Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.
Monday, November 26, 2012
There came today a warm rain, not the first rain of the season, but the first that did not drench with a chill. It was worth standing in and absorbing, as though it was a slow wash of nutrients for the body and mind, one in which it was impossible to not turn up the face, close the eyes and, for a few seconds, have an empty mind. Then I thought of San Carlos de Valle, nestled in the crevice between two small ranges of hills, in Castile-La Mancha. It was July when I was there, dry and hot, climate the vineyard owners love. The earthly palette of the place seems to be loaded with three colors, sky, tan fields and green vines, but those are a pleasing backdrop for this small town. It is a typical place for the area, narrow streets lined by thin sidewalks and flat-faced buildings adorned, here and there, with wrought iron on the windows or doors. There are many wooden gates hiding patches of gardens or grass in courtyards only a few feet wide and long. I arrived from the south, from Valdepenas. Coasting down the road between the two hills brought a self-created wind to my body, but I thought, as I picked up speed, how I missed the rain, how I wanted to be pelted by large drops at that very moment, along that road hot as a soldering iron. The ride down was too short; I needed a rest and found a small cafe just inside the south end of town, with views of the hills in one direction, and the narrow street lorded over by the massive towers of the church in the other. I slid my backpack from my shoulders and sat in one of the chairs, shaded by a large tile-roofed overhang. The waitress, maybe in her thirties, walked over instantly and before I could say anything she said, “I speak English.” I smiled, unable to reply because I was stunned by perfection of the woman’s features and skin. She wore no make-up, not even for the eyes, nothing to ruin what she was given naturally. I was embarrassed slightly by my staring, which was odd at that point in my life. I usually would have considered a woman of that age old, ready to retire. Finally, my parched and nervous voice came, “Just something to refresh me. A drink. A wine, I guess.” She told me her name was Marina, with a soft tone that matched the luscious look, and she would soon return with the perfect solution for my dilemma. She went inside and I opened the backpack, removed my tablet and wrote a few words, triggers to remind of what I wanted write on more extensively later. Marina returned, flowing and quietly, with a glass of red. It was chilled. “Rosado. For the weary wanderer.“ She glanced at my tablet and asked if I was a writer. With the glass at my lips I answered, “Kind of. At times.” The wine was better than rain, the cool of it soothed my tongue, mouth, throat and body with the first sip. “You know Hemingway?” I was not sure if she was serious when she asked and she gave no expression to help me. “No. I was seven when he died.” Marina laughed in a melodious and moist tone, “I will bring you another, when I see you are finished. Do not take long. Ernest.” Her hand brushed my shoulder, in a show of humor. I sipped and scribbled more words and sentences. I did not hear her behind me until she placed a bottle of the chilled Rosado on the table, along with a corkscrew, one with a gnarly handle of reddish root or wood. Then, she sat across from me, not looking my way, but at the hills. Her hair was shiny and black and vibrant, not what I would expect to find in a place like San Carlos during its harshest season. It was shoulder length, pulled back and held with a silver clasp, maybe three or four inches long. With her right hand she took some strands and smoothed them between her index finger and thumb. The strands fell onto the top of her shoulder. Naïve and young, I fumbled for words, “You have beautiful hair.” It was the best I could offer. She did not turn toward me, just continued to stare at the hills, “I love the rain. Often it arrives from over these hills. It feels good, warm, even in the hot of summer days. But it is so rare now. When it comes I collect it in the barrels in our courtyard and use the sweet water for my hair.” She gently collected the same stands and let them slide through her touch. “My husband works at the vineyard. All the men in San Carlos work at one vinyard or the other. They are so busy being men that they forget they have women.” Marina turned her body and attention toward me, “But, I have my hair and the rain. When it comes.” With that she stood and smiled, “Please open the wine at your leisure.” She gently touched the corkscrew and added, “You may keep this. I bought it in Toledo. When I came out of the small shop it started raining. I stood in the rain, without an umbrella. You are weary and it may bring rain for you during your trip. Or at another time when you need it.” Then, she walked away and greeted a couple at another table. I opened the cool Rosado, drank another glass of its magic, then gave the bottle to the couple. The corkscrew brought no rain for ten days, but when it came she was as beautiful as Marina.