Breakfast with Crocodiles [Excerpt] by Laura
This evening sees me travel through the colours in my mind, through the memories imprinted in my body. I journey to the stories they hold, I escape my confinement and take a trip to times elsewhere, times other, times before…
It’s almost midnight and the moon is full, enveloping everything in a white gleam. We hop on the boat. He steers it on the calm moonlit water until we arrive on a small island. We gather some wood, checking for scorpions as we do. We make a fire, pour glasses of homemade rum and pass them around. The poet takes his guitar and begins to sing.
We found an abandoned trailer down in the woods. It’s run down, the pink paint is peeling off, but it makes for a good den. We clean it up, hammer some shelves on the walls, bring a small table, lots of pillows, books, games and chocolate. There’s a smoking tree nearby; we break some branches and light them up, not quite knowing what smoking really is or how it is done.
He takes his camera’s film container and fills it with fine purple sand. He shows me how they – the Bedouins – use the desert’s sand as eyeshadow and he gives it to me. This is now the first makeup I own and I am eager to fill more film containers with sands of all colours.
I am riding a horse, sienna-coloured dust is flying everywhere and is permanently tinting my shoelaces. It’s hot, we just stopped to cut open a coconut to drink. We don’t know it yet but we’re going to find a cave where deep, deep inside is a lake in which we are going to swim in complete darkness, with ideas, but no certainties, of what may be lurking below.
I try to call for help but my fingers slide on the screen and the phone doesn’t recognise my fingers: I have too much blood on my hands.
It’s 3 in the morning, I am on a night train that I caught from where I arrived with the only boat I could take to cross the border. I am tired and it’s becoming really difficult not to fall asleep, but I have to stay aware: there are still several hours to go. I clutch at the Taser I bought on the black market, hoping I won’t have to see its electric blue plunge into anyone’s skin and I bite my lip to stay awake.
We walk the maze of the city for more than 10km. Eventually, we find it. I venture off and break in. In the very place. I don’t linger, but I deposit my small silver parcel and the heavy weight that came with it.
I am sitting on one of the red velvet chairs at the front row of the first circle in the empty theatre. To my left, there is Maurice Béjart. He gives directions to the dancers in their final rehearsal before the premiere. I sit quietly and listen to him as I observe the dancers. He is old and not very well, but he is still the best choreographer the world has known. The respect the dancers have for him is evident. I contemplate how fortunate I am to have met him and to be here, sitting by his side, watching him at work. How fortunate I am to learn from him, to be taught his work.
I sit with the homeless man I befriended. I brought him hot food and a bottle of water. We speak with our eyes, we smile at each other. The next morning, as I go out of the door I find him right there, lying on the floor, half on the road, half on the pavement. He is dead. His face is covered in black flies eating at his blank wide open eyes. People are walking past, sparing a glance, if anything at all. I try to make the flies go away but they are voracious. I run back in to take a t-shirt and with it I shake the flies away more effectively, close his eyes and mouth and cover his face. He can rest now.
It’s one in the morning, we just spent more than an hour getting rid of hundreds of large brown cockroaches with furry red legs in 40-degree heat and lining the door and windows with soap to stop them coming back. I go to the bathroom to wash up. I open the tap: only a thick yellow liquid comes down. It smells funny, I abandon the idea of feeling clean. I go to the bedroom, shake a few more cockroaches off the curtains and turn around to get to bed. I hear an unpleasant noise and see thousands of tiny red speckles across the wall. I look down at my hand but I can’t see it because it’s covered in blood: as I turned, my finger went through the old rusty ventilator. Pain is now catching up. We have no water and no disinfectant. We run to the neighbours’ house and bring back a bottle of Vodka. We wash off my wound. Luckily, my finger hasn’t been severed completely. Exhausted and dirty, I climb into bed without caring that a cockroach has sneaked in with me.
I am having breakfast with crocodiles. There’s one by my feet under the table, two a little away. He says he brought them home because they were injured, they are almost recovered now but they need a bit more time before being released into the wild. He says it’s perfectly safe as long as we don’t bother them and if they attack, we should grab them by the neck. So I drink my juice and observe their multitudes of teeth as they rest with their mouths wide open to release heat.
Flesh / Red
A handful of words could be gathered to tell this tale, but no matter how hard I would try to combine them into a coherent narrative, only threads would surface. Some fragments would be acutely detailed and harshly vivid, too vivid, and other fragments would be incomplete or absent. My body could tell this tale much better than my words ever could. But here and now is not the time we will attempt this.
Some of these colours paint a smile on my face.
Some draw heavy weights on my shoulders.
Some taste warm.
Some taste sour.
But all are my own.
No one, nothing, not even a pandemic can take them away from me.
And in that, there is beauty.