From a Beach of Haiti by Gordiano Lupi Translated by Aida Cavalera

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From a Beach of Haiti Da una spiaggia di Haiti by Gordiano Lupi

Translated by Aida Cavalera

June 1st 

A month has gone by since I first found refuge in this corner of the world off the Caribbean Sea.  Hispaniola is a fantastic island. According to Columbus, it was the most beautiful land anyone had ever set foot on, or perhaps he was talking about Cuba, I can’t quite remember…but after all, what does it matter? I’m surrounded by a population of negroes that speak a French dialect and live in misery and desperation. I could have chosen Santo Domingo or another Caribbean island, but I didn’t want any tourists around;  a wild landscape of banana and palm trees is better to drown one’s sad thoughts in. My solitary days go by on a tropical shore whitened by  a cascade of surreal light, a shelter to old seagulls.

Haiti is a good place to forget. A sweltering sun that  paints the sky and intensely colored vegetation allow me to take pleasure in watching African dancers swaying their hips along the shoreline, while an everlasting summer goes by. I have no regrets because I have no reason to have any. I was the one who chose this. My wife and my son are part of the past. I don’t need anyone to feel alive.  The simplicity of these places, the tropical warmth that slows down movement, both invaluable conquests.

I feel no pain when I think about our last fight. I see Raffaella’s  face and her scowl of disdain, Giacomo’s sad gaze of bewilderment .  I know I will no longer see anyone, a long awaited escape is my only life companion. Before this beach I am able to continue my work, thanks to a laptop resting on a wooden table by the shore, under an awning of palm leaves and bird droppings, observing the feline movements of a waitress of African features who is serving icy beer. I have nothing more to do but fully take pleasure in my newly restored liberty, as I savour  the smiles of splendid women, consoling to mesmerized eyes.

I managed to talk to the editor and I reassured him. The novel is going well and soon I’ll be able to send off the short stories for the magazine. I’m in Haiti, escaping from my old world, but I must work in order to survive. The erotic magazine for which I theatre comics and write short stories is my only form of income, along with a contract that requires me to hand in two novels per year for a collection of porno books.

I didn’t become the writer I had always dreamed of, I have nothing in common with Hemingway, but at least now I can live the same lifestyle as he and, all in all, I earn my living by writing. My masterpiece might not be “Fiesta” or “The Old Man and the Sea”, but “ The Porno Desires of a College Girl” was a hit at highway stop-offs and even “Pornotales” went well. I can’t complain. All in all, I have fun and they pay me well to stir up readers’ repressed cravings and desires. I have no knowledge of writer’s block, the words just chase after each other and my fingers run unstoppably over the laptop keyboard. Now I’m writing a series of erotic short stories that take place in a school and I think the idea might work. I can draw from my student memories, and where memory fails  me, imagination intervenes. Perhaps later on I’ll work on a parody of Salgari, since it should turn out well from this island, and I can jot down twenty chapters of “ The Porno Pirates of Malaysia”. The atmosphere works well. No pain-in-the-ass kids. No demanding wives who ask you to go grocery shopping. Finally, free as I have never been before. I could even write a real novel, an old existential idea, something lofty , so I can sign it with my real name. I’ve got nothing but peace, I spend many a long day at the bar on the beach; I drink icy beer, fruit cocktails supplemented with homemade, stomach-busting rum.

Every day brings new emotions, among maliciously dancing females who provoke  and let you know they are willing to give themselves in exchange for a gift. I might as well take advantage. Why shouldn’t I? I might as well take the good things this new life is offering me; a woman has no more worth that a freshly picked ripe fruit. I stretch my gaze to the Caribbean Sea, past banana trees and endless coconut palms and I look for a new idea, while  between dark lustful legs I tell of unforgettable moments of sex.

June 4th

Yesterday I met Karin, a beautiful mulatta with brown eyes and black hair that sinuously caresses her hips. There aren’t that many mulatte in Haiti, but she is most certainly the daughter of a black mother and some old French pig who has now gone back to his country. I was at the usual bar on the beach near the small home I share with a local, while she was helping her uncle unload crates of fish after a day at sea.

“If we want to survive, we need to make do” a man told me in a broken French dialect.

“Even my niece has to work, although she is young and this is no job for a woman; nobody thinks about us in this country, they never have thought of us…”

I drank some terrible rum with them and I bought two lobsters for dinner, which I will make my landlord cook. A few words pronounced in my school-learnt French, while she answered in a melodic dialect, full of indigenous influences. Many gazes of complicity and smiles tossed on unexplored territory. The sun was setting and we were still on that white shore, shaded by huge palm trees. I was there, letting the sun burn my white skin, while Karin was savoring the salty taste of her land, with the intense aromas of tropical plants. Her young body caressed the heat of the sand, as I let myself be captivated by the scent of her amber-coloured skin. Raffaella had vanished from my thoughts. My son was but a memory. The overwhelming beauty of Karin captured my senses as she swept away my bygone days.

June 6th

I haven’t seen Karin in two days. Two long days of waiting, gone by spying on the movements of black-skinned girls among the palm trees and sensual rhythms of seductive mulatte. The locals are always dancing, even when there is no reason to; it seems their religion imposes magic rites around bonfires, frantic body movements as holy men sing chants and prayers. I don’t understand these things. I have never had a faith. I have never entered a church. These people’s rites seem like the ceremonies of savages. Karin is nowhere in sight. That is my only thought. And I can’t write. The editor is expecting short stories, but I can’t manage to do a thing.

The novel is stuck even though the terms of consignment are about to expire. Karin has had the effect of a hurricane that has disrupted confused thoughts, modified the present and destroyed the past. I’m alone on this beach and I’m awaiting her smile. Now that she is gone, I can’t help thinking about her. I see her uncle unloading crates of fish. He tells me Karin can’t come to the beach because she must work. He complains to me about living conditions, but there is little I can do about it and it interests me even less. I haven’t come to Haiti to take care of them.

“We’re not tourists. For us life is hard. Papa Doc or some sort of democracy changes very little. We’ve always been taken advantage of. If foreigners start coming here, we’ll become like Santo Domingo and Cuba. A land for woman-hunting…”.

Come to think of it, I know nothing about Karin, we’ve spent such little time together. She had never spoken to me about her job, I don’t know what she does for a living. However, I have an extreme need to see her again, to stroke her scented skin, to taste the salty flavour emanating from her hair and to kiss her full lips after a run on the foreshore. Karin has bewitched me with a smile and I let myself be lulled by the sound of waves and the tribal beats of Haitian music. I observe some natives as they sing ritual chants and dance frantically releasing droplets of sweat. I get up from the table and I examine the rapid movements of their young bodies. How I would like to be like them, so I wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable around  Karin. She is young and beautiful, perhaps too much so for my forty-year-old self. I remain immersed in my thoughts while the magic of tropical music generates the image of Karin’s luminous eyes in the distance. It is nothing but a visual deception caused by the light, a trickery produced by the setting sun, a daydream which I am determined to forget.

June 7th 

Haiti heals my suffering. I let myself go, I chase away sad thoughts, I follow the rites of this population. I’m much calmer now. I know I will soon see Karin again. Perhaps I won’t need to write a diary anymore  and I will live a new love story. Karin’s uncle has invited me to a celebration and he said it would be an unusual event for European eyes. They’re going to allow me to participate in magic rites which are usually forbidden to outsiders. They’re making an exception for me. I will be allowed to take part in a voodoo ceremony, some sort of tribal black magic. I’ll witness how they capture a soul to transform a man into a zombie, a slave who follows orders without asking questions. I have nothing to fear, Karin will be by my side. I only wish to see her again, I’m willing to face any danger to caress her skin once more and come across her smile. Plus, I am a writer and seeing these magic rites will prove useful for my job. I’m already thinking of my next story, a sort of sequel to “ The Serpent God” a hard version, with a few references to “The Serpent and the Rainbow”, but with lots of sex.

A warm wind is troubling the Caribbean Sea, it messes up my hair and disperses sensations, as a whirlwind of sand announces bad weather. Haiti had accustomed me to abrupt changes. One minute the rain is raging in the form of a tropical storm, it bends the palm tree branches and strikes the thriving ceiba trees and makes vultures and condors fly and chases away seagulls. Perhaps it’s the right time to write.

June 9th 

It’s been a couple of days since the ceremony and I am feeling stranger and stranger. I recall a wrinkly woman with white hair, her skin as black as coal and her rotten teeth scattered in a mouth which kept savouring puffs of smoke and sips of rum. Everyone calls her the “the Priestess”. She twists her body in a strange dance, while, at her side, two black servants slit the throats of young goats and kill snakes with machetes. Lots of blood is streaming around me, the music becomes more intense and follows the rhythm of the drums, the dances become frantic. I remember Karin’s gaze, she held my hand before kissing me on the lips, the indelible seal of an evening impossible to forget. I stay and watch the horrible show just for her. If I weren’t for Karin, I would run far away from these savages who sing and shout dark sentences of death. Strange guttural noises which seem to come from the afterworld to evoke distant spirits and lost souls. I see sacrificed animals and I hear ritual prayers, immediately after, the hands of crazed, possessed people raise a cloth dummy and stab it with long pointed pins. The Priestess, bathed in sweat and under the effect of convulsions,  sanctifying the horror with her hands towards the sky in sign of prayer. Luckily Karin is by my side, she gives me strength, she squeezes my hand, she comforts me. I would like to escape after the first drop of blood and after the first slaughtered goat.

I recall Karin offering me a drink. “It’s love nectar. If we both drink it no one will ever be able to separate us.” I can’t decline an offer like that. A stunning mulatta, whom I met on the beach of Port-au-Prince, offers me her love through a magic-tasting beverage. I want nothing else. I drink without thinking much about it. It feels as if my stomach has been pierced by a hard stab; that unfamiliar liquid burns like live fire and stirs up my innards. The Priestess watches the scene with a smile. It’s not a normal smile, but a derisive sneer. I remember nothing else, perhaps because the pain is making me faint.

Upon awakening, I am lying in my bed without knowing how I got here. Perhaps it was Karin. What I would like to know now is why I feel so ill, my stomach is struck by a vortex of fire, the pain becomes wrenching, excruciating, then suddenly it subsides. I need to ask Karin. She’ll know how to reassure me.

June 10th

I see Karin sitting on the shore early in the morning. As soon as she sees me, she says hello and comes towards me, beaming as always. I tell her that since the evening of the magic rite I haven’t been feeling well. I explain I’m feeling strange and I have agonizing pains in my stomach. I’m restless. She reassures me. She says I’m frightened because I’ve witnessed an unusual ceremony. According to her, even the love filter needs to be assimilated by my body. In the end I seem to feel better. I feel no more pain. I hug Karin impetuously and I end up with her on the beach,  sizzling under the sun, beneath a huge palm tree. We make love as I never have before in my whole life, seized by a whirlwind  of passion, uninhibited. My illness starts again when she leaves, as a matter of fact, it gets worse and worse. The strangest thing is, I see my body become downy, words come slowly from my lips, I find it difficult to articulate sentences and construct logical discourse. I sweat a lot, but it’s a cold, unnatural sweat that never abandons me, even when the sea wind blows forcefully. I find no peace, in my home I find not one instant of tranquility. I am not able to write and when I’m sleeping, I am the victim of desperate nightmares. I see monsters riding huge waves, fiery words coming out of ancient books and sorcerers reciting terrorizing magic spells. What’s happening to me?

June 11th 

Upon awakening, I go down to the kitchen for my breakfast but the landlord becomes frightened and escapes, shouting. My hands are covered in hair and most of my body has acquired a beastly appearance. I can hardly hold the pen in my hand to write these few lines. Where is Karin? I would like to go out on the beach and look for her, but I can’t. I must stay inside. I’m experiencing terrible headaches and the sunlight annoys me. Suddenly, I think I’m seeing Karin’s face, the stunning mulatta who has sent my life in turmoil. But the transformation is rapid. She comes to me as she has always been: old and deformed, her face plagued, her mouth toothless, her hands shriveled in a horrible menacing gesture.

The real Karin is  before me as I attempt to write these sentences. She gets closer taking slow, menacing steps. Now I understand everything. I know I cannot escape. I know I will never see my wife and son again. My future is before my eyes and it looks at me with a disturbing expression. The hair will stop growing and my teeth will become sharper. In the early morning sky, I read the nocturnal vision of a full-moon. In the spectral atmosphere of the tropical night, a cry will rise in the sky of Port-au-Prince. I now know I have a duty to fulfill. I’ll dive into the darkness like hunted prey and discover my destiny as an avenger. A population of slaves needs an inhuman hero who must feed on the blood of new conquerors. My destiny is to punish my own lineage of rich Westerners who pretend to be defenders of the poor, but who only want to exploit them. This is what Karin and her people expect of me. I will be their slave during full-mooned nights.  A sinister howl echoes in the silence of the morning. On a forgotten shore in Haiti, the first night of revenge is being prepared.