The slight scent of the sea
“I met Aunt Anna in my dream last night.” Nair mentioned this as if she were ordering a Venti, soft yet resolute, assuring I actually heard what she had just said. I took a gaze at her, she was gazing at the dead traffic outside. The windshield blurred slightly as I activated the wiper, and the soft wiping rhythm helped me regain my inner composure. “Aunt Anna? What did you two do in the dream?” I fixated my stare to the road, restraining my gesture to avoid giving any hint of reaction. “She took me to the museum. You know, the one I used to visit when we were little. It wasn’t anything unusual. Sometimes she grabbed my hand as we cruise through one sculpture to another, but she never bothered to blabber out how this painting looks like spilled milk or how the one on the corner is just a bunch of stupid wires, unlike what she usually do. She stayed still, a few seconds on one, a solid five minutes on another. She’s almost like communicating with them, sometimes moving her lips without muttering any words. Then she stopped at a painting.”
I noticed she took a quick look at me. Her mouth was half agape, seeming hesitant to finish the cliffhanger.
“And… she didn’t actually do anything different. Only this time, her hand reached out to touch the painting. Very slowly. I don’t think she even actually touched it, but maybe the tip of her finger managed to brush a little. A very tender one. It’s almost like she is touching fire.”
“What painting was it? And what happened afterwards?”
“I think it’s a Whistler or Grimshaw, I’m not sure. I can only stare at her beautiful figure. Looks like an oceanic Nocturne though.” I then remembered how Nair adored her dearly Aunt Anna so much, how her eyes shone every time she came by. She’s a beaut, without a doubt. Many different men have come and go, but nobody could win her heart. She was always flying from town to town, then country to country, obsessed to climb up the vicious ladder on that multinational food company. But she always had time for her beloved niece Nair, probably as a replacement for a daughter she never could have. Or, perhaps she could, if only the ferry she was on didn’t decide to go to the bottom of the sea instead, fifteen years ago. She was 31. And so is Nair right now.
“So… she touched a painting? That’s all?”
“No. She told me to touch it, too. You’re not supposed to touch them, you know. But I touched it anyway. And that very instant, we weren’t there anymore. We were in the… sea. I mean, we were on the sea. I walked on water.”
“A seagull flew by and landed on her hand. (I don’t know if this is possible.) She asked me if I wanted to go back, the bird will take me back. Otherwise I should follow her.”
I stopped paying attention to the traffic. This sounded like stories on pulp fictions. “You don’t think…”
“Yeah, I know. I wasn’t feeling afraid. I wasn’t feeling anything. I only knew that I wanted to follow her to the end of the world. Looking at her graceful back was enough for me — she had a wavy black hair. But the seagull seemed eager to fly off of her arm.”
“So you took the bird and it turned into a huge magical dragon to carry you home.”
“No. I followed her.”
“You w- okay… so it didn’t end there. Where did you two go?”
“To the bottom of the sea.”
“What. Haha, that isn’t funny, Nair. I know you really miss her that m-
“I’m not joking. The darkness wraps around you, and it is cold, but also very endearing, because I’m holding her hand and she grabs mine tight.” Her eyes were dead serious as she uttered those words, but she wasn’t looking at me. Suddenly she pointed her finger as if she had a grim idea, or a punchline to an otherwise dark prank.
Before I could say anything, my phone rang. And it answered itself before I even pressed the virtual green button. A murky voice was on the other end. “Hello? Hello, Jim?” I can’t believe Nair’s father dared to call me, a man who I finally had the courage to smack hard when I was 20, when he beat Nair with a wooden stick like he always do, this time right in front of my eyes. Thankfully my big bearlike posture was more than enough to make sure he wouldn’t bother her anymore.
“I-I’m sorry to have to call you, but have you seen Nair? I couldn’t-
“Didn’t you promise not to contact her again?”
“Yes, I did, but she occasionally contacted me, and this time I haven’t heard from her for-
“Cut it. Nair is here with me. You can’t ask her for money anymore. She won’t bother to hear from you anyway.
The passenger seat was empty. It was still warm. The doors were still locked. I slammed the brakes and pulled over,
and only then I noticed the slight scent of the sea, conveying the inclemency of the hundred thousand leagues where
she belongs now.