He pulled up in the cracked dirt on the side of the road and forced the door open into the wind without looking up, because he knew the road would be empty. In the breeze it was cooler but the heat of the afternoon still stifled and the horizon wavered on steel sheets. He walked the length of the scrapyard through rusting wrecks of automobiles while studying the sloping coastal drive that disappeared behind the ridge above. He considered the purpose to all of this; leaving the cars to scavengers and over time their disemboweled chassis remained in grounded purgatory until the cliff upon which they laid scattered crumbles into the sea. He noticed he was in front of a house and it startled him as it had appeared out of nowhere, but now that he had seen it he realised he could not have missed it. He thought he saw movement from inside and before he could turn and walk away an elderly man opened a weathered wood door and beckoned him in.
Inside it was cool and dim. One large room, terracotta tiles, tall ceiling, with a table and a camp bed and a stove and little else but narrow windows without glass panes.
“Sorry for coming upon your property – I didn’t see the house at first. I thought it was just scrap. The house just appeared.”
“It’s okay.” He was friendly but unashamedly tired. “What made you stop?”
“I don’t know. The place looked interesting.”
“I hate to disappoint you, friend, there is nothing interesting here.”
“I’m sure that’s not true. My name is Henry. Please, don’t let me bother you – I can leave if you would prefer.”
“Please take a seat, Henry. I am Afonso. Would you like some café?”
“Por favor.” Henry sat and watched the man. “Do you get many visitors up here?”
“It would depend on your definition of visitors, and your definition of many.” He attended the stove with diligence and care, knowing of its disrepair but working with it, rather than against it, to boil a steel kettle with a mournful whistle and proceeded to make coffee. Bent over it and muttering as if whispering words of encouragement and love to a dying spouse. He continued. “I do not see many people up here, period. It is quiet and the scrap, it is old and trash that few people need or want. This leads me to ask you, what brings you here?”
“I was curious.” Henry said. “I saw the cars against the backdrop of the sea and it was beautiful. This place is old and it may be overlooked but it feels important, if you understand me?”
“I might do. In any case – it is important to me.”
They spoke over the coffee which tasted earthy and strong, and the old man brought out some liquor which he offered to his guest but Henry politely declined.
“I am driving” he explained. “Besides, I am visiting this country with my wife and children. They wait for me at the hotel, a few miles from here.”
“The beach resort? It is probably very nice this time of year.”
“It is beautiful, but there are too many people.”
“Are they enjoying their time here, your wife and your children?”
“Yes I believe so. I think they are, yes. I see a smile on the face of my wife and the laughter of the children. But is that everything? Sometimes I worry about their happiness. I get upset and I can’t sleep. Is that normal?”
“I have not had family for a long time, but yes, for me it was normal. To worry. This shows you are a good man, a good father. But for what good does it do them and yourself to worry like this? You can’t trouble yourself with such thoughts. They are important, your family, but you must stay strong. Because without you, they would be alone and sad.” For a moment the two of them were sat in perfect silence. The wind dropped and the crescendo of waves was held for the shortest time. And then the waves crashed, and the wind blew once more.
“And the sound of the ocean, that is important too.” The old man said.
“Why?” asked Henry.
“It is the most honest sound in the world.”
He left soon after, thanking Afonso for his time and hospitality and stepped back into the hot car, drove back down the coast, with the sun setting on the house and the dead metal statues and every time he looked into the rear view mirror there was a distortion of the bright and brilliant light that threatened to blind him.
© Nicholas J. Parr, 2016