5/16 Kew’s Corner: O Vulcão Desconhecido (The Unknown Volcano)

Slurping rum from her navel was but an ad-libbed response. After all, the room had no cups.

“I told you the octopus stew was an aphrodisiac….

Candle-lit foreplay in a cheap hotel overlooking the mid-Atlantic. She flung her hair back and moaned as he poured another shot. A precursor.

A solitary, introspective surf trip to these diamonds of greenery and black rock had morphed into an interlude of foreign lust. Miguel appreciated the islands, yes, but he also appreciated the creamy white skin of Marà­a’s belly. She was a worthy diversion from the hideous flat spell, the rain, the rental car, the lack of girls back home. He was a worthy diversion from the oppressive boyfriend, the rude sailors, the busy pub, and the monotony of island life.

It was October. This was supposed to be the transitional period of weather, when calm, sunny days would meet long-period swells rifling down from the Labrador Sea, dumping on the empty beaches of this island. A friend from the Algarve swore good waves existed here, but with no surfers to show him where. Soa aperfeiçoa, Miguel thought –“It sounds perfect.

Ten days of rain and futile circumnavigation of the island by car afforded lethargy and aggravation. Gasoline, food, and alcohol thinned Miguel’s wallet, and he was at wit’s end. Hangover after hangover, constipation, frustration, depression. No surf at home, no surf here. Spending money and feeling ill.

And then….

She was native to the island, born in her grandmother’s house, raised in the town that was famous on trans-Atlantic crossings. It was known as a pit stop, of sorts, and Marà­a was a bartender at the iconic harborside pub. Sex-starved male mariners were instantly drawn to her long, curly hair, her large breasts, her sultry good looks. To the men, Marà­a was a smiling oasis of bedroom fantasy amidst thousands of miles of Atlantic nothingness.

Miguel found himself atop a barstool one night, flirting with the bubbly Marà­a. She took an interest to his rugged handsomeness and dark skin. She was his age (24), and they had similar backgrounds in education, music, and career goals of traveling the world as flight attendants for TAP Air. Miguel mentioned he had surfed in France, Spain, Madeira, and Morocco, but not here, and time was ticking: his flight back to Lisbon was in two days.

“I know of one place you can surf, Marà­a said, pouring him his fifth pint. “I remember seeing somebody in the waves there. It’s a volcano. If you like, I can take you there tomorrow. It’s Sunday; I don’t have to work.

They rendezvoused at 9 a.m. It was the first sunny day in two weeks, warm and windless.

The drive across the island was long and scenic, one Miguel had seen several times during his stay. They passed vistas, ancient brick villages, cornfields, rows of purple hydrangeas. The road was empty–the island was either asleep or in church.

Marà­a veered onto a side road that Miguel had not noticed; he had driven past it many times. Nearing their destination, the terrain deteriorated into a fetch of dirt and stark cliffs. Marà­a parked beside a low stone wall fronting a plaque commemorating the volcano’s last eruption in 1957, blanketing the vicinity in black ash, killing everything. The place had been a desert ever since.

She led him down a thin trail to a wide valley, then up onto a dusty ridge offering a bird’s-eye view of the point, which was actually part of the volcano. The trail to the beach looked impassable, but what Miguel saw was enough to get him running back to the car for his surfboard: blue rights wrapped into the cove beneath the volcano, likely bigger than they looked, without a soul in sight. On Miguel’s last day, he found an exotic wave breaking off of a volcano in the middle of nowhere on an island in the middle of the Atlantic.

That night in the hotel room, after octopus stew and beers with Marà­a at her pub, Miguel had a volcanic eruption of his own, and it was equally as good.

A few days after rreturning home to the Algarve, he received an e-mail from her saying the volcano had spewed violently after forty-four years of dormancy–the surf spot was buried, gone forever. Miguel would not again visit the island; Marà­a was never heard from again.

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