Issue 107, 2019 CULTURE, ARTS AND EVENTS "Not Established Since 1989"  
Stefan Bonev 


By Stefan Bonev

Translated from the Bulgarian by Zoya Marincheva

Shining overhead, the picture-postcard sun is flooding us with chocolate creaminess; it constricts the pupils and unveils a reality more absurd than real. Around us parades, lies and rolls naked flesh, wearing only a touch of shy whiteness from tank tops, T-shirts and bras. My eyes, hidden behind expressionless black shades, burrow into those areas like a thirsty leech. I can’t even remember the bodies, but I do try to classify them. With so much nudity around, I am almost ashamed to look at the faces.

The beach resembles a big masked ball. Naked bodies, sand and eyes hidden behind black shades, so we don’t recognize each other. I lie on the sand and observe; the sun is scorching cruel, to the point of killing any twinkle of desire before it even pops into my consciousness. Once fed up gawking, I brush the sand off my detective novel and begin searching for the page where I left off. Without interest, I read a paragraph and tune into the music from someone’s transistor radio.

I scan the landscape again. This time I stumble onto something new. To my right, two almost identical chests are laughing and playing cards. They are laughing at some cheeseball who pours rivers of originalities from under his unique dark shades with white contrasting rims. I immediately classify the chests. They are of average size, firm, with dark and pointy nipples. When they laugh, they jiggle a bit, which creates the illusion that they are actually bigger.

I direct my shades to the sea. More chests there, swimming, laughing, jiggling, chests of various calibers. A number of cheeseballs, sleazeballs, creeps and seducers are circling around them, splashing them, diving under, dragging them underwater and trying to act virile and masculine. A clueless loser and a coy chest, white as modesty itself, are walking along the water edge, collecting mussel shells. Flushes of shame and diffidence seep even through their sunglasses. They haven’t yet grown accustomed to the scene, probably being here for the first time.

I get up, pat the sand off me and steer towards the pavilion further down the beach. There clank beers and Schweppses, getting chugged in huge burping gulps, followed by sighs of satisfaction. Some smartass has plugged a bottle of lemonade with his finger and is spraying a voluptuous, limp due to birth and breastfeeding, but otherwise youthful chest. The lemonade goes down in yellowish lines, fills the pores of old cellulite and drips from nipples onto the cement floor. The chest is giggling obnoxiously, pushing her shades up on her nose out of fear they will fall. I get in line behind a pair of silent thighs topped by protruding ribs and an anorexic back. Patient and relaxed, I await my turn, clenching crumbled banknotes in my fist.

On first gulp, my organism, dehydrated from the sun, soaks up the beer and delivers the coldness to the cells, making me feel a bit refreshed. A white foamy Schweppes toasts my beer with a “Cheers.? A nice chest; there is no time to classify it, because I feel its lips on my cheek. This time curiosity takes over, and I look at the face. The voice is familiar. We have known each other some years ago, somewhere…

“Don’t you recognize me?? The chest removes her shades and laughs.

Valya hasn’t changed, only her eyes, having lost their previous sparkle, look different. They are laughing, yet they are sad. We take a seat at a table under the awning. Illian had dumped her a couple of months ago as soon as he found out she was pregnant. Then she found out she wasn’t pregnant; it’s just that her period was late. She still loves him, has forgiven him, has called him up at home a couple of times; but he was cold, was reluctant to answer her questions, hung up on her, cut her off. And all she wants is to get back with him. She can’t explain his behavior. The opposite would be more logical-- Illian remorseful, and she ignoring him. He has no girlfriend. Had he one, Valya would definitely have heard about it.

Confused, she is fiddling with her sunglasses. She wants to put them on, yet is afraid the gesture will give away the dampness in her eyes. She asks about me, how I am, what I do, who I am with here. She is surprised to hear I am alone. I explain that the doctors have forbidden my wife to sunbathe. I describe how badly she took the news, how she can’t live without going to the coast and neither can I. I share how much I miss my wife. I have qualms about being here without her.

Valya and I always shared our thoughts. In college, she was my best friend -- a male-style friendship with no sexual intimacy. But this never prevented us from sharing and discussing experiences we would never tell anybody else. Our fellow students teased us that we were each other’s emotional dumpsters. I think they were just jealous, because whatever friendship may exist between two men or two women, it could never reach the level of selflessness and fulfillment we enjoyed. We held no secrets from each other. Except when we had dates, we would go everywhere together. When one of us developed a crush on a third party, we were jealous. Without talking about it, we mutually avoided having sex with each other. We considered it a friendship breaker. Valya met Illian shortly before graduation. We haven’t seen each other for almost two years. And now, here we are, sitting naked across from one another and sharing once again. I look at her in the nude for the first time. Previously I have tried to sneak a peek under her clothes. This is very different. I notice her eyes stealthily hopping down my body.

The place she rents is right by the beach. The room is quite plain. This is her last evening here. How sorry she is she has to leave right when she met me. Yet, her vacation is over….

In through the mosquito net covering the open window rolls the groaning of the waves, furious and puritanically angry, muffling her voice. As if it were denouncing my intentions. I put down the unfinished cup of coffee and cigarette to submerge in a different sea – hers. It endows me with the fortune of an illusory and fleeting freedom. I am swimming in the quiet bay, but the coast of real feelings remains out of reach. I feel mighty undercurrents pulling me away, dragging me further and further into the deep. I am losing strength, and the coast disappears and turns into a boundless horizon. I start to feel the pull of the depths beneath my feet. I am sinking and sinking…. My eyes idle over the receding surface, above which is only the sky. The final sensation is of ice-cold water over my body.

I rise from the bed, swimming in sweat. The bed is like a battlefield. Valya is sitting next to me with crossed feet and is telling me about Illian. She is so immersed in her memories she hardly notices me. Her cigarette has almost reached her fingernails, threatening to burn them.

I feel nasty and revolting, like after a bender. I get up and hastily put on my clothes. The clothes twist and twine in my hands, as if sneering at me. She is still talking and barely takes notice of me.

When I am ready and at the door, she turns to me the wetness of her chest; her eyes show no surprise. “If I bump into Illian, should I say hello to him??

I nod in the affirmative and step through the door without looking at her. Something crunches under my sandal. I look down, just to make sure it’s my shades. I feel no regret.

Almost by instinct, I have made my way to the nocturnal beach. I realize this as the tired waves bathe my feet.


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