I put my fingers in the hot sand of the dune and close my hand, but the sand disappears between my fingers. I imagine being a gecko, a cold-blooded animal that needs the sun to survive. Everything is red through my eyelids. I sink my hand deeper into that sand, which burns when I walk on it. Beneath this earth are sacred wells, bronze hooks, and headless Roman ladies carved in marble. Once there was here a city with a port, and now there is a dune surrounded by ruins. First came the tsunami, then the corsairs, and what was left of the city was abandoned to the sand and the wind, which took care to hide it well. The port, I guess, was swallowed by the sea.
“Let’s play, come on, get up.” Miguel pushes me with his foot, and as he does so, he stains my clean towel with dirt. “Don’t be lazy”.
“Ok. Give me a minute”. I open my eyes and the August sun blinds me. I sit up, shake out the towel, and spread it out again.
First, to the funeral: I bury him, leaving only his face out, and walk five times around my little brother’s grave. My cousins imitate me, I am the oldest and therefore the chief of this tribe. For the time being, my reign is uncontested, there is no dissidence among my ranks. Then to the pirates and the mermaid: the mermaid, which is me, crosses her legs to imitate a tail and sits on a rock combing her hair. The pirates, who are the others, capture the mermaid, plunge a knife into her heart, cut her in half and sell her tail at the fish market, exposed on the ice bed on the counter, among the sea bream and red tuna loins. This is may well be their symbolic revenge for the tyranny that I exercise whenever I can. Lastly, to the snow: we climb to the top of the dune, which is almost a mountain, and descend the slope skiing and flipping, coated in the sand like croquette dough in breadcrumbs. It takes us a long time to go up, and very little to go down, because the fun things in life are the ones that last the least.
Miguel has to stop to rest at the foot of the dune. At some point during the day the inhaler has fallen out of his pocket, and it has surely already been engulfed by the sand, a glutton for lost objects and Phoenician relics, which covers everything as soon as you are not careful.
“The trip is over.” Mercedes folds the parasol.
“You’ve had enough fun already.” And my mother collects her notes. They sometimes understand each other without words, they are connected by a deep underwater current, that of blood and common fears.
It makes me angry, but maybe they’re right, and it’s time to go back, because my brother snorts like a camel exhausted from its journey through the desert, and my arms have the same color as the lifeguard’s floats. I have forgotten to put on cream again. Tonight it will hurt, and tomorrow or in a couple of days the old skin will begin to fall off, I will take a corner of that translucent peel and pull it until it comes out whole.
Before leaving, it’s time for the last bath, to say goodbye to the sea for today and wash off the sand before getting into the car. The flag is green, we can go to the deep. We jump the waves and it’s like flying and I already want it to be tomorrow morning to jump them again. Water, in addition to being the origin of life, is the necessary condition for happiness.
“Are you wearing your seat belts?” My father drives, and I’m co-pilot; I unfold the map on my knees, and he starts the car. My great-aunt Mercedes, my brother (who is in the middle because he is, right now, the shortest), and my mother are squeezed into the back seats, I look in the rearview mirror and stick out my tongue at them. They fight back, each in their own way. In summer we all agree on one thing: and that is that we are always in a good mood. “If you do not focus, we will get lost”.
“Turn over there.” I follow the yellow line with my finger on the map, which is the one that will take us home, and I indicate the way. Three more cars are on our heels: we are a large and extended family of processionary caterpillars, moving single file down the road.
Marta Barrio (she/her) “When I was a little girl, my parents punished me without reading. When I grew up, I studied literature and Asian cultures, I became an editor, and a writer.” Fotos y videos de Instagram @marta__barrio.