The Sugar of the Earth – part 6


In town one might see people sitting in a cafe looking out across the lagoons; out there where the sea churned deeply, out to where the embarrassment of the mainland was tucked behind the horizon the way one might hide a deformity in a long sleeve or heavy coat. At night, before the Starhenge shone, one could imagine the brisance as the mainland was rewritten. There was an affliction like a demeaning homesickness. It went around in the gazes exchanged along the towns rolling streets, was passed like tickets of access in the thin alleys were the sun or the stars could not be seen. If one was braver, out in the jungle perhaps, that look might be cooked away by the misanthropic flora. Would it be better let the deformity run free? To cut the sleeve of that heavy coat, to tailor the whole of it to fit the new changed shape? New ways to walk. New ways to leap. New ways speak. A new sky to live – would that be living? – under. Would it have been better to stay on the mainland? The sickness of not knowing lived in the eyes of so many who moved through those streets of that town.


Zgija sat on the bow of her boat and drank black coffee watching the people move past. She had been on the island for a day now, observing and learning. She wore flowers in her hair, tempting the narcotic influences as was the style for glamorous women on the island. At any given moment on the curling streets of that little town, sea-sided and salt-touched, a lady might succumb to the fevers of her ornaments, not always an accident.


Looking over the cobbled undulations of Pipe Street. She watched people pinch cigarettes one way then another, some grips considered more fashionable than others. Down at the small tables fringed in the orange glow of the cafe she watched the drinkers sip and smoke.


There was breaking glass and applause. A heavy wind blew in off the lagoon leaving in it’s wake wavering tree tops each seemingly trying catch and hold what starlight they might. Melodramatic gasps came up from the tables. One or two of the drinkers stood and looked around. Though the warm light of the cafe persisted it made, thought Zgija, those in it look more vulnerable, selected. A woman with a flower in her hair and a low-cut dress got up from her table, upsetting the bottle and candle there, took two tipsy steps to the perimeter of the lantern’s glow and screamed at the sky. There was very little echo and the sound felt surprisingly close. She screamed again and Zgija could see tears on her cheeks catching the lights. Her painted lips were swollen. A strap of her gown had fallen off her shoulder. One of her companions came and fetched her back to the table, now put to right. She sobbed once. A few more of the cafe’s patrons moved closer together. The wind moved in again heavily. Several lanterns failed. The dark then, voluminous.


The Starhenge revealed itself as it did each night at it’s hour.


An array of gasps from the cafe, followed by laughter; the light cacophony of released tension. Without seeing it happen, Zgija realized the lanterns had resumed. The woman in the low-cut dress wiped smeared make-up from her eyes, laughing at something one of her companions had said. A fresh round of cigarettes were lit. Zgija went inside.




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