Today, Quite Early
I cannot sleep tonight, this much is true. And though you may not
interested in this, in the reason for my insomnia, I say you should be.
not roll over and pretend to be asleep, in your bed, somewhere in the
Stay awake. Listen to what I say. Then you will not be able to
the same as I. That done, we can sit here through the night of this
Listen to the cries from the pool. When we have done that, when those
are so familiar that we will no longer be aware of them, then we will
You and me. I will tell you this and that, some surface things, and you
do the same.
But that will not be the end of it. After an hourís time, our talk
deepen. I will tell you about my husband, Marcello, and you will trade
story or two. About unhappiness, perhaps, but it neednít be. It could
about anything. We will do this because, wherever you are, night is
Some nights have lives all their own. This night, for instance. But
To tell you about this morning I must first tell you of yesterday
morning. Or the day before that. No, Iím certain it was this morning
happened, but you know how things are continually being set in motion.
was one of those things. For it to have happened this morning, it had
begin a day or so ago.
My insomnia is a direct result of what happened today, quite
the pool. Downstairs, in the lobby of this hotel. So early, in fact,
was still asleep. Dreaming, yes, of a better Marcello, of a world still
to change, or be changed. Oh yes. Sleeping and dreaming, so that I was
aware what was happening. The drowning, that is. A death by drowning.
Still awake with me? I hope so. You wonít surrender so easily to
sleep with talk of death and drowning going on around you. Stay with
through the night. Help me to forget those watery cries from the pool.
They arrived two days ago, the young American and his wife. Just
married, and come to stay in this town on the Bay of Banderas. It was
two days ago that I watched them register so sheepishly in the hotel
They were much the same as all newlyweds. And they were from St. Louis.
is somewhere to the north of here, and maybe you are closer to it than
I was not near them in the lobby and could not hear the music that
certainly in their voices. But I could feel the bliss that enclosed
and the good health that seemed to radiate from them. I envied them for
they were, what they had together, whatever they possessed, however
however briefly it lasted.
Of course I was drawn to them and their apparent happiness. You
have been drawn to
them too. Donít deny it. It goes for us all, these things we are
being drawn towards.
Yesterday, or the day before, I canít recall which, I went to
room on the sixth floor of this hotel. I went not to visit, but to
am the best maid in the Posada Bougainvillea, if you must know. I have
stolen a thing from a guest. Not money, not jewelry, not a camera, not
anything. I am trusted here. Completely. So I was in their room when
had gone downstairs for their breakfast.
I take special care in the rooms of newlyweds. There is a special
feeling in the air in those rooms. Of an awkward delicacy, I think. Of
unsure feelings, of things becoming. In those rooms young men and women
going through changes, many of them all at once. Who can be prepared
Carefully I gathered their used towels in the bathroom. I pulled
sheets from the bed where love had left its marks. I straightened
the dresser. Opened the drapes. I opened the shutters so that the
of Banderas filled the long field of vision.
I make a room new again. No matter how many people come and go,
room remains. This same room that I must make new over and over again.
why I am the best maid in the Posada Bougainvillea.
Honesty makes a good maid, yes, but a kind of magic makes the
And, it goes without saying, I always hope for magic.
I passed them in the hall and lowered my eyes until they were
once again. Did they see me? Yes, and no. They passed, and even said
morning. But there are different ways of seeing, as you know.
They were in a world all by themselves. Which is how it should be.
Except for one thing that disturbed me greatly. No matter how I tried,
day, yesterday I am almost certain, I could not make their room new.
This was something that had not happened before, ever. I sat on
edge of their bed in that room and could not see anything good in the
of the couple from St. Louis.
There was a sadness in that room. About their things all scattered
and there. The way their clothes touched in the closet. And, opening
shutters to let in fresh morning air did not change the fact of the
In the large mirror above the bed I saw a gathering of ghosts. A group
them was standing in a circle, talking. Planning, I knew.
You might want to know why I said nothing about this to the couple
passed them in the hall. Why I didnít try to warn them. No one would
listened. Besides, my magic is small compared to the magic that truly
controls things. And, from experience, I know that I see things that
do not. It is a gift I have. The ghosts in that mirror would not have
noticed by many others, Iím sure of it. No one would have believed me,
of all the couple from St. Louis.
Then too, I am unsure about myself and my powers now. I have been
weakened, in my own house. My Marcello, so kind when he was younger,
grown nasty with time. He hurts me often. I wear bruises from him. And
inside I feel somehow broken. I know it is my spirit that is damaged.
However things are in my house with my husband, I am weakened.
spoken to those ghosts, they would have laughed at my protests. Or
ignored me. So I had no choice but to
let things alone. Let them proceed, wherever they were going.
Last night, I did not go home. There are rooms available.
the hotel is very busy, they ask us to stay over. But last night, I
because of Marcello. I thought, if I go home, I may not live. He has
brutal lately, and he seems to be getting worse still.
I was in a narrow bed in a small and simple room. I imagined the
being shared in the many rooms above me. But I did not feel sorry for
myself. In fact, I felt rather safe. Then, sometime in the night, I
the cries from the swimming pool.
Later still, I must have fallen asleep. It was a good sleep,
than in weeks, because I did not have to fear Marcello waking me. But
because I was enjoying my rest, I slept later than usual. If I had
earlier, I might have seen the couple from St. Louis leaving their
room before dawn. How they moved so quietly, half asleep themselves,
the white halls, riding the elevator down to the pool off the lobby. To
their appointment, you see. I would have seen them throw off their
and slip into the still water. For half an hour, until something went
As it happened, I was awakened by the young womanís cries that
ricocheted off the tile in the pool area. By the time I arrived there,
dressed only in my robe, I saw the young man from St. Louis.
It was so very strange. He floated face down in the water.
arms and legs fell free in the grey blue light of underwater. It was
late to save him.
Yes, it would be difficult for you to sleep now, hearing all this.
image is not one you would want lingering in your mind when trying to
I know. but stay with me, for now. I
promise, it will get better. I will leave you with a nicer image of the
from St. Louis, one better to remember him by.
Soon, his body was pulled from the water. We came to understand
his heart was bad. Outwardly, he couldnít have seemed more healthy. But
had problems, we were told, from a very early age. His wife said this
someone, but not to me. I learned about it second or third hand, I
I stood at the edge of the pool, looking down into the water, when
body was removed. I was looking down into the water, where more cries
No one else could hear those cries. They heard only the young
sobbing. I knew that the cries I heard were ones of mourning, songs of
grief, deep and inconsolable. Cries of small souls that had been
so long to be born, that had hoped this union, the new couple from St.
Louis, might set them free to live.
Now, after what had happened, they would be made to wait some
Some of those small souls, the truly unfortunate ones, would be waiting
They laid the body in a corner of the patio and covered it with a
sheet. It could not be removed
until the police and the coroner arrived. In this sleepy town on the
Banderas, one waits a long time for the police. They take their time.
a Sunday morning, after a late Saturday night, I knew the wait would be
Marcello always sleeps late on Sundays. Saturday nights, he comes
late, shaking the house, smashing this and that, scaring the children.
The body remained in its white shroud for hours, until the brunch
buffet began. Other guests
wandered in, selecting their breakfasts from shiny platters laden with
breads and fresh fruit. No one seemed to notice the body hidden so
the tables. The murmur of guestsí voices became an insect cloud that
in the air above them. And no, they did not hear the long, unbroken
souls in the pool. It was a song for me alone.
Here, where I am now, Marcello seems far away. So far that I
myself, thinking about him. I am safe here. I am sitting in a room full
candles, where the body is. I am keeping a night vigil beside the young
from St. Louis.
When the investigation took place, the bride was taken to her room
sedated. She is in a deep sleep now, I know. But here, her new husband
beyond sleep. He lies in this room, beyond wakefulness.
I am attentive to him. Every so often I get up to look at him. I
pretend I am an angel, watching over him. His face glows in the soft
candlelight. He hasnít a care in the world.
He doesnít hear the cries from the pool. For him, those cries,
souls, do not exist. He is not thinking of being closed in a coffin for
flight back home. How many people will attend his funeral in St. Louis.
how many flowers will be strewn across his grave.
He does not even consider the fact of his misfortune. And this is
it gets better. He is like a photograph. He will be forever young, and
naive. He cannot hear me when I tell him that, in a way, he is lucky.
have gone when he was so happy, I mean. Why, if he had waited, if he
I put my hand beneath the sheet. I touch him. He will not awaken.
believe he trusts me. After all, it is I who have cleaned him, readied
for his long journey home.
And I have worked magic. He no longer looks like someone who has
drowned. He looks like an innocent, for this night, for all the nights
I take his hand, the one that wore the shiny new gold ring. I talk
him about Marcello and my lot. I tell him about myself. If you are
awake, if you are listening, you can talk to him too. About your
about anything you like.
I hold his hand and do not let go. I will hold his hand in mine
the dawn, when they come to take him away. And, even when he has gone
across the sky, I will not let go.
©1992 by Christopher Woods