It’s raining like mad. It’s been raining for nearly a week. And to think a week ago we had sun and blue skies and I thought monsoon season was over.
Two years ago a friend invited me to her birthday gathering but I couldn’t go for some reason that I can’t remember now. Anyway I told her, tongue-in-cheek, not to worry because I was going to give her a present anyway. Then she said, “Oh, you don’t have to, just write me a story,” not knowing that it actually takes me more time to write a story than buy her something off a shop (as should be, I suppose). So I wrote her one. I never titled it, just called it a story for her.
I have very little memories now. All that was good I kept in a gilded strongbox in the attic; the rest I had swept away into the steps of the front porch and had heard the wind carry them west. I have no use for moments that slither in my veins, strangle my heart, make me weep. There is very little time for remembering, less so for crying.
Once a month I climb up to the attic and brush the cobwebs away, scaring the lizards. The strongbox sits in the middle of the room. The smell of pungent leather is strong among the dust motes that dance around me, singing, “Remember, remember” as I push the lid open. The good memories are stacked high upon another. I take them out of the box and set them aside on the floor, then tug the bottom of the box. It gives way and I peel the board up. There is a memory that the wind could not carry away.
There was once a young girl who loved the sea. High on the cliff that overlooked the world, she leaped into the air and frolicked with the wind as it took her on its back and flung her against the endless blue. There was no cold, there was no loss of breath. Only the blue and the sun that hovered uncertainly above it.
The sailors called her many names. Mermaid, siren, empress, monster. Her shadow skittered along from stem to stern and disappeared below the hull of the boat. A fisherman had tried to catch her with his nets, but she twisted gracefully from them, laughing, and the net pulled away from the fisherman’s hands. Stories of her passed from inn to inn in bottles of rum and they carved her figure on wood and put it on their prows to show deference as they crossed her waters.
For love could destroy. When the fury possessed her, the waves pulled away and the silence told of the destruction to come.
Only a fool dared to face the girl who loved the sea. He whistled as he sat on the beach and in mid-air she heard him. Now there was only the blue and the sun and his melody. When she surfaced, her feet carried her to him but he sang on, seeing nothing, for he was blind.
He had never been to the sea, he sang, but he had touched the corals and felt the creatures that squirmed under his fingertips. He had never stepped on a boat but he knew the smell of the wind when it changed its course. He had never tasted the brine but he had heard of the girl of the sea and he loved her because he was blind and she could not speak.
When he sensed her presence and begged her to name herself, she could only lay a cold hand upon his shoulder. He took her hand and laughed, saying, “Stay awhile and speak, or are you the girl who loves the sea?”
The sea breeze came and filled the silence. In the darkness, he felt her slip away and there was only the roar of the waves. The sea was calm that night and there was only the memory of her fingers and their veins of ice that he could keep.
I slide the memory back into the box and cover it with the bottom. I return the good memories to weigh upon it before I shut the lid and head downstairs, leaving the attic in its darkness. I have been told that if I were to draw the curtains, the light would come through the iron-wrought window and cast a shadow of the antiquated frame around the box like a door to heaven, and I would see the sea.