……. (“Water” continues….)
Vida walks through the back streets, to get to the far side of the harbor before the sun completely rises over to the town. As she reaches the break between low slung buildings, rough stands and brush, she catches a glimpse of the first pink rays on the bow of the dark grey battleship in the bay below her. The water is still dark grey, as grey and cold as the ship’s metal hull. Vida wonders if maybe Arthur is being kept out there, not at the police station at all. Maybe she is heading in the wrong direction. She had wondered if the police might think her crazy, and Mrs. Williams had suggested as much, if she were simply to walk into the station and ask, “Where are you keeping my husband?” And Arthur isn’t officially her husband; the local police will know that. Vida is not sure if the police are there at all, whether they will ask the General whether Arthur is alive at all, or whether any of them will know how it is that Vida had distinguished herself in the revolution. It wasn’t much but Claudia made a big deal of it, because Vida was a woman, a country woman. She set up a cooperative so they could cut out the shipper. Big deal. It was actually. Then they could set their own prices. That’s what she figured and that’s what they did, and Claudia made like they were farmer warriors.
Actually, it is Arthur’s fault that Vida distinguished herself. Art is the second man Vida fell in love with, the second to find her beautiful, but he was the first man to speak with her about things Vida had known all along. Her nose had smelled them, her fingers had touched them, her cheeks were flush with them; now with Art her ears heard them and her mouth said them. And the miracle was, he said yeah. He said okay, do it. And now Arthur is gone and the sun is already lighting up the sky.
What her first husband gave Vida was a baby and a name different from Vera’s and different from Arthur’s last name, which could cause her grief now or it just might save her; Vida doesn’t know which. The officials may only count her first love as her husband. They might not be willing to tell her anything about Art. Yet what she knows she knows and she will find Arthur unless he be dead and if he is dead, even if he is four days dead she will have his body. And if he is not dead she will find him, somewhere in this town best known for its ugliness and its unhappiness. If not here, then at the prison. If not at the prison, then hiding on the mountain.
She moves quickly down the road toward the harbour, scavenging with her eyes for something lovely to carry with her, anything to conjure him back. When she stops to catch her breath she looks up and then down toward the harbor, hoping to catch sight of a bird. One bright feather will help, but dark silhouettes of vultures haunt the shore and in the trees where she hopes for orchids there is nothing. Anxious even for just a colorful beetle, she turns over a board that lays at her feet in the road. A black roach scuttles away, big as a mouse. She hurries on. Further along the road there’s a snack shack boarded up, but on top of a box is a piece of overripe fruit. She picks it up, ashamed but suddenly famished, and peels back its skin. Nothing is subtle here; they call this food Mamma, its flesh wet like labia, and her hands are sticky now with its juice, but she is almost to the harbor. She hurries down to the water as the juice begins to dry, and when she bends down, leaning into the ocean to rinse her hands, a fish head bobs on the surface, her hands reaching towards its jaws. This is hopeless. Everything is ugly now and nothing will appear to relieve her eyes for a long time. Eventually the sun will rise and then the air will be heavy with heat.