Taste of Sand - Part 1

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

An older man is in Naples, Florida. He feels lonely because he has left a young girl that he loves in Europe...

Taste of sand

 

Part 1

 

People who don’t know how to deal with their inner pain sometimes do strange things. Mourning rituals help them to overcome their grief, or at least to lessen it for a while. You can’t name it, or people who were in a deep emotional dip tried it.

Not only those who lost someone are grieving. Countless are those in the world, men and women, who have lost a loved one because he or she left them, and chose someone else.

Whoever is suddenly left completely alone, often without foreseeing or expecting it, gets a huge emotional blow. Some get over it quickly. It’s not in their nature to look back at what belongs to the past. Or emotionally they weren’t deeply involved with the person who went away from them. Others get over their grief thanks to certain rituals. And then there are those who continue to feel the pain. They continue to mourn and remember the times they were with the loved one who has since broken their hearts and when they were so immensely happy.

 

At the end of May, Roman Briggs fell head over heels in love with Annice Tholeman.

To fall in love, it can happen to anyone. In this case, it was quite special, and awkward too. Roman Briggs was already forty-nine years old, and Annice was just under seventeen. She was still in high school at the St Amanda Catholic Institute in Herchville. It was not at that school that Roman had met her. That had happened a year earlier in September. Annice was sixteen then, and she came for the first time to the rehearsal of the ‘Melodies of Love’ music band at Herchville. Her father George wished that she, just like him before he got his fishing accident, play the clarinet in the band. Playing the instrument was no problem for Annice. Her father George had given her practice lessons from when Annice was nine years old.

The Tholeman family lived on Grand Street at Boarmarsh, not far from Herchville. There were four children, all girls, and they were all musically gifted. They loved music and listened to the songs of their favorite singers. Three of the girls were playing an instrument.

 

Roman Briggs was a music teacher in two different schools in Hazelstead. He also lived in that town. To members of the Herchville music band who couldn’t read sheet music, he gave an introduction to music theory. With those lessons, he wanted to do a favor for his study friend Bert Cilliston. Cilliston was the band’s conductor, and he wanted all his musicians to be able to read their score decently.

 

In September, Annice came for the first time to take the solfège lessons. Roman Briggs taught them in a classroom of the local elementary school. They were scheduled on Friday night at seven o'clock, one hour before the band’s actual rehearsal started.

Of all the musicians who came to the music theory lessons, Annice was one of the most motivated. She was gifted and intelligent, and so her reading of the music score was virtually flawless after less than ten lessons.

Whether that was the reason why Roman Briggs fell in love with her is hard to say. Maybe it contributed to it. It is certain that Annice was very attractive. She was tall and slim, but at sixteen, perhaps a little too skinny. In the sunlight, her long auburn hair shone with a variety of hues. Annice had especially beautiful expressive eyes in her rather narrow face. Already at sixteen, it was evident that Annice was going to be a real looker in a few years’ time.

 

Roman fell for her, but he kept that to himself. Declare his love to her, that was totally out of the question. This was 1989, in a rural area. Society’s mentality wasn’t yet ripe for it. Even now, it would be a scandal to a lot of people if such a relationship came to light.

 

So, there was an enormous age difference, but there was even more. It would certainly have put Roman in great difficulties if he had dared make an amorous pass in Annice’s direction. For sure, he would have lost all standing and respect in the community. Maybe in those days, he could even have landed in jail if he had given in to his impulse.

 

However, that was not the main reason why Roman was silent as a tomb about his infatuation for Annice. In the first place, he thought about what it would mean to Annice herself if he made a single step toward her. In the narrow-minded communities of Boarmarsh and Herchville, the young girl’s reputation would suffer badly. It would most certainly impose a heavy burden on her future, and she still had her whole life ahead of her. Indeed, if there was even the slightest leak about the infatuation that the music teacher had for his young pupil, the gossip mill would surely start turning. People argued too often along with the motto: ”Where there's smoke, there's fire.”

 

Roman’s love for Annice continued to grow in the course of the year. He constantly thought of her. There was no way he could show it to her, and he didn’t want to either. 

In order to express his love in one way or another, he started keeping a diary. In it, he wrote down the music he composed at his piano, which he dedicated to “Amanda”. That was the pseudonym he had invented in order not to reveal Annice’s true identity. That was quite astute on Roman’s part. Even if someone read his diary, he could always say that its contents were a homage to Amanda, the Herchville high school’s patron saint. 

Besides the music, Roman wrote about a dozen letters to “Amanda” in his diary. They were meant for Annice, but Roman never sent her any. That was certainly the best thing he could do. In the beginning, these letters were sentimental, quite romantic, and even somewhat tumid. Gradually, they became more sensual and erotic. More and more, Roman dared express his desire to live his love physically with Annice.

 

Just after Annice had become seventeen, the summer holidays began. Roman wouldn’t see her for over two months. Only in mid-September, the band’s weekly rehearsals would resume.

The mere thought made Roman feel miserable. His love for Annice didn’t decrease, to the contrary. Some days he was sick with longing for her. On other days it went better when he could concentrate on his duties.

 

Moreover, he was told something he didn’t like at all and that made him brood.

Just before the summer holidays, the band’s board of directors organized a fancy fair with barbecue on a Saturday afternoon, as was the annual tradition. The idea was that people from the surrounding area would get to know the Herchville ‘Melodies of Love’ band and would financially support it. The musicians themselves were offered the barbecue for free, and they each also received four free drink tickets.

To Roman’s amazement, and to his regret, Annice didn’t come to the fancy fair. There was a band member who lived on her street, Charles Schwartz. He was already studying at Lyonville University and was a drummer in the band. Very carefully Roman tried to find out with Charles why his neighbor Annice hadn’t come to the annual festival. Charles laughed and said that Annice had most definitely gone with her friends to Skeelan Lake, not far from her home at Boarmarsh. The youngsters from Skeelan, Boarmarsh, Lumming, Splintbrook, and Herchville went there to swim, to practice windsurfing,  and also for 'something else'. What was that 'something else'? Roman would like to know. At first, Schwartz said that he preferred not to go into the matter. Roman paid Charles a couple of beers. That loosened the student’s tongue. Laughing, he told Roman that in the bushes surrounding the lake “a good game of petting and wooing” was going on between the boys and the girls, away from their parents’ eyes. Charles claimed that more than half of the girls from Herchville and its surrounding villages had their “flower” picked in the bushes by Skeelan lake. You couldn’t check it out, of course, Schwartz said, but he was almost certain that after the summer holidays as good as no girl who had spent her days at Skeelan lake would still be a virgin.

 

It was with some dismay that Roman listened to the student’s story. It couldn’t be true… Annice who looked so pure and innocent, there in the bushes... He shook his dark thoughts out of his head. Actually, they were totally meaningless. Sooner or later, Annice would lose her virginity, to whom and when was of no importance. Roman was well aware that the privilege to make a woman of the beautiful Annice most certainly wasn’t reserved for him.

 

Early in August, Roman Briggs was going on a three weeks’ summer course in the United States. The course’s subject was composing electronic music. It was organized in Naples, a city on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. Roman counted a little on both the course and the new acquaintances that he would make to distract his mind from Annice.

He struggled through the month of July, with highs and lows. There were nights he couldn’t sleep because he constantly thought of Annice, and longed for her. The story that Charles Schwartz had told him remained constantly in his head. In his imagination, he saw Annice lying naked in the grass in the shadow of the bushes, while on top of her a fat horny character was moving back and forth, panting and grunting, eager to spray his semen into her as soon as possible. But equally, there were days when Roman had so much on his schedule that Annice’s image hardly appeared in his mind.

 

It was in Naples that Roman tasted sand for the first time. That had nothing to do with the summer course, however.

Among the students, Roman was one of three foreigners, two Japanese, and he himself, the only European. The course hadn’t had a lot of success. Only fourteen candidates had shown up for it. They all found accommodation with people in Naples who voluntarily put one or more rooms at the disposition of the course organizers.

Roman was lucky. He was sent to a historic house with a large garden near the beach of the Gulf of Mexico. In that huge house just two people were living, Mary and Gerry Smithson, both about Roman’s age. Husband and wife were running an investment firm together. They made lots of money, and they were rich, that was clear. Gerry had a dark green Rolls Royce Silver Shadow in one of his three garages. He only drove it occasionally, because usually he and Mary moved around in a Cherokee XJ Jeep. There were two motorcycles in one of the garages. An old Harley Davidson Knucklehead which had been converted into a chopper in the 60s was standing thick with dust. It hadn’t started in years. The other bike was a 250 cc Honda CB in perfect condition. Gerry used it on and off to run an errand in downtown Naples. Roman was told by Gerry that he could make use of the Honda whenever he wanted, which Roman gladly did.

In the back of the garden, in a wooden outbuilding, a man in his mid-seventies was living. He worked for the Smithsons as a combination of gardener and handyman, a kind of jack of all trades. Al also had a car standing by his cottage, an old gold Cadillac Coupe de Ville from the early seventies.

Gerry Smithson had made interior decorators arrange the entire ground floor of their home as a living and sleeping area. There also were three offices where he and Mary along with two employees ran their investment business.

In the house, the whole upstairs was Roman’s. It had been arranged as a spacious apartment with every possible comfort. Mary had a daughter from a previous marriage who lived with her boyfriend in the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina. Mary later told Roman that it actually wasn’t in the mountains that Rosalyn had her wooden chalet, but in the Cherokee Foothills and that from the chalet one had a fantastic view. Two or three times a year, Rosalyn came with her boyfriend to visit her mother in Naples to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas. On those occasions, she was staying in the apartment.

 

The new environment and new people he met in Naples at first led Roman's thoughts away from Annice. He had a lot of new experiences, and they weren’t all positive. The course in electronic music composition didn’t amount to much. In the morning there were theoretical courses. Roman still felt that part was quite interesting because, for the first time in his life, he learned to work on a PC. In the afternoon, there were workshops. These were quite uninteresting, according to Roman’s experience. He had to listen to a lot of random bullshit. All that talk usually made no sense. It had little or nothing to do with composing music. What he heard in those workshops reminisced Roman of the kind of philosophy that he had heard late at night from drunks in Hazelstead bars. It seemed as if some people just kept talking because they liked so much to hear themselves talk.

There was also some experimentation going on with electronically generated sounds in the workshops. That was a sensible activity, Roman felt, but there was no real planning behind it, and the results were meager. Furthermore, the noise often became too shrill and unbearable without earplugs because of the huge speakers.

After two course days, Roman decided for himself that it was pointless to continue going to the workshops in the afternoon. It might be dangerous too. Roman was worried that the abundance of decibels produced in the workshops would damage his hearing.

 

Thus, Roman actually had a lot of time on his hands in Naples and was often sitting idle. Gerry and Mary were too busy during the week. On weekends, however, they spoiled Roman. Then Gerry got the Rolls out of the garage. Handyman Al had to wash it first and to vacuum its interior. Gerry then drove at a snail's pace with Mary and Roman on the Tamiami Trail through the Everglades. Mary commented on every landmark or special site that they drove by. At the end of their excursion, Gary drove back to one or another restaurant in Naples. Usually, he and Mary opted for a place that was serving “health food”.

 

For the rest of the time during the week, Roman had to fend for himself in the afternoon. To not be bored he was looking for something that could fill his time. He had already noticed that if Al had nothing to do for Gerry and Mary went to the beach with a fishing rod and a kind of coolbox.

Roman asked Al if he couldn’t come with him. Al had nothing against it. He showed Roman how to practice surfcasting, and how in the sand of the beach he could find his bait, usually a kind of large sand lice or dirty brown worms. Al also had in his box chunks of fish, mullet preferably, crabmeat and shrimp. He explained to Roman what bait was the most successful in any weather.

Angling in the sun and wind on the beach really pleased Roman. Even if he rarely caught a fish, he regularly went to the beach, usually in the late afternoon, when the heat storms were over. 

 

Before going fishing, in the early afternoon, he usually took the Honda out of the garage and drove around in Naples and in the surrounding area. Occasionally, he stopped somewhere at a diner or cafe and struck up a conversation with someone. Usually, these conversations were very friendly, but they were still quite superficial and without real depth.

 

But whatever he did in Naples, Roman was there, alone and most often on his own. He had to fend for himself. So, it happened that he started again more and more to think of Annice. It gradually became worse. Every day he longed intensely for her, and every day missing her became stronger. He tried to resist, to concentrate his mind on something else, but from day to day, he managed less and less.

It came to the point that he could hardly sleep nights in a row, as Annice’s image kept haunting his mind. Missing her got so bad that he was physically sick on certain days, and lost his appetite.

 

One afternoon Roman was driving the Honda along Alligator Alley to the Big Cypress Reservation of the Seminole Indians. He was allowed to visit the sanctuary for a half-dollar entrance fee. It was in the Everglades, hidden from the people that passed on Alligator Alley, between the large cypresses in the swamp.

It seemed to Roman that it all still was fairly authentic, not really run touristy. This was confirmed by the few visitors. Apart from Roman, there were only three other tourists, people from New Jersey.

It all seemed a bit desolate, and moreover, Roman was bothered by mosquitoes. There was a primitive souvenir shop, and he bought a can of bug repellant and a tin box with Cutter. Especially the cream of Cutter which he smeared on his face and hands helped.

 

Roman was bored fairly quickly in the reserve. A young strong muscular Indian wanted to give a demonstration of "alligator wrestling" after anyone of the four visitors paid twenty-five dollars. Roman wasn’t interested to see the man mud wrestling with an alligator that had been drugged and was half numb. He denied the invitation, got out of the mosquito-infested swamp, and drove back to Naples.

 

On the way back, he was unlucky. He ended up in the thunderstorm which erupted every afternoon after the heat of the day. As always, the rain poured heavily from the sky. It formed a thick gray curtain making visibility awkward as dense fog greatly limited the eyesight. With the Honda further drive was too dangerous. Brenno stopped, but along the main road, there was nowhere to be found a house where he could hide. Wait until the storm was over, nothing else was left, even though he was soaking wet.

 

 

One night, Roman had already been awake for hours. Never before had his desire for Annice been stronger. At around five o'clock in the morning, he heard the heavy drone of the two B-29 bombers that were spraying the town of Naples with chemicals every morning to fight the mosquitoes.

He was too nervous to stay in bed even longer. He got up and got dressed without washing or shaving. Quietly, he went downstairs not to wake Gerry and Mary. From the shed behind the house, he took a fishing pole and opened the fishing box. There was still bait from the day before. It smelled quite strongly, but it was still usable.

On the beach, it was very windy that morning. In the semi-darkness, Roman had difficulties threading the shrimp on his hook. The bait wasn’t really fresh anymore, and too soft. The hook poked through. Casting it into the sea wasn’t easy because there was a strong side wind.

 

And then Roman stood there, waiting for a bite. He felt so utterly lonely. Thinking of Annice, he first sank to his knees with tears in his eyes. Then, he lay flat on his belly, longing for her, and for the first time, he had the taste of sand in his mouth…

 

To be continued…

 

© Bruno Roggen, Anhée, 2021


Submitted: May 06, 2021

© Copyright 2021 impetus. All rights reserved.

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