The morning rays filtering through the broken glass panes arrow Robert's northern eyes. He wakes up slowly, reflecting upon the surprising renewal of existence, still perplexed at the luminosity sieving in. Slowly disentangling a faded duvet, the only rag to be found in the reduced space of his home boat, he crawls to the office chair by his bedside and rolls over the few steps that separate him from the miniature kitchen. A few minutes, and the stanza will be filled with the adorable scent of bubbling coffee. Hidden in one of the cupboards, a broken piece of mirror witnesses once more the subtlety of his faded skin, framed by shreds of blondish shoulder-length wavy hair, the remainders of beauty faded, fallen from his now balding head.
In 1976, the boat was 13 years old. With polished hardwood floors, fully equipped kitchen, nicely furnished commodities, it was the dream of any scuba diver who, like Robert, spent three quarters of his day in the marine depths. Young, nice-looking and free, Robert made a substantial income out of his work in the docks. Once a month, perhaps even more frequently, a big towing machine would miscalculate effort and fall into the black harbor depths. Robert, trained by the Navy since he was 16 years old and expert in naval mechanics, had found his haven. The docks, Robert thought, were not too different from the streets of New York where he had grown up, always running away from family decadence and physical abuse. As a grown-up, Robert had learned how to exploit his nice-looking face as vengeance for his German step-father's sternness toward a child's needing, above all, love.
In the summer of 1976, there was a new woman in Robert's landscape. Beverly had soft blue eyes, wavy long hair and a scent evocative of his mother's aroma. He believed that she had a boyfriend currently working for a foreign company in Saudi Arabia; he would be there for about a year, perhaps more, and Beverly felt so desolate, Robert thought to himself with a half-smile on his fair face, that he knew she would appreciate his full support. Besides, she was slim, rich, pretty, stupid, flirtatious and fascinated by him. He knew that it would not take long him to possess her body, her elegance, her softness, her essence. Spellbound by the romanticism of a summer night in the Riviera, a couple of drinks and the right words sweetly dropped in her ear: "I am feeling so lonely," "I wish your boyfriend appreciated all your qualities," "I need you so badly tonight" and she would fall into his arms. Then, a quick visit to her apartment in the dead of night, and he would leave before dawn, still dozing in her bed sheets, savoring the honey he had left in her lips. Robert, with a smiling face, would find his way to yet another prey.
There are nights that were designed to alter the course of memory. Sometimes we walk toward horror only to discover that its contact will bring us the knowledge of the person that we carry inside. Some other times, our spirit guides send us desperate warnings in the hope that we will never have to face catastrophe, for it is their mission to create the fairy tale of daily life. It was a warm June summer night. The lights flashed vertiginously as Robert drove on the freeway, not too fast, just barely five miles over the speed limit. It is difficult to tell how it happened. Perhaps an exhausted truck driver lost control of his vehicle, or the truck load suddenly untied. Robert felt a sudden impact on his windshield. Tree branches coming toward him prevented any visibility and pressed him against the back seat of his car loaded with contourless objects. His car rolled him and the dizziness, and the warm, viscous sensation of blood running down his body, covered everything. An excruciating pain in his back and the uncomfortable feeling of being trapped into something that had gone terribly wrong. Then, darkness surrounded him. Darkness and desolation. Later, the flashing red lights of an ambulance and the therapeutic voice of a paramedic woke him.
With a cup of warm, ready-made coffee in his hand, Robert effortly pushes the wheelchair off his boat. He still turns around a few seconds to consider one thought that has been swinging in his mind for some time now. With a gesture of disdain, he looks at the boat. Today, they wouldn't give him much money for it. At least, it would need cleaning and fixing at the bottom. He nods his head. He knows he can't afford $1,000. The social security pension barely allows him to lead a decent living, and Robert aimlessly struggles, often borrowing money from his mother, from his friends, until when? Robert turns back knowing there is no solution. He sobs, and continues to push his wheelchair toward the West.