an excerpt from a novel by Nowick Gray
Part One - Dinner and Dancing
"First day on Formentera...so what do we do here?"
In such a place, to pose this question is to begin a visualization exercise for living your ideal day...with everything you need, with the one you love, with no obligations or distractions, except...well, better start at the beginning.
The honeymooners arrived on the island late yesterday afternoon, took a bus to Sant Ferran, and hiked with their backpacks the last four kilometers, following directions sketched on a ragged map. Just at sunset they found their blue-shuttered cottage by the sea, with "Casa Sophia" lettered in tile on a low whitewashed stone wall. There was just enough daylight left for them to locate keys for the doors, hook up the butane fridge and stove, and prepare a modest feast of chicken breasts, pasta and cauliflower, with a dark red wine, Sangra del Toro.
"I guess we should have got the white wine," Now observed over their plates of pale food. Candles in sand inside cut-off clear plastic jugs guttered in the sea-breeze while lighting their meal on the terrace.
"No, I like this," Oiseau said. "It provides contrast."
These were not seasoned travelers, no jet-setters nor true gourmands; just simple, hard-working folks whose time had come to taste the good life. Their appearance fit their tastes in food and lifestyle. They wore sturdy canvas hiking shoes and lightweight pants, identical sea-tone rain shells. Oiseau had straight, shoulder-length hair gathered in a purple silk twist, leaving her lovely neck exposed. She wore, as always, her large, wire-framed glasses, over a wide nose and high cheekbones. Her eyes were calm and intelligent; her lips full and sensuous. At the moment her strong jaw was well occupied, beating a rhythm with her partner's steady chewing.
"Mmm, I'm hungrier than I thought," she said between bites of chicken.
"Yeah, we didn't have much to go on during the day."
She put down her fork. "What? You've forgotten the jambon serrano we had for lunch? That bread from Denia, with cheese and avocado? Beet and endive salad, on the ferry--"
"Yeah, but that was a long time ago."
Now put down a breast bone and wiped his silvery mustache and beard with the back of a long, sun-browned hand. Over six feet and still gangly at fifty, he never could fill out his thin frame, or satisfy his hunger for long, no matter how much or how often he ate. Oiseau had more reserves to work with, yet food for her, too, was not a matter to be taken lightly.
After their hearty supper they retired to the bedroom with glasses of wine, to relax and reflect on the distance they'd come and the effort they'd expended to get here. Two long days of bus and ferry rides from Órgiva, via Almería, Alicante, Denia, Ibiza. Their skins were still sticky from the final hike to the house; but when Oiseau tossed off her hiking clothes with the promise of a shower, she was disappointed to discover that it wouldn't produce more than a dribble of warm water. They settled for the cool comfort of clean sheets.
For now we will pass over their time in bed...noting, by the way, that this isn't a conventional kind of marriage or honeymoon. Our middle-aged lovers (think wispy white-streaked beard draped upon plump drooping breasts) have been, in fact, traveling together for the last six weeks, and living together for a year and a half. They rise before the sun to write in respective journals, breakfast on rolls and coffee, and then greet Celeste, the orange-haired French caretaker who arrives early to help them set up the kitchen hot water heater and bedroom space heater.
"What about the shower?" Now asks her.
"The shower? It's not working?"
"Not really. It just comes out in a trickle. Not really hot, either."
"Well, I tell my husband. Il va voir--he see what he can do. But please, if you want showers, we are right next door. You can come to our house."
Celeste also has brought a broom for the sand on the red-tiled terrace; she explains how to pump household water from the underground cistern to the holding tank on the roof; and right, one more thing, there's a way to shut off that irritating low-battery buzzer on the solar-powered lighting circuit.
"These facts of life are all very well," Oiseau's eyes say upon Celeste's departure, "but there is other business to attend to on a honeymoon, however unconventional it may be." So the amorous travelers retire mid-morning to bed again--only to be interrupted in their mature cuddling, by a German woman named Marta who comes calling at the door.
Gaunt and tall with graying hair and the prominent nose of a philosopher, Marta informs them in halting English that she's a friend of the house owner Sophia, and also of Ella who owns the house where Arielle, a friend from their home in Canada, is staying. Out of touch for the past month and only recently arrived on the island herself, Arielle is now reachable with the help of Marta's directions.
Still later the new arrivals will receive two visits by Celeste's husband, Jean-Pierre, who brings them larger sheets and some drinking water. He says he'll come another day to work on the shower; and if that doesn't work, he'll arrange a plumber. This new life, it seems, is as busy as the one they've come so far to leave behind.
. . .
Read an excerpt from the original travel journal: "Finding Water," by Nowick Gray