I am haunted by all the space that I will live without you.Richard Brautigan
As I sit here alone at this lovely breakfast on board this opulent ship, recently docked at Key West, so many memories assail me and I fight hard not to start crying again. I was at another medical conference then, at the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, and you couldn’t join me. How lonely for you I was, and yet, I could send you a text and picture and we would talk all about it when I got home. But now I have no home, and no one to go home to because you are not here. Key West. I will go ashore and rent a scooter and motor over to 73 Mitchner Ave. W and look for a time long gone and locked behind a door of sweet memory. There is no key, but I will close my eyes and transport myself beyond. I will walk the sidewalks of the past, while unearthly critters scratch in the attic recesses of my mind. Cobwebs torn asunder by being here again, but confused because something …someone… is missing. You. I hold out my hand and pretend you envelope it in your huge, strong one, but only air caresses my skin.
Later, I am sitting on the beach, the selfsame beach where, 22 years ago, our then-youngest daughter got stung by a “sully fish” AKA Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish. My fault, telling her to pick up the “blue plastic bottle” floating in the water. I close my eyes and listen for your voice in the wind and the stirring of the palm fronds overhead, but I don’t hear you. I strain my ears, but all the voices are discordant, frequencies too high. A seagull approaches, very close, but I have nothing for him. I wonder if he is lonely, so I pat the sand between us and ask if he only wants a handout. He eyes me warily and flies away. Ah well. Answers that question. A Coast Guard helicopter beats out its rhythm in the sky over my head. So much Coast Guard but not my Coastie. I gather up my few belongings, brush the white sand from my legs, and remount my little scooter. I am trying Scotty Darling, but there is no joy without you by my side. Once again, my eyes fill with salty tears and I question for the hundredth time why you had to go so soon.
I return to the ship, slip into my swimsuit, and head for the rooftop garden where no one seems to hang out. It’s quiet, and I can lay on a lounger amidst the bougainvillea and moss ferns and cry all I want without observation. I try to get back into my virtual Functional Medicine seminars after falling so woefully behind, but they will not load and I am lulled right to sleep by the warm sun and distant steel drum music. Suddenly, feeling the sting of burning skin, I awaken, subtly realizing I am surrounded on every adjoining sofa by people watching a movie on the garden’s big screen. Mortified, I pretend to remain sleeping even though I need the ladies room rather urgently. It seems like hours before the film ends and my neighbors filter out. I gather up my cover-up and slink to my room where I launch into a fresh seizure of sobbing.
Scotty, everyone around me is walking around holding hands, laughing, looking lovingly into one another’s eyes and I never even see them because it was us! The music, voices, hum of the engines, the cry of seagulls blends together into a new language I never understood before. It speaks of hearts bleeding and broken beneath facades of smiles, of eyes swollen from tearful nights achingly staring at the moon through billowing curtains, ears straining to hear words of endearment in the cacophony of silence. The ship pulls away now from the bustling seaport where we once lived, but I did not find you there. My heart lies heavy and forlorn in my chest. And I am out to sea.
I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky. And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by.John Masefield