The Amazon. The great, ancient, grandmother of all water, the river of rivers, the source of les sources. He came to Brazil because he had heard of the man-eating Siren who lurked in the bottom of pools, sucking in men who gazed, Narcissus-like, into her depths. It was the ultimate death, the culmination of a life’s work chasing watery specters. His Significance throbbed, swelling as he thought of such a splendid end. If she would have him, he would come.
Actually, Phil’s first vision of her had been in the 1960s Brazilian cult classic, Macunaima. But there were plenty of other points of reference he’d culled over time. He was, after all, a virtual encyclopedia of water; it was his work, his passion, his bliss. There was the Odyssey, Moby Dick, Daryl Hannah in Splash. And then there was always Jaws, with her gaping, gleaming, gaping—did he think that already? No matter; he was always one for repetition—gleaming, gaping vagina dentata.
Forcibly, he pulled himself to the present. The ground was shaking beneath his feet. Turbulence. A stewardess was bending over him, pouring a clean long draught of—
"Water, Miss," he said firmly, clearing his throat. "I want water."
She pulled back her flow of Sprite with a startled, flustered quiver.
"Oh, I am so sorry, Sir," said the mocha goddess, her erect nipples dangling before him like grapes, the vine of her back knotty and firm. "Whatever can I do to make it up to you?"
Desiccated, his knees trembled, his sense of mission flagging before the corporeal splendor of this rare exotic hybrid of flesh and folklore.
"Not now," he said with difficulty, "I must save myself," brushing his knuckles across her breast before placing a firm, reassuring hand on her shoulder. "My Significance must lie elsewhere."
The other reason Phil Cummings was going to Brazil was to preserve a vast stretch of undeveloped Amazonian wetlands. Yet another Save the Rainforest! concert was in the works. On a pristine site 60 miles from any road, preparations were underway for the arrival of the international music elite. The first step, of course, was to build a road to the site. Next, they would landfill the spongy soil, thereby creating a firm infrastructure for the cluster of modest hotels that would house the one thousand volunteers and the approximately three hundred thousand eco-concertgoers who would attend.
For the camera crew, a platform in the very center of the Amazon had been specially constructed, to provide uninhibited views of the concert, situating the do-right rockers (all performing at a slightly reduced fee, plus expenses) in the pristine elements. Being a surging medusa of an aquifer, the river would not naturally yield such a calm eddy. Thus, a diversion dam had been specially created, so that this costly endeavor would not be interfered with by nature’s unpredictable swells. As a special enticement, a 40-mile stretch of river had been drained, and approximately 50 billion gallons of Evian had been flown in.
The woman behind this eco-extravaganza was the young coffee heiress Candida Bilao. She had surprisingly ceded the land to the enterprise one month prior— rumor had it that the jungle had rung seven days and seven nights with her cries, at the end of which time an exhausted Sting emerged from her hut, holding the deed to her private land preserve.
Business-like, Phil knocked once, or rather shook the reedy wall of her door, before stepping into her enclave. A simple straw number from the outside, its interior yielded something different entirely: a tented room, lined in deep pink satin and woven with rare orchids. The floors were hand-woven mats—approximately 1,000 hours worth. It was hot and steamy, yet there was a bowl of ice on the table. The air buzzed—was it his head? Or the sound of the sunken power generator, hidden from external view?
"Have a seat! I’ll be right in!" she sang in from the back room, her voice cool and rushing, but slightly dirty. "I’m just finishing up this grant proposal!" He sat on the couch. Nervously, he flipped through the magazines on the coffee-table without looking at them. They slipped, slightly sticky, through his fingers. He heard the rustle of beads on long strings, the doorway parted, and she stepped in, one long cocoa-colored leg after the other. For the first time he read the title of the magazine in his trembling hand: Tantric Sex Monthly. But now, here she was, standing long and lean before him, a diasporic lioness. She was pecan-tan—which is far more alluring when pronounced incorrectly—and her nipples were as hard as his nuts.
"I want to give you my Significance," he said to her, with as much subtlety as he could muster. "Some people say it’s like a Crazy Straw®."
Ten days later, the ice had melted, time stretched long and taut, and Phil had abandoned himself totally to his Tantric goddess. After his early eager misfires, she had helped him harness his Significance like a priapic rattler. Candida had been Sting’s disciple, and now Phil was hers. He gave himself over entirely to the perversions of Fate (trying not to think about Sting), and was slowly—slowly—laboring through his apprenticeship, keen sights set on—did I say slowly?—turning the situation around.
She gasped and pleaded. His Significance held firm, poised. For days now, they had been careening, caressing, cascading—or rather cascading, careening, caressing. And now, suddenly, laboring beneath her, Phil finally realized who he was, who she was, who they were together: an Amazon Steam Engine—fueled by water, sated by nothing.
Taking in and out her natural resources, churning churning, in and out, over and over, causing a friction that could light cities, if only it could last, if only—
He held the thoughtfully prepared document below her, the one stating that he, Phil, superceded Sting’s claim. Candida struggled, desire and need entangled in one thick rod, which she rode, or rode her, or was her, or was the Amazon or—
"Sign it," he commanded like the diasporic lioness-tamer he had become, "sign it, sign it!"
Her hand had scarcely feinted its signature across the page before the quill dropped from her grasp, limply, and a surge let go throughout her. The road halted, the eddy swelled, the dam was released, the half-built platform upturned, and the Evian was overcome by the raging dank sweet and slightly earthy rush of the Amazon.
Spent, but satisfied, Phil used his machete to cut a path through the dense foliage as he reflected on yet another successful mission. He had already messengered the new land deed off to his Rio lawyers with explicit instructions. He was confident they could negotiate the standard package: the bands would perform in a Rio studio, with live feed of the Amazon as their backdrop. Displaced Amerindian women in gogo garb would complete the aura of authenticity.
At the end of the day, or rather 10 days, Phil’s Significance had saved the rainforest from Save the Rainforest!
And now, there was only one thing left for him to do.
His machete finally met with no resistance. Phil had arrived at the pond which he had, through research and heavy blogging sessions, deduced was the lair of his fair Siren, his toothy mistress, his ultimate destiny. It really wasn’t so far from Candida’s hut after all.
Reeds swayed lightly as a gentle breeze aroused the humid, still air. The sound of leaves shuddering away from him in little concentric circles, round upon round of fluttering, reminded him of Bilao and her exquisite climax.
The water lay before him, flat and secretive. The lair of the Siren, the bed of eternity, his final resting place. He waited for a sign, the littlest sign would do, that she was there, waiting for him.
Suddenly the sun emerged bright from behind a swaying tree. Something gleamed in the water. A ray of piercing light, which made him squint. Her eyes? But he would not squint. Not at this moment, not at the moment. Her teeth? No time for questions, no time for hesitation, he was at peace. He dove.
Three minutes later, he emerged to the surface, sputtering, his foot cut by the errant beer bottle whose glint had enticed him nigh. Surely the remains of one of the workers, or some adolescent teenage villager out to sneak a smoke and a Bud. He felt like the sadly cheated Iron Eyes Cody. A tear trickled down his cheek.
She hadn’t wanted him. Was she still there? Had she ever been? Had he misinterpreted the signs? Programmed the wrong GPS? Had she forsaken him? Or was she trying to tell him something?
Candida, back in her land-bound lair, lounged lazily across her stripped bed.
He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t worthy. Not yet.
Recovering gently from her session, she brushed together a stack of fake deeds to the property on which she was a squatter.
Desolate, he sat on the banks, wrapping his bleeding foot in a stray palm frond; from his hair, he picked 50,000 species of bugs, none of which contained a salve for his bleeding heart.
She had done no real harm. But in the minds of Sting and Phil, the deeds had been real.
Phil, meanwhile, would return to New York City, home to the cleanest aquifer in all the U.S.A., not to mention the most lucrative grant-making organizations. Here he would launch Chaqua, his global water preservation outfit.
And what are men, anyhow?
The name was simply a combination of Chaste and Aqua, but to the uninitiated, it had an international flair that was devastating, irresistible.
Like pieces of paper and the trees from which they come, they are all interchangeable, in limitless supply.
And from there, from there, he would continue his singular mission: to protect virgin aquifers everywhere.
To men, she would always be whoever they wanted her to be.
He would return, he murmured to himself on his flight home, as he faded off, thinking about the mysterious Siren of the lake—a myth, a legend, a woman?
Her strong lean legs slipped through the familiar jungle path, and into the water. The pond subsumed her, welcoming her home.
And then he would be worthy. And then she would have him…
It didn’t matter… As long as they kept on coming.
…Or had she already?
V.S. Pearl, who lives in Gowanus, is currently completing a collection of eco-porn.