My art - Mangroves.
Illustration to the text of friend Anna Schneider.
Created for work - we publish the Literary Almanac.
Mangroves are a diverse group of plants that have been able to adapt to their tidal habitat because they have been able to develop a set of physiological adaptations to deal with the problems associated with low oxygen, salinity, and frequent flooding.
The story was written by my friend Anna Schneider
Find the man in the mangroves. I remember I laughed then ... damn it, this is Australia! Even if we find him, in what state? The vast territory of swamps is divided into squares, searches are carried out by water and from the air. Sometimes helicopters fly over the water so low that we, "water snoopers", do not hear each other. We have everything we need to search, but there is no main thing - time. Now that the third day has begun, it is going against us.
Someone calls mangroves forests, someone - thickets. But for me they have always been and will remain swamps. Inaccessible to man, beyond the control of his mind and knowledge - too small to embrace these innumerable hectares of trees growing right out of the water, whose bare roots look like the intertwined paws of thousands of huge spiders that have no end and no beginning. Mangroves are insidious to aliens: surprising to the human eye during the day, at night they become too fragile and dangerous, so that when you meet them the next morning you can say with confidence that these are just trees with unusual roots. The space narrows and the air itself is heated to the limit by the sun. It's getting harder and harder to breathe. And if it were possible to blame everything on methane vapors, which is abundant here, believe me, I would do it. But its concentration is too low to cause significant harm to a person, although this is quite enough for constant slight dizziness and nausea, which makes everything around you look even more fantastic. It seems that it is about these trees that a legend has been formed, according to which a traveler who has fallen into a mangrove thickets can lose his mind from the many hallucinations that he sees at every step. Provided, of course, that he can take a full step in these swamps.
Our search teams work practically without rest, replacing each other every twelve hours. It seems that we are warned about everything, passing on to each other - from mouth to mouth - like an incantation: spiders, water snakes, a host of mosquitoes ... but it only seems to us. We don't know anything - the truth is out there. Our main obstacle is mangroves, impregnable at high tide and impassable with the retreat of the water. Searching during the day is difficult or very difficult; but with the arrival of darkness, which sets in quickly on the swamps, reliably sheltering the mangroves from prying eyes, this becomes impossible. Nearly.
We keep looking. The yellow boats return to the shore empty. Nothing. And again in a circle. The last line of fatigue has been passed. Turning off the engine, I stop the boat. I look into the sky, where there is not a single star. All around me there is only darkness and the smooth rustle of swamps. I still remember how, after lighting a cigarette, I looked around. Aimlessly, just like that. And I saw him. I will not describe my path to those mangroves where I noticed a light. One thing was important - I knew I had found him.
The upper tier of wooden bridges, from which tourists inspect the mangroves. A twinkle. Weak, but still the same. There he is. Human. Smokes. Because of the darkness, he can only hear me. And he hears. But he doesn’t run. I felt strange then. Sometimes it happens: having overcome all the obstacles on the way to the goal, you suddenly realize that it has been waiting for you for a long time. We sat on the bridges all night. I did not ask about anything on Friday, who seemed to find me himself. He smoked and was silent a lot, and having finished another cigarette, he simply said that he would not return.
Of course, as a stranger in search of him, I could demand an answer. But I couldn't.
As if reading my thoughts, he chuckled, turning his face to the east, to the fierce, cold sun. Bulky and awkward, it slowly climbed into the sky. I've never seen him like this before. What is it? The sun? Why doesn't it shine like thick, pale flesh? The stranger turned sharply to me, looked up at me. Laughing, he suddenly fell silent, crumpled up an empty cigarette pack and threw it into the mangroves. He left as suddenly as he appeared. The only thing that I then remembered about him were his hands - nervous, with thin, long fingers.
... Maybe two weeks have passed since that night. In anticipation of a delicious breakfast, I idly leafed through the newspaper. Skipped a few headlines and - stopped. "Disappearance in the mangroves!": A note with a photograph, a short story about how all attempts to find a tourist in Australian mangroves, who turned out to be a talented young pianist, failed. I remember the words said about the boy by his classmates: “he was very worried about his face, you know, he was ugly ...”, I imagined them saying this, crowding in front of a journalist at school recess, and looked at the photo.
A wise, tired boy was looking at me from a newspaper page. He reminded me of the young Gainsbourg, also confident in the ugliness of his "face", who sang songs slowly and reluctantly, as if experiencing such pain, about which we can only say general phrases."