written by Don DeLillo - narrated by Michael Cerveris


I watched her walk toward the ramp at the tail section. Soon the props were turning. I went inside and saw Christa near the door. I got my bags and walked out to the road. Rupert was sitting on a bench outside the gift shop. I had to walk about ten yards down the road before I was able to catch his eye. I looked back at Christa. She picked up her suitcase. Then the three of us from our separate locations started toward the car.

I was beginning to learn when a certain set of houses would appear, where the worst turns were, when and on which side the terrain would fall away to a stretch of deep jungle. She sat next to me absently rubbing an insect bite on her left forearm.

We went to the same hotel and I asked for a pool suite. We followed a maid along the beach and then up the path to one of the garden gates. The way Christa reacted to the garden and pool, I realized she’d spent the previous night in one of the beach units, which were ordinary.

When we were alone, I followed her into the bathroom. She took some lotion out of her makeup kit and poured a small amount on a piece of cotton. Slowly she moved the cotton over her face.

“You were number seven,” I said.

“They took four, only.”

“You would have come back alone? Or stayed at the airport?”

“I have very little money. I didn’t expect.”

“They have no computer.”

“I have gone out. I have called them from the hotel where I was. They have different lists. Two times they could not find my name anywhere. And there is no way to know when a flight is canceled.”

“The plane doesn’t come.”

“This is true,” she said. “The plane doesn’t come and you know you have gone out for nothing.”

I held her face in my hands.

“Is this nothing?”

“I don’t know.”

“You feel.”

“Yes, I feel.”

She walked inside and sat on the bed. Then she looked toward the doorway, taking me in—a delayed evaluation. After a period of what seemed dead silence, I was aware of the sound of waves rolling softly in, and realized I’d been hearing it all along, the ocean, the break and run of moving water. Christa kept her eyes on me as she reached back toward her handbag, which was sitting in the middle of the bed, and then as she felt inside for cigarettes.

“How much money do you have?” I said.

“One hundred dollars, E.C.”

“Less than two trips out and back.”

“It’s amusing, yes. This is how we must count our money.”

“Did you sleep last night?”

“No,” she said.

“The wind was incredible. The wind kept blowing. It blew hard until dawn. I love the sound and feel of that kind of wind. It was warm, it was almost hot. It bent those trees out there. You could hear the rush it makes through the trees. That heavy rushing scatter-sound it makes.”

“When you heard how loud it was and felt how hard it was blowing, you could not believe it would be warm.”

When everything is new, the pleasures are skin-deep. I found it mysteriously satisfying to say her name aloud, to recite the colors of her body. Hair and eyes and hands. The new snow of her breasts. Absolutely nothing seemed trite. I wanted to make lists and classifications. Simple, basic, true. Her voice was soft and knowing. Her eyes were sad. Her left hand trembled at times. She was a woman who’d had troubles in her life, a hauntingly bad marriage, perhaps, or the death of a dear friend. Her mouth was sensual. She let her head ease back when she listened. The brown of her hair was ordinary, with traces of gray, short strokes or flashes that seemed to come and go in varying light.

All this I said to her, and more, describing in some detail exactly how she appeared to me, and Christa seemed pleased by these attentions.

We used the morning in bed. After lunch I floated in the pool. Christa lay naked in the shade, moving farther into it whenever the sun line reached her elbow or the edge of her pink heel.

“We must start thinking,” she said. “There is the plane at five.”

“We’re not even wait-listed anymore. We left without telling them to move up our names. It’s useless.”

“I must get out.”

“I’ll call later. I’ll give them our names. We’ll see what the numbers are. We can leave tomorrow. Three flights tomorrow.”

She draped herself in a large towel and sat on the steps that led to the patio. It was clear there was something she wanted to say. I stood at chest level in the water.

This was the fourth day she’d been trying to get off the island. She had begun to be deeply afraid these past twenty-four hours. The ordeals at the airport, she said, had made her feel helpless and pathetic and lost. The strange way they spoke. Her diminishing supply of money. The cab rides through the mountains. The rain and heat. And the edge, the dark edge, the inwrought mood or tone, the ominous logic of the place. It was all dreamlike, a nightmare of isolation and constraint. She had to get off the island. We would have these hours together. This episode, she called it. But then I must help her get out.

She looked solemn in her white towel. I bobbed several times in the water. Then I climbed out and went inside to call the airline. A man said he had no record of our names. I told him we had valid tickets and explained some of our difficulties. He said to come out at six in the morning. We would all know more.

We had dinner in the suite. With a pencil I sketched her face in profile on the back of a linen napkin. We took our dessert out to the garden. I sketched her again, full figure this time, on a piece of hotel stationery. The ocean. The coastal sweep.

“You paint, then?”

“I write.”

“Yes, a writer?”

“What is it that smells so fantastic? Is that jasmine? I wish I knew the names.”

“It’s very pleasant, a garden.”

“Aside from getting out, just getting off the island, do you have to be somewhere at a particular time?”

“I have to fly Barbados–London. There are people who are meeting me.”

“People waiting.”


“In an English garden.”

“In two small rooms, with babies crying.”

“You smile. She smiles.”

“This is a tremendous thing.”

“A secret smile, this smile of hers. Deep and private. But engaging all the same.”

“No one has seen this in years. It hurts my face to do.”

“Christa Landauer.”

A man came with brandy. Christa sat in an old robe. The night was clear.

“You have a desire to go unnoticed,” I said.

“How do you see this?”

“You want to be indistinct. I see this in different ways. Clothes, walk, posture. Your face, most of all. You had a different face not so long ago. I’m sure of that.”

“What else do we know about each other?”

“What we can see.”

“Touch. What we touch.”

“Speak German,” I said.


“I like hearing it.”

“Do you know the language?”

“I want to hear the sound. I like the sound of it. It’s full of heavy metal. I know how to say hello and goodbye.”

“This is all?”

“Speak naturally. Say anything at all. Be conversational.”

“We will be German in bed.”

She sat with one leg up on a chair, out of the robe, and held her brandy glass and cigarette in the same hand.

“Are you listening?”

“To what?”

“Listen carefully.”

“The waves,” she said.

In a while we went inside. I watched her walk to the bed. She moved a pillow out of the way and lay back on the bed, looking straight up, one arm hanging over the side. With her index finger she tapped cigarette ash onto the floor. Smoke climbed along her arm. Women in random positions, women lazing, have always aroused in me a powerful delight, women carelessly at rest, and I knew this image of Christa would become in time a recurring memory, her eyes open and very remote, the depths of stillness in her face, the shabby robe, the bed in disarray, the sense she conveyed of pensive reflection, of aloneness and somber distances, the smoke that rose along her arm, seeming to cling to it.

I called the desk. The man said he would have someone come with breakfast at four-thirty and would have Rupert sitting outside in his taxi at five.

The wind came up suddenly, rattling the louvres and blowing right through the room, papers sailing, the curtains lifted high. Christa put out her cigarette and turned off the light.

When I opened my eyes, much later, the desk lamp was on and she sat in a chair, in her robe, reading some papers. I tried reaching for my watch. The door and louvres were shut but I could hear rain falling.

“What time is it?”

“Go to sleep.”

“Did we miss the call?”

“There’s still time. They will ring the bell by the gate. An hour yet.”

“I want you next to me.”

“I must finish,” she said. “Go to sleep.”

I managed to prop myself on an elbow.

“What are you reading?”

“It’s work. It’s very dull. You don’t want to know. We don’t ask, you and I. You’re half sleeping or you wouldn’t ask.”

“Will you come to bed soon?”

“Yes, soon.”

“If I’m asleep, will you wake me?”


“Will you slide the door open a little, so we can feel the air?”

“Yes,” she said. “Of course. Whatever you wish.”

I lay back and closed my eyes. I thought of those sand islands out there, two days’ sail, and surf flashing on the reefs, and the way the undersides of the gulls looked green from the bright water.

Again, again, the broad-leaved trees and tangled lowlands, the winding climb through smoke and rain. Some circumstance of light this particular morning gave the landscape a subtle coloration. Distances were not so vivid and living. There was only the one deep green, with elusive shadings. We were in the late stages now, about forty-five minutes out, and I was thinking it could still change, some rude blend of weather might yet transform the land, producing texture and dimension, leaps of green light, those waverings and rays, and the near consciousness we always seem to find in zones of overgrown terrain. Christa rubbed her neck, sleepily. I kept peering out and up. In the foreground, along the road, were women in faded skirts, appearing in twos and threes, periodically, women coming into the damp glow, faces strong-boned, some with baskets on their heads, looking in, shoulders back, their bare arms shining.

“This time we get out,” Christa said.

“You feel lucky.”

“We don’t even wait. First flight.”

“What if it doesn’t happen?”

“Don’t even whisper this.”

“Will you go back with me?”

“I don’t listen to this.”

“It’s crazy to stay,” I said. “Seven- or eight-hour wait. We’ll know our status. I’ll check everything with the man. Rupert will wait for us. He’ll take us back to the hotel. We’ll have some time together. Then we’ll come back out. We’ll get the two o’clock flight, or the five, depending on our status. The important thing right now is to clarify our status.”

Rupert listened to the radio, his shoulders leaning into a snug turn.

“Do you enjoy this so much?” she said. “Back and forth?”

“I like to float.”

“This is not an answer.”

“Really, I like to float. I try to do some floating every chance I get.”

“You should go back. Float six weeks.”

“Not alone,” I said.

She had on the same gray dress she’d been wearing two days earlier, in the dirt road outside the terminal, when I’d turned to see her standing politely to one side, her face contorted by the strong glare.

“How much longer? I know this place.”

“Minutes,” I said.

“This is where we nearly went off the road, the first time out, when smoke came pouring out of the front. I should have known then. It would be disaster to the end.”

“Rupert wouldn’t let that happen, Rupert, would you?”

“Watching the whole car disappear in smoke,” she said.

I looked over at her and we both smiled. Rupert tapped the steering wheel in time to the music. We passed some houses and climbed the final grade.

I took Christa’s ticket and asked her to wait in the taxi. The luggage would also stay until we were sure we’d be able to board. Several people mingled outside the terminal. A heavyset man, Indian or Pakistani, stood by the door. I’d seen him near the counter the day before, hemmed in, sweating, in a striped blazer. Something about him now, an attitude of introspection, his almost eerie calm, made me feel I ought to stop alongside.

“There is a rumor it went down,” he said.

We didn’t look at each other.

“How many aboard?”

“Eight passenger, three crew.”

I went inside. There were only two people in the terminal and the counter was empty. I went behind the counter and opened the office door. Two men in white shirts sat facing each other across desks arranged back to back.

“Is it true?” I said. “It went down?”

They looked at me.

“The flight from Trinidad. The six forty-five. To Barbados. It’s not down?”

“Flight is canceled,” one of them said.

“Outside they’re saying it crashed in the goddamn ocean.”

“No, no—canceled.”

“What happened?”

“No opportunity to take off.”

“Winds,” the second one said.

“They had a whole ray of problems.”

“So it was only canceled,” I said, “and there’s nothing major.”

“You didn’t call. You have to call before coming out. Always call.”

“Other people call,” the second one said. “That’s why you’re coming all alone.”

I showed them the tickets and one of them wrote down our names and said he expected the plane to be here in time for the two o’clock departure.

“What’s our status?” I said.

He told me to call before coming out. I walked through the terminal, now deserted. The stocky man was still outside the door.

“It’s not down,” I told him.

He looked at me, thinking.

“Is it up, then?”

I shook my head.

“Winds,” I said.

Some kids ran by. Rupert’s cab was parked in a small open area about thirty yards away. There was no one at the wheel. When I got closer I saw Christa lean forward in the backseat. She spotted me and got out, waiting by the open door.

It would be best to start with the rumor of a crash. She would be relieved to hear it wasn’t true. This would make it easier for her to accept the cancellation.

But when I started talking I realized tactics were pointless. Her face went slowly dead. All the selves collapsing inward. She was inaccessible and utterly still. I kept on explaining, not knowing what else to do, aware that I was speaking even more clearly than one usually does to foreigners. It rained a little. I tried to explain that we’d most likely get out later in the day. I spoke slowly and distinctly. The children came running.

Christa’s lips moved, although she didn’t say anything. She pushed by me and walked quickly down the road. She was in the underbrush behind a tarpaper shack when I caught up to her. She fell into me, trembling.

“It’s all right,” I said. “You’re not alone, no harm will come, it’s just one day. It’s all right, it’s all right. We’ll just be together, that’s all. One more day, that’s all.”

I held her from behind, speaking very softly, my mouth touching the curve of her right ear.

“We’ll be alone in the hotel. Almost the only guests. You can rest all day and think of nothing, nothing. It doesn’t matter who you are or how you got stuck here or where you’re going next. You don’t even have to move. You lie in the shade. I know you like to lie in the shade.”

I touched her face gently with the back of my hand, caressing again and again, that lovely word.

“We’ll just be together. You can rest and sleep, and tonight we’ll have a quiet brandy, and you’ll feel better about things. I know you will, I’m sure of it, I’m absolutely convinced. You’re not alone. It’s all right, it’s all right. We’ll have these final hours, that’s all. And you’ll speak to me in German.”

In a light rain we walked back along the road toward the open door of the taxi. Rupert was at the wheel, wearing his silver medal. He had the motor running.


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