pulchritude of my mind’s isle

Fiction, 4/13/09

I open my eyes slowly, one at a time. Through the palm fronds I see the troposphere, electric-blue and stippled with white, and I start to feel the sun’s rays bearing down on my unshaded feet. It’s just after noon, I think, judging by the heat and the height of that glorious sun. I sit up, cradling my knees in my arms. Peering outside my palm-thatch bungalow, all I see is a near-unbroken expanse of blue—blue water, blue sky, with no partition between. The scent of brine wafts up with the breeze now and then, and the dull, incessant roar of the surf gradually fills my ears. I get up and walk toward the shore, the sand beneath my feet warm, white and ultra-fine, like powdered sugar. I stare out to sea, watching breakers a quarter-mile out turn aqueous somersaults over and over again. From this distance, the crash of each cresting wave mixes and coalesces into one, solid wall of sound. It’s comforting, this white noise surrounding me. Occasionally the exultant squawks of tropic birds and blue-footed boobies punctuate the static, but I don’t begrudge their cries. Who am I to complain? They belong here as surely as I do.

I walk the island’s perimeter, inspecting all that the tide has bequeathed me since its last ebb and flow. Seashells, strands of kelp, glutinous jellyfish—the usual flotsam at first. Further down I find bottles strewn across the shore, their insides stuffed with notes and letters, their necks stuck fast with cork. I’ve seen these before. Even without stooping down I recognize my looping scrawl, limning events and experiences from my past. I collect a few of the decades-old, barnacle-encrusted ones for safekeeping and kick the others aside. At length I see the glint of something metal embedded in the sand. It’s a rabbit’s-foot keychain, that hokey talisman of hapless half-wits. I figure it must’ve washed up for a reason, so I rinse it off and pocket the thing. Other than a still-good coconut, three bottled memoirs, and the charm, my jaunt proves largely fruitless, and I trek back to the bungalow.

I while away the hours walking, writing, fishing, and eating coconut. The pompano are plentiful today, and I catch several foot-long beauties throughout the sun-drenched afternoon. For dinner I have fish roasted with sea salt and coconut milk, which tastes alright, I guess. I’ve really been eating too many coconuts of late. Afterward I walk up the island’s lone hill to its flattened summit, where a curious sapling, sprouted not two months before, already stands five feet tall despite the lack of rain, its four branches even bearing clusters of delicate pink blossoms. I’m strangely drawn to this tree. How did it get here? And how does it thrive in such aridity? I sometimes water its roots with coconut shells filled from the wellspring, but this intermittent nourishment seems hardly adequate. Climbing the nearby palms, I carefully trim back their fronds to let more sunlight in. I find myself talking to the tree now, encouraging its growth with well-meaning words. Day turns to night as I cosset my pet. Eventually I lie down to sleep under its crown, sprawled out amidst the fallen petals blanketing the sand.

I close my eyes slowly, enveloping the world in darkness. All I see now is your face, smiling beatifically at me, inches from my own, and I know this is the real thing.

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