Susanna Avila

Susanna plucked a shrimp from the paper cone in my hand and held it over my head like a seal trainer. She laughed as I tipped my head back and opened my mouth, playfully wagging my tongue as I struggled not to laugh. She brought the shrimp to my mouth and I captured her long, graceful fingers between my lips and…hesitated. She gazed deep into my eyes as her laugh became a smile. My heart beat rapidly as I marveled at this beautiful Spanish woman and sucked her fingers into my mouth and my tongue savored the flavor of a thousand years of Spain. A seagull circling overhead cried with anger at the meal it had missed.

We bought the quarter pound of fresh shrimp from the fish market on the plaza and then walked under an umbrella along the cobblestoned waterfront of old Puerto de Santa Maria. The rain stopped after a while and we sat on the quay overlooking the ancient harbor where Christopher Columbus provisioned ships for his voyage of discovery. The sun came out again and steam rose from the puddles of water dotting the quay all around us. I laid back, knees bent, on the old, old wall of crushed shells and looked up at Susanna leaning over me, shielding my eyes from the bright sun. She smelled of flowers. Susanna always smelled of flowers. I breathed deep in the hollow behind her ear.

The musty odor of decaying sea wrack intruded, and the salty fragrance of the vast great ocean, the granite-like permanence of the old city, the brilliance of the deep blue dome of sky overhead, the whole of the world spread before us. Susanna. Our life ahead. I swallowed the shrimp and reveled in the beauty of Susanna’s dark, green eyes as she slowly slipped her fingers from between my lips. Her long, silky black hair framed her snow white face and fell onto my chest. I sat up and we sat cheek to cheek, wordless, the closeness of her tiny, frail body a comfort. I tightened my arm around her slender waist. My pulse throbbed as love for this woman raced through my veins.

The next time I walked along the ancient waterfront of Puerto de Santa Maria, I walked alone. Susanna was dead.