One of the things that can happen to very few in life is to be born in Punaouilo. We are the privileged.
I came into this world at sunrise. I am The Sunrise Son.
Born prematurely, at the Coconut Palms Medical Facility.
"After I 'freed' myself from you..." That's how Catherine referred to giving birth, "that very morning I could take my first breakfast without the hassle of a swollen belly in which you kept kicking..." She never hid the discomfort being pregnant of me had caused her. Nor how it had hindered her academic career, confining her years long to that forgotten side of the world." Although it supposedly was a continental breakfast," she grimaced in disgust, "it was no more than a disappointing tropical semblance to it. Lousy, like everything about that poor hospital." Catherine enjoyed recounting the details of my birth ironically, as if taking revenge on me. "It was a beautiful morning, but not specially. Sunny. As usual, on that island." Catherine ended her recollection of that sun-ridden morning with a shrug.
But it was sunsets which, all summed up and overlapping with my stream of memories, became more significant in my life.
After I had met Angelo for the first time at school, we had often set off at sunset -- after we had done our homework -- to go to the shores of the small lake which was about one mile from my house in rural France, hidden behind a hill. It was my refuge, and I had never met anyone there before. Suddenly, that gorgeous boy -- that all girls at school desired --, wearing his thick black hair, shiny blue eyes and full lips like a challenge to the world, was there almost everyday to keep me company.
It was love at first sight -- on my part.
And we started dating six months later after we had met, considering it the day when we first kissed, shortly after the sun had set.
We were fifteen years old, Angelo a few months older than me.
Since then, I enjoyed being with Angelo especially at the sunset hour, as if it were a kind of commemoration to our relationship that we could celebrate daily. I write it in plural, but in fact this celebration has always happened in the singular.
"It's so melancholic... Makes me think of death, goodbyes ... I don't like it!" Angelo had clarified about the sunset. I wondered if it was the time when his mother had died, but I never actually asked him about that. "Except for the fact that next comes the night!" For him, and contrary to me, the evening was the best part of each day.
Sunsets in Vice City could be truly spectacular, and I still remember the first sunset we saw together, when we had just moved into town, at the age of nineteen.
My mother had just sent some extra money so we could furnish our rented room, in a building not far from the Journalism School. But Angelo convinced me to use just enough to buy our double bed, and to spend the rest going out in the city at night. And so we even took a cab to the Vantage Lounge, the most upscale and expensive place in Vice City then, with a privileged view of the entire town. "And of the sunset too.", Angelo had assured, to convince me to go, since I was going to pay for our extravagant night out with my mother's money.
And sunset, there, was stunning indeed -- but it was the social scenery that was the main attraction to the Vantage Lounge, I would later find out. To mingle with Vice City's high society, to see and to be seen by it, Angelo had informed me. There was no other place in town like it, according to him.
I remember he had sat with his back to the sea and the sunset, facing the elevator through which people arrived into the Lounge, that posh crowd he had so much curiosity and interest in meeting.
I had insisted that we arrive early, precisely because of the setting sun, and Angelo was frustrated to find the place almost completely empty. Bored, he had spent the whole time criticizing me, saying that I needed to improve my tastes and preferences, which were simplistic, and my timing, that he sensed was still that of the French countryside.
He was probably right. It took me a long time to adapt to the frenetic pace of the metropolis -- if I ever did adapt --, and my introspective temperament did not help me making friends, even among the students of our college. While Angelo -- he seemed perfectly integrated, and his top model looks, along with his conversational talents, had already earned him numerous friends. He had even been to the residences and had met the families of some of them, also linking up well with their parents.
Now it was my father to give his back to sunset, on the same side of the same city where Angelo had once neglected that scenery.
It had been the long silence coming from my father, who was immersed in his loving memories, which had pushed me towards my own past. My relationship with Angelo had ended abruptly and painfully ten years ago. And since then, I fled all memories related to it. Because who truly wants to keep recalling a painful chronic disease that plagued us for so long? It seemed like having had a high fever with delirium tremens for an eternity of eight years -- that's how it now felt, to have been in love with Angelo.
"I imagine those were happy days when you had the island only to yourself, Carlo..." I tried to resume the thread of the narrative, seeking to bring my father back to the present and to our conversation. Though, actually, I was only trying to use his flux of memories to get rid of mine.
"That's not what memory tells me, Laurent." Carlo gave a sad laugh. "But it is precisely at this point that memories and circumstances leave me confused." Carlo paused and pondered for a moment, turning his calloused hands in the air and carefully examining them, as if they could contain some clue to the past. Finally, he let them fall limply on his thighs, and resumed. "Without Armand's presence and our conversations, every day was the same. I don't even have any idea of how many days I spent alone on that island, because I was soon to lose track of time."
The first day is still a bit clearer. That same afternoon, after Armand's departure, I started working in the garden directly beneath the suspended house, following my friend's schemes. It would become my main occupation for a while, at least until the delivery of the painting material for the walls, promised to arrive at the island within a few weeks.
There were many dead plants, brambles and weeds to be removed before planting the new ones, according to my friend's plans and drawings.
I do not remember if I painted that very afternoon, but I would paint all afternoons from then on, with true dedication and self-discipline -- I knew they were important if I wanted to keep my sanity in that deserted island. I would always start near the time of sunset, when the light was magical, and it reminded me of Armand's movie festivals.
Having kept my meditative routine, I was able to properly focus my mind, but my heart wandered and sought the company of Armand, wondering at what port he could be. I questioned the horizon, though I was not good in interpreting its cloudy answers.
And if I let it, my mind went on, guessing how long he would stay in France. Though he had just left, I equally inquired ships and boats and the departing sun about his return. When would he come back to the Île du Blanchomme, ending that period of solitude that had just started.