Black Tears

Madeleine Beckman

Garrucha, land of the gypsies, where one moment the Moroccan man wearing the fez selling you pomegranates has skin dark as a cocoa bean, then black like an eclipse, then white as an Albino. He takes your money for the fruit and smiles, the tassel of his hat swaying.

There’s no telling when the enormous freighters carrying cargo from China and Africa and South America will pull in; no telling when the vendors draped in Indian and Mozambique print will tell you yet another story they swear happened, “is true.” You’ve heard this many times already. You listen, day after day. The stories keep you going, keep accumulating.

You don’t speak the language of Garrucha; don’t understand the peacocks strutting full-fanned across the narrow green along the seaside, but you’ve been told they are quite communicative, if you understand.

That day you ate your lunch on the patio of Casa Morelia, your eyes were on your plate, glass of wine, and then there they were, single file, emerging from the sea perched on their iridescent tails, aglitter in the afternoon sun. You didn’t question the waiter when he refreshed your glass of wine, asked if everything was OK. Didn’t he see the fish parading? Or was this nothing special to him? You said everything was fine, delicious.

You couldn’t see their tiny faces, only the intent with which they approached. The man selling ice cream on the boardwalk continued scooping dips onto cones. The mother paid her pesos for the child’s treat. The fish were almost across the planked path, having risen from the sand. You wanted to believe it was the afternoon Spanish sun, the red wine giving you visions.

You continued eating bread, soaking up the olive oil from the grilled sardines, their heads crisp as new pesetas. Then you stopped eating. They were at your feet. The fish. Their piercing eyes were fixed on you. They were crying obsidian tears. This stopped you mid-bite. The battalion of fish circled your ankles as the head of one fish remained lodged between your teeth. The tiny iridescent scales of the little army rubbed against your bronzed skin. Your ankles turned black with their tears.

Then they were gone, except there remained a trail of tiny wet prints.

You picked up your fork and continued eating, coughing each gulp down. Faint whispers grew louder, and you knew you were heading into hell. All those gypsy words, cheap as their coin belts you had thought, were the truth. Their timing was a little off and then—you didn’t really listen or believe.

You paid your check, strolled to the beach a bit light-headed, bought an ice cream cone and tried to ignore the echoes following, but the echoes won.

Madeleine Beckman writes poetry, fiction, memoir, and essays. She is the author of Dead Boyfriends, a poetry collection, and the recipient of awards and artist residencies in the U.S. and abroad. Madeleine is Nonfiction Editor for IthacaLit and Contributing Reviewer for The Bellevue Literary Review. She holds an MA in Journalism from NYU and an MFA in Creative Writing. Madeleine teaches in the Medicine & Humanism Program – NYU/Langone Medical Center and privately. You can reach her at: