by William King
La Terraza Sobre el Mar (The Terrace Over the Sea)
The sea stretched beyond the horizon where it touched the sky, silent waves followed each other disappearing from view beneath the grey stone cliffs. Tiny speckles of white rode along the tops of the waves, mirrored by fluffy balls of motionless clouds in an otherwise clear blue sky. A scent of salt mingling with the perfume of the flowers pervaded the terrace, hanging in the air which was almost imperceptibly cooler in the late afternoon.
I must have been sitting here on this terrace, staring at the sea, for hours, because I remember it was around midday when I had arrived. It had a strange appearance as if in that time something had changed, then I remembered, the two men and Absolam who were here when I arrived, where gone. Only the young boy and Jabez remained. I watched the boy who was sitting on the rocks the other side of the little whitewashed wall, idly sweeping his arm in broad circles, dragging his hand through the sand which had accumulated in the crevice between the round boulders. Tiny puffs of sand momentarily erupted in the air only to drift back to the ground that had been disturbed.
For some unexplained reason the scene reminded me of something from my childhood, but I had difficulty trying to drag the memory from my mind. It's frustrating when you have a recollection that you want to remember, but which you cannot quite manage to do. I would always either dismiss the scene from my thoughts or try to think around it to etch out clues that would prompt me to place the memory.
Time for whatever reason, did not seem pressing, the terrace was empty apart from the three of us, the only limit imposed on my reflections was the eventual sunset and darkness as day would become night. The boy turned to look back at us from the rocks, pausing in his imaginary world to smile. It was then I saw quite clearly Demitri and myself playing in the sand, although where that was I could not recall, only Demitri's smile and a certain feeling it provoked in me. An emotion that a young boy could barely comprehend, a stirring of something, some sort of longing deep within me.
I was satisfied and enveloped by a sense of well being, I smiled when Jabez started to talk, the only disquieting feeling was that Jabez had a certain sort of urgency in his voice. "We have lost a lot of time," he said, "and that is not a good thing. The danger..." he paused. I wondered what danger there could possibly be, I felt so contented, I was happy to rest in the moment and let time drift by.
"You can't, you mustn't do that!" Jabez continued as if reading my very thoughts, but surely even a helper could not do that. Although I wasn't certain. If a barman could be a magician, perhaps a helper like Jabez could be more than just that?
"Too much time is disappearing," he startled me with that statement. "You must find El Cuervo de Plata, and you must do it soon. Absolam and the others will be here tomorrow to help." I thought that allows me the evening and night here to rest, because I knew he was right, I would have to move on.
We spent the night together, as the light faded the young boy joined us at the table where Jabez had prepared a delicious meal. I had lots of questions, so many things were puzzling, too much simply didn't add up. I couldn't make sense of things, I could only cling on to the goal of finding El Cuervo de Plata and the hope for answers.
I thought that at least I should know the young boy's name and who the two men were. I looked at the boy sitting between me and Jabez, I guessed he must be 10 or 11 years old, olive brown skin and jet black hair, he smiled.
"What's your name?" I returned his smile.
"Chin," he replied, then turned his attention elsewhere, moving around on his seat to face away from me. He was watching the sun descend into the sea.
Jabez took up the conversation, "It's the name of a Mayan god."
That seemed appropriate, because he was beautiful and radiated a certain aura of brightness, as if he could light up the darkness, or bring happiness to the world. Whether that came from the young boy, or perhaps I simply projected my own feelings, or maybe it came from my past, I couldn't say.
"Do you know any Mayan legends?" It was the turn of Jabez to pose a question.
"No, not really," I replied and smiled. "Perhaps you would tell me one?" It was a request more than a question. I felt I would like to know more, the name for one thing, fuelled my curiosity.
"According to legend it was the god Chin who had sex with another male, a deity or a 'demon', and it was he who introduced homosexuality to man. Homosexuality was part of Mayan culture and civilisation, it was allowed by law that unmarried young men could have sex with boys, and adolescents who were educated in the temples might also have relationships." He looked at me directly making eye to eye contact, seeking perhaps to know if his revelation shocked me.
I held his gaze and stretched my hand across the table to take hold of his hand which I gently squeezed. Surely he already knew that I loved him!
That night after the sun had set and Chin was soundly asleep in his bed, Jabez and I lay down together in a little room with an opening that looked out towards the sea, and had uneven whitewashed walls that matched the little wall around the terrace.
"So who are these other two men who were with Absolam today?" Time for one more question I thought before anything else. One more question that I simply needed to know the answer to. The many other questions and my own inquietitudes could wait, and need not spoil a magical night together.
"Naum, the smaller well built man, is our father and Ahua is our uncle." Jabez was propped on one elbow looking at me.
"I never figured we were with your family and Chin is your little brother." I pulled Jabez into a warm embrace and kissed him on those beautiful moist lips, my tongue pushed through to wrestle with his.
There was no more talking, the only sounds that disturbed that night were the gentle sighs occasioned by our love making. Oh how I had missed this boy and how much worry he had caused me by not being there in the crate when we should have escaped together. All that was forgotten now as we stripped off our clothes, embraced, kissed and rolled together, skin against skin. Jabez gave himself to me and I fell asleep holding him, a deep contented sleep untroubled by any dreams.
The sun was bearly above the restaurant building behind the terrace, but even so the heat was intense, in half an hour or so you would burn your feet on the stone floor if you were foolish enough to go bare foot. Even with the inevitable prospect of another scorchingly hot day, I felt rejuvenated, the aches and pains of the journey had passed.
Absolam looked across at me, "Naum and Ahua," he indicated Jabez's father and uncle with a sweeping gesture of his arm, "will take you and Jabez by boat around the coast."
I didn't question at all what he was saying, rather my thoughts rested on what Jabez's father and uncle might think about the two of us, or if they even knew, but I suspected they did.
"You should arrive in the evening, before dark, at Los Acantilados Verdes (The Green Cliffs). You can't take the path after dark, it's too dangerous, but Jabez knows the way."
So Jabez and I would finish the journey together. "He will lead you to the top," Absolam continued, "once you surmount the cliffs it's about a day's march into the desert and..." He paused, took a hold of a fine gold chain he wore around his neck, brought the small medallion fixed to the end up to his lips and kissed it. Of course I was very curious about his gesture, I had no idea what the medallion was or what it represented.
"You should find El Cuervo de Plata there." He carefully replaced the medallion beneath his clothing, hidden from view. I hoped he was right, I didn't question how he came by this information.
I followed Jabez, his father and uncle as we made our way through the gate at the side of the terrace next to the restaurant, I briefly glanced back before closing the gate behind me. Absolam was seated and saying something to Chin which I couldn't quite hear, I had the odd feeling that I might never see either of them again.
We made our way down the rocky cliff path in single file because it was steep and narrow, the only good thing was that we were in the shade. Even so I was perspiring when we reached the little cove at the bottom. A tiny wooden boat with a single folded cloth sail was tethered to the shore by a rope weighed down by a rock to keep it from drifting free.
Once on board and out of the cove Ahua raised the sail, Naum took the helm, and as the sail caught the little sea breeze we set off towards Los Acantilados Verdes. The land looked different from here with the jagged cliffs towering over us, the sunlight glinted off the water and despite being surrounded by the sea, there was no escaping the sun's heat that beat down on us. The blue of the sea became darker as we moved further out away from the rocks and around the coast, dark green seaweed drifted by in tangled swirls like giant spaghetti.
It was slow progress and tiring in the heat, even with nothing to do. There was little room to move about and when I needed to attend to a call of nature the only way was to lie perched half over the side of the boat, it moved about way too much for me to stand. Jabez however niftly balanced and stood in the middle of the boat arching his body, I guess he was more used to being on a little boat than I was.
It was early evening when we arrived and disembarked, much too close to nightfall to attempt the perilous climb up the cliffs. There was a tiny patch of sand before large boulders and a deep cutting in the cliff face which looked almost like the entrance to a cave. We dragged the boat onto the sand and secured it, climbed the smooth boulders up rough steps and set out blankets on the smooth stone shelf about 10 meters above the little beach.
From here you could see the tiny path that climbed up from just inside the opening in the cliff. Looking up you could see a wall of vegetation, but not the path. If it was as steep and rough as the beginning it would not be an easy ascent.
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