and it seemed that no one was at home. We went into the exquisite entrance hall, and Adam was entranced, as all visitors are, by the Island knack for arrangement, for proportion; the white walls meeting the red tiled floors as sharp as a knife, nothing too much, everything in just the right place.
Pere led us up the little staircase to his room. Once again, just a bed under the sloping white roof, the little green window shutter folded back, a green chest of drawers and in a press in the wall, the little row of books. The window looked out of this twilit shelter into the screaming colours of noon, and the valley fell away behind the house, carpeted with smallholdings and snow-white huts and pig pens. I could hear chickens clucking, and far away a dog barked.
"My God," said Adam quietly. "This place is heaven on earth."
"Yes," said Pere, "I love my room."
I did too. We had spent many hours here just talking, picking apart our lives, relishing the allusive Island figures of speech, late into the winter nights as the gas stove sputtered and the wind howled past.
"What's this?" said Adam, picking a book from the press.
"I'm reading it," said Pere, "Or trying to. It's difficult."
Adam handed it to me.
"The Book of the Friend and the, uh, Beloved," I translated, turning the pages; to my surprise it was in the Island speech, but in such an antique form that I had trouble understanding it.
"It is hard," I said to Pere, and he laughed.
"Go on. Read a bit," said Adam, and I could see he was intrigued.
I opened the little book at random.
The light from the room of the Beloved came to illuminate the room of the Friend, I translated hesitantly. Thus it put the shadows out of it, and it filled it with pleasures and with langours and with thoughts. And the Friend put everything out of his room, and thus it was able to contain his Beloved.
Pere blushed. "The Beloved is Christ and the Friend is the soul of a person," he said. "That's what they say. It was written in the, uh, thirteenth century."
"And you sit in this lovely room and read that," said Adam. "What an amazing place!"
"But now I must go to work. There is a, a furniture which I must finish before fiesta."
He led us downstairs, and still carrying our bags we walked back to our houses.
"I like your friend," said Adam. "He has - unexpected sides to him."
I agreed. Pere was constantly astonishing me this year. It hadn't shown in my translation, but in the original the genders were unmistakable. Whether or not the allegory was just, both characters were definitely men.
"You speak like a native," he said.
"Adam, I am a native."
"Yes. I understand a bit better now."
We ate all together in their house; cold meat, cheese, bread and tomatoes. We brought a bottle of wine, and it was a friendly and relaxed meal. I was totally wrapped up in Adam, unable to contribute much. I knew he noticed, and it seemed to me that it touched and amused him.
The meal was over, and my parents started to describe the fiestas, the order of events. I needed a break, and went into the kitchen with Peggy to do the washing up.
"You take the cloth, my dear, and I'll wash."
I smiled at her accent, dredged around in my mind, and spoke to her, hesitantly at first, in Welsh.
"Where are you from, Peggy?"
"You speak Welsh? Are you from there?" She looked at me in astonishment.
"No, I once shared a room with a Welsh boy at school. I learnt quite a bit that year."
"You speak really well."
"Well, we spoke it all the time, really." I never have much problem picking up a language, and I was pleased to find someone else to practice with.
"We are going to have fun. Do you like Adam?"
I stared at her.
"Don't worry, none of them can understand."
"He seems nice. You're a nice family."
"Well, I'm not really part of the family. I'm their housekeeper. But I've looked after Adam since his mother died, when he was five, so I know him well, and you're the kind of person he likes. How old are you, boy?"
"Eighteen. I've just finished school."
"Really? Adam's twenty-three. He's doing an MSc at Imperial College."
I had a feeling of being examined, checked out, and that and the Welsh we were using disconcerted me, put me at a disadvantage.
"Oh, don't mind me, boy. I'm just an old busybody. But I love my boy, and I want the best for him. He's - not like other people. He's a bit different, do you understand?"
I thought I did, and my heart leapt. She looked at me with a slight smile.
"Come on, Kip," said my mother suddenly, coming into kitchen. "Let's leave these people to have a nap. We'll maybe see you later, Peter?"
|People, Places and Things|
|Eileen Branford||his mother|
|Max Branford||his father|
|Richard Branford||his brother|
|Peter Yardley||his father|
|Peggy Jenkins||their housekeeper|
|Pere (Pedro)||PAIR-uh||Kip's best friend|
|Maria d'es Forn||Pere's girlfriend|
|Miquel (Miguel) el Bisbe||BEEZ-buh||friend of Kip|
|Joan (Juan) de Na Cion||Joo-AHN||friend of Kip|
|Cion (Asuncion)||SEE-awn||fiancee of Joan|
|Andreu||Uhn-DREH-oo||father of Pere|
|Joanna||Joo-AHN-uh||mother of Pere|
|Venancio||uncle of Andreu, l'amo of Sos Pins|
|Antonia||wife of Venancio|
|Vigo (Juan)||barman at Sa Tanca|
|The Dictator||a dictator (now dead)|
|Sant Pau||Sahnt POW||St. Paul; the village|
also called San Pablo (Spanish name)
|Tallers||Tuh-LYEHS||nearby small town|
|Son Fadrí||Sawn Fuh-DHREE||holiday development on coast|
|Sos Pins||Saws PEENS||a farm|
|The Port||capital of the Island|
|Carrer d'es Fuster||Cuh-RREH duhs Foos-TEH||street in Sant Pau|
|Sa Tanca||Suh TAHNK-uh||beachbar near Son Fadrí|
|bocadillo||boh-cah-dhee-lyo||(Spanish) a roll cut in half and filled|
with egg or cheese, etc
|caragol||cuh-ruh-GAWL||horse manoeuvre of the fiesta|
|càvac||CAHV-uhk||a kind of mattock|
|l'amo||LAH-mo||title of the boss of a farm|
|mata||MAH-tuh||lentisc (?), a grey-green bush, grows|
|quart||KWAHRT||rectangular stone slab|
|Jack Rowan Jack_Rowan@hotmail.com|