Brazil was warm. A nice break from the cool I had been dealing with in New York. I needed the steaminess of it, getting lost in the wet damp. Smell of salt. The sea nearby.
The walk from my hotel to the ocean front of Recife was short. I as warned that Recife was dangerous. Be constantly vigilant, be constantly safe.
I wondered if perhaps Recife should be warned about me.
The walk was down dark alley breaking into the crashing waves on the beach, awash in moonlight and streetlight and lamps strung to and fro. It was a dappled light dream, the kind of light that makes you expect to see a mermaid happily content along the shore. Some lonely, naive, Ariel looking for a prince to charm her.
Instead of this there were two fisherman setting up on the beach. Long sea poles stretched into the night sky and I watched as they braced them against their hip belt to cast them out. Light danced around as the line disappeared far out into the water.
I wanted to walk, I wanted to explore a bit, even though exploring was dangerous (muggers, rapists, thieves, don't take your camera out!). I walked for a short way down the beach, taking in the light, listening to the sounds of the lapping waves.
As the tide came in I went lower onto the beach, watching the water rise up, amused that I was wearing such heavy boots on such a warm night. Water playing against the bottom of the stairs and the moon high in the sky; my boots felt light and airy and just right for the journey.
It was a short trip. It was already full dark and I had a full day ahead of me anyway, so I turned back after hardly half a mile to get some sleep, to get ready for the tomorrow, whatever the tomorrow was going to be.
Back past the fisherman. And as I passed the line tensed and I felt the excitement in the action on the beach, that old familiar excitement of catching something on your line. Fishing is fraught with good and bad memories for me, but the excitement I experience was real enough.
The stone wall that ran the length of the beach was close so I sat and watched my fisherman. They acknowledged me with a nod and a wave. We were together now in this moment. Friends, all of us, all of us interested in what was on the end of the line.
One man worked the reel while the other watched the waves slap against the shore in the darkness, waiting for something to break. His patience, my patience, rewarded after about five minutes as a large fish broke the waves and was pulled, dangling and thrashing from the hook.
They pulled it onto shore and up to some rocks, practically in front of me, and bashed it on the head. Over and over again. The wet thing wiggled and thrashed, dead already, just the death throes of the nervous system, the body doing what the body does when the brain is disconnected violently by fisherman on the beach.
They smiled tooth smiles at me. I smiled back and clapped as they tossed their prize into a plastic bag, strung the line and cast again.
For a moment, I wished to feel the chum between my fingers. I could smell it from my perch the salty bloody, gamy scent.
I understood that bait scent.
They cast the line back out again while I stood and shook the sand off my dress, my boots sparkling against the pavement.
The walk home smelled like salt and blood.