When Kurt awoke, he dressed up hastily as if something awaited for him.
THE BURDEN OF LIFE
When Kurt awoke, he dressed up hastily as if something awaited for him.
The beach was deserted; nobody could be seen walking swimming. As if it were a beach on an island far from civilization. Kurt smiled. Civilization is going to be wiped away from earth, and eventually, earth from the universe, he thought.
Kurt then tried to keep away all those thoughts. He walked around the beach until he reached the border between the sand and the water. The waves licked his toes, the water was cold. He wondered which month it was. It was almost April then, but sometimes, it seemed that they were in the eye of a lonely winter. The breeze messed his hair, but he was ok. He stepped into the water, and it reached the high of his angles.
He thought how nice it would be to swim in the water until his body would get so exhausted that he wouldn’t be able to feel the pain in his muscles – how it was when he was young. But that was in another time, another past. And the past is always lost. That was what he pretended to believe, that everything falls into oblivion. And his life wouldn't be an exception...
He looked at his watch to check on the time. His only possession he had still kept. Left behind, in the house, was everything he loved, except Cassandra. She was with her friends – her friends who weren't his. No hatred, only something like a dislike. But, in a few hours, when the night came, Kurt would see them again as well as the rest of the people. In the air, blew the breeze of sadness, of oblivion; and he had just become a part of that oblivion.
That was his last day on Earth. And everybody wanted to celebrate it, by all means. The waves and the sea had withdrawn by almost half a mile such that he could see the dry sand that was so long submerged under the grey waves that he would ride while swimming. And he could also discovered black rocks he had never suspected to have been there on the beach. He felt like one of those archaeologists finding lost cities below tons of sand and green jungles. And at the end, the world could be related with the same details: a lost city, broken bricks over the sand, pillars and doorways that poor souls from ancient time have crossed at night or dawn, those old ruins begging to be covered and hidden with the sand, like a lady asks to have her nudity hidden, so shameful of her exposed flesh...
And that was the "rave." A celebration because of the destruction of all civilization. What would be left of the humanity? Mundial government had said nothing about it. The leaders were mute on this matter, so convinced were they that they were all going to die like the rest of the populations. And nobody had the power to avoid it. The sea was going to be the source of complete destruction of what any man had ever loved. His life and from it wasn't going to be any recall.
And all his desperation was, suddenly, wiped away from his soul. His soul was no more than an empty space, and there was nothing to refill it with. Even the love of Cassandra. Kurt had played with the fantasy of giving up his last days close to her. No more wishes, nothing left to ask for – that would be perfect. But Cassandra had denied him these last moments of being near her. Why celebrate death? He didn't understand it.
Darkness came from the bottom of the ocean like an evil shadow that knows that it will have the final victory in a few hours. Kurt began to walk toward the old building, a place where before, every day, lunches and dinners were served, while customers indulged in the pleasure of seeing the limits of an infinite sea. He was thinking about it – about the void, inside of himself and all over the Earth.
The stars just begun sparkling then, last flames of hope. And Cassandra was there, against the darkness of night. Green eyes that glistened like a rare gem. And she sank her fingers in Kurt’s hair.
"Ready...?" Cassandra asked him and Kurt shrugged.
"What is going to happen tomorrow, at this hour?"
"We will all be free..." she answered.
"I don't want that kind of freedom.”
"It is the only thing we deserve," she said. At that point, Casandra seemed a Greek philosopher, a stoic figure. Kurt had never been a stoic. He loved life and all its pleasures and felt repulsion when he saw all the people drinking and eating at their last suppers before their inevitable death and extinction.
"I don't feel to eat that shit..." he said in a fit of rage.
"Please, Kurt," Cassandra begged and then gently prodded him, "Don't be childish. We have to be mature. Face this situation..."
"Situation?" asked Kurt, stopping Cassandra mid-sentence, with the rage still burning in his soul. "In a few hours, the Earth we loved will be as desolate as it was when God had created it."
"God doesn't exist, Kurt," she said in a voice so cold that it stunned Kurt.
"Then, what does exist?" Kurt asked, helplessly.
"Us, love, the seafood you reject, friends..." she said in an amicable voice, and she took Kurt’s hand to calm him down, leading him to a table laden all over with bottles and the seafood that Kurt found hateful. The seafood was still to remain when they would all be dead, making fun of their poor and naked bones, still swimming and living in that ocean that was about to slay them. And Cassandra spoke about love, mad hope.
Kurt hated all those people around him, speaking, laughing as if nothing were to happen. It seemed as if all of them were relieved that they were going to be released from the burden of living. The burden of life... It was comical. What were all them even born for? And suddenly, they were all just a bunch of strangers to Kurt. He turned his face to the metallic surface of the ocean that was about to kill them. Then, he left Cassandra and the people. He was sick. It was best for him then to be alone.
A few minutes later, he was alone, again. From the sand, he could, or maybe he thought that he could, see the lean body of Cassandra – her thick black curls falling over her shoulders and her back.
“She is not mine,” he said to himself while walking down the beach, very close the water, feeling the coolness of the ripples of the water. He had presumed that he would never go back to his house, and that he had had his farewell at the restaurant with all those hideous people. But obviously, he was wrong.
All the doors of the house had been left opened. He hadn't locked any of the doors. And so, he come into the living room and dropped on his armchair, in front the TV. He closed his eyes. “Ok,” he mutter under his breath, “I'm going to die here, when the big wave comes to get us...”
He had closed his eyes and he was trying to make a blank space of his mind... But then, he heard something or somebody. Yes, a stranger had come into the house. To his left was the wide window, where, at night, he had made love to Cassandra so many times since the first time they’d met. Cassandra – the woman who could read the future, except that nobody trusted her words, the curse she had received from the Gods. But she had never believed in any God.
He felt no fear. Yes, somebody was walking around the house. He didn't even try to open his eyes. Some minutes passed with those footsteps still echoing through the house. Suddenly, the sound of the steps stopped. No sounds could be heard. And with his eyes closed still, Kurt could sense that somebody was close to him. For killing him? Then Kurt smiled, and then, he heard a voice...
"Why are you smiling? Are you laughing at me?" he voice sought to know. For a moment after that, Kurt still kept his eyes closed. When he opened his eyes, in front of him stood a young man. A somber face, black eyes, still muscles, as if Kurt had actually been the one to have snuck into someone else’s place.
"Who are you?" Kurt asked calmly.
"Leonardo," the young man answered. Kurt examined his face. There was something like a scar across his face and on his forehead. Maybe, he had met that man sometime, but he wasn't sure.
"Which Leonardo?" Kurt asked with his absurd smile plastered on his face.
"The same Leonardo who played tennis with Cassandra every Friday. Don't you remember me?" Leonardo answered, now seeming frustrated.
"I can't remember each man Cassandra has met," Kurt said, but it was a lie. He could remember all the faces of every man Cassandra had spoken to along the years. He had a mental file where all those faces were stored. And he could remember Leonardo, vaguely, but he had never known his name. Sometimes Cassandra would talk about a man who she would sometimes play tennis with... But was Leonardo that man? He was thin, something misty about his black eyes, as if there was nothing in his eyes or in his soul, and that he was an empty man. The kind of man he hated, the kind of man he had thought Cassandra had never met or spoken to... maybe Cassandra’s taste in men had changed along the years... maybe...
"Why are you here?" Kurt asked.
"Cassandra told me that I could have anything I want from her house," he answered.
"I'm sorry," Kurt said, and for the first time he felt himself angry enough to react "I'm sorry. But this house is mine. I'm the idiot who bought it with my hard work and the idiot who has allowed Cassandra to live here all this while... do you know what I mean?"
And then Leonardo went stiff. Kurt could see fear in his eyes.
"Are you going to kill me?" Leonardo asked seriously. And then, Kurt let out a laugh.
"I don't think I want that burden on my shoulders. And besides you know what is going to happen..." Kurt said.
"Do you believe in what government has said? That a brutal wave is going to destroy everything, and today..." and then Leonardo began quivering, his hands wet, his forehead sweaty, as if he had just played a tennis match... but it was a hard point to win...
"I always try not to blindly believe in what people say. And as for what comes from the government, you can guess what I think..." neither of them said a word. Kurt got up from the chair and went to a small bar with mirrors with drinks and glasses stored. Kurt took two round glasses and put them on the table. "A drink?" he offered Leonardo.
"Thanks" said Leonardo, "I need it."
"Me too," Kurt replied and poured some cognac in the rounded glasses. There was enough cognac to get one wasted... "It is my favorite drink when problems come to me..."
"What kind of problems?"
"We all have had the same problems more or less."
They clinked glasses but they did not say anything.
"I'm sorry..." said Leonardo after he had downed enough alcohol.
"Sorry for what?"
"I suppose you guessed... me... and Cassandra. She and me would come to... your house... sometimes. Three or four times. I don't exactly remember...”
"Lovers?" Kurt asked.
"Only for three months..." Leonardo’s words came so hurt, they sounded like he owed Kurt an apology.
"Everything is forgotten," Kurt said and he was the first to empty the glass and put it on the table. But there the flame of hatred could be seen kindled at the bottom of his eyes.
"I have to go..." said Leonardo.
He left and Kurt was alone. So he was Cassandra’s lover. “Poor girl. What kind of men she chooses,” Kurt muttered to himself, and then, he felt relieved. Cassandra was no more a burden on his heart. It was as if he were free again.
But suddenly, he heard steps again. This time, a different sound. Those steps did not belong to Leonardo. After a moment of waiting, he could see the lean body of Cassandra.
"Have you seen him?" she asked with immense sadness in her green eyes.
Kurt didn't say a word. He poured more cognac in the rounded glass, and held it like a small globe in his left hand.
"Then you don't stay in your party? Or like you call it"
"It is absurd, feels stupid to celebrate death," she said, her head bowed.
"We don't know if that giant wave is even going to fall over us. Stranger things have happened. I've never relied on the words of the politicians. They always lie," Kurt replied and then opened the window to scan the gray surface of the sea. It seemed that the water had receded even further. He thought about Moses, about the time when the sea parted and his people walked on a dry ground where moments before there had only been water. Maybe all that was about to happen was only a path opening to his lives. He and Cassandra. The signal of something.
"I love you," said Cassandra.
"I don't," replied Kurt, and it was as if a knife had severed the sacred and golden thread that kept them in touch, their bodies and hearts.
"Then I will go and play tennis," she said.
"At this hour of the night?" asked Kurt.
"It is only eleven..." she said, while walking toward the door. After she had left, Kurt swallowed his second drink of cognac. Then he left the house and followed Cassandra. He was near the tennis court. He could see Cassandra kissing Leonardo. Only few times had she kissed him with that kind of passion, and he hated that girl at that point.
She was holding a tennis ball, which dropped to the ground and then bounced across the court until it touched Kurt’s black shoes.
He took the ball and threw it afar, with desperation. Cassandra could see him; but it seemed as if he were invisible to her. As if he had faded into the night sky.
"What are you doing?" asked Leonardo.
"Kurt?" Leonardo asked and Cassandra nodded.
"Honey, Kurt is dead. You know it. You celebrated his death yesterday. As he wished. You did all he wanted.
"But sometimes… I feel that"
"He spoke about a golden thread, a golden thread that tied us. And I feel that thread, and at the end of the thread, there’s him. Impossible to escape... always so close to me..."
Kurt heard her words clearly, as if she were whispering those words right into his ear. And he saw that golden thread from his heart going straight to Cassandra's.
The ball rolled down to Leonardo’s feet. He took it. He looked at the direction it came from, but he didn't see anything.
Kurt turned to walk towards the beach. Left behind was all what he had always loved. Cassandra... still tied to him. So he tried to break the thread and ran to the beach and saw the black rocks he couldn't see when he swam in the ocean. Maybe they didn't really exist.
He looked to the horizon. And as it had been predicted, as he expected, he saw the sea swelling, growing like a mountain, running toward him. Merciless, not caring if he was alive or dead. And, in a moment of courage, he rushed toward the mountains of waves approaching him. He was running away from Cassandra. While he was running away, he could see and even feel the golden thread breaking until he didn't feel anything any longer… Until all that water fell over him – black, white, gray, and red, and green, like Cassandra eyes.
The last thing he could remember before the water washed away all was the beach, the back rocks, his house, and the tennis court where he used to see Cassandra playing every Friday. Kissing Leonardo and betraying him...