Calima is a hot, oppressing dust and sand-laden, southerly to southeasterly, sometimes easterly wind in the Canary Islands region.
Sat in an airless coach,
Katrina the tour guide
Is ageless — not like precious wine,
More like the now calcified rosemary soap you got for Christmas one year.
And placeless too: her voice a mix of four languages, two diacritical signs per breath
She came here on holiday, took a sick friend’s place, just for a week
Thirty years ago.
Sinewy legs, for she has trodden all over Fuerteventura;
And the island returned the favour, so —
Sinewy legs, and a sinewy heart.
There’s seventeen of us here — not yet too tanned, three and a half phrases of Spanish each
But really, she’s on her own, switching the air con on and off, on and off (“it only works that way”)
And please, what air?..
But Katrina doesn’t need to breathe
Or listen, or think
She has done this before
“On your left” and “on your right” are her only mantras;
Calima, her only enemy.
It’s the wind from the Sahara – relentless, dusty and dry
It’s just so useless, she says, more useless even than my second husband;
At least he gave me a son.
Calima only gives her a dry cough
And a reason to rage.
We’ve had no rain in months — just calima, calima, calima.
Look around you, it’s all dried out.
Not a rabbit, not a goat in sight,
Have you tried eating dry weeds?!
I have a feeling she has.
Worst of all, it’s no good for Marlena,
Katrina’s only true love.
Calima dulls her fur
And blows dust in her frozen-lake-coloured eyes
She’s a husky, born for the Arctic
She needs snow, not white sand
She needs rain and I can’t give her that.
Katrina’s voice changes.
She’s already ten
But I give her the best, she says
Best dog food you can buy on these dusty Dog Isles
And omega 3 twice a day —
I want her to outlive me.
But Katrina, who could outlive you?
The way you talk about the drought in the twenties,
I know you were there,
Same age as now,
Planting potatoes, carrying heavy buckets of water,
Praying for the rain that won’t come
Cursing calima in Serbian, English, German and Greek
Singing to the plants
But still they wither
The colour green does not live on Fuerteventura.
“Does not live” is Katrina’s phrase.
My parents don’t live anymore, she says
As far as she’s aware, they’re doing something —
Just not living.
Is she living?
Oh yes, but not on this coach
She starts to live after the first ten kilometres of a hike
After Marlena’s had her second bowl of premium bottled water
But on Wednesdays it’s “on your left” and “on your right”
In two languages
Which translates to
“I’ve got a beautiful lake-water-eyed husky at home
Waiting, whining her dog song of love and loss,
And all of you, who don’t want rain
For your cultureless, pointless, godless holiday
For all I care, let calima take you and this coach.”
Tiago the surf instructor
Face plastered with extra thick sun cream
Hair styled by the relentless wind
Driving to the beginners’ surf spot,
His Land Rover a a crash course in onomatopoeia:
Rattle upon squeak upon Portuguese cussword.
No, I didn’t mean goat, but that rock was a bitch.
And then — wind, wetsuit, wave upon wave, whacked over the head with a board, why is this so hard?
We talk after class.
Where do you come from?
Portugal, then Bristol.
For my degree.
What was it?
Surf: Science and Tech.
And now Fuerteventura,
Teaching office plankton the subtle art of pretending the ocean can be tamed.
Worst thing about it?
Giving away the waves,
To those who can’t feel them,
Those who can’t ride them,
Those who can’t even see.
Imagine serving your favourite dish to the pigs
While starving, he says.
That’s my job.
Tiago, I’m sorry.
Oh, come on, he says.
Don’t be silly.
Have some more of my bread
I’m bored of it, bread for weeks
Waiting for my test results
Something wrong with my stomach,
Can’t hold anything down.
I’ll see the doctor next week.
I hope she says it’s nothing
Or that I’ve a month left to live.
Then I can stop teaching
Grab my board
And feast on the waves
‘Til the ocean eats me.