Story: The Stone House
By: JP Miller
From the kitchen door of the stone house, one could see as far as the Red Hook ferry dock on St. Thomas. Down below the calm water and just off the beach on Cruz bay was a patchwork of an underwater living garden. Blue, green, and yellow coral dotted and streaked across the teardrop shaped bay. The beach was bleached coral white and the small secluded bay touched the clear, light green water. It was protected on each side by mangroves, providing a haven for sun worshippers. A few tourists were stretched out on towels and nude under the relentless sun. St. John had changed very little in twenty years.
The stone house sat alone, atop this shaded hill. The stones making up the squat and lonely abode were as multi-colored as the coral. They looked like old ballast stones worn to smooth pillows by sand and time. Sun bleached coral was included in the brick walls and caulked in carefully with white concrete mixed with sea shells. I immediately felt at home but my loneliness was multiplied inside me.
In the twenty years I was away from St. John, I had been a soldier and was wounded by a supersonic piece of shrapnel. The hot metal had pierced my lower back and was I lucky to walk again. The fucking Army let me go after ten years and I was thankful. I went straight to University where I distinguished myself by becoming an average student with an average life and an average allegiance to the academic and social world around me. I believe I learned nothing but how to get along. I was over that bullshit.
The back of the stone structure was a large screened dorm like an afterthought with hammocks and cots scattered about. There was a layer of dust and sand throughout the house that made it look abandoned. The doors were wide open and weathered. The storm shutters were loose and the trade winds banged them against the large louvered windows faced forward to the bay. I opened them fully and locked them down. I got the feeling no one had used this place since Christina and I had left. We had gone our separate ways all those years ago but the permanent strings still plucked on my heart.
The worn driftwood bed was still there in the front room but the sheets looked sun bleached and ragged as if they were left untouched and would fall apart in my hands. I tore the sheets from the bed and it lay bare. I sat sagging under the weight of twenty years. The old mattress was springy and noisy as I sat and remembered all the times Christina and I had rolled around this bed and made love under the red tile roof. I felt like an intruder and I suppose I was, although I had spent three years in the stone house so many years ago, and had my own ghosts in this colored stone mausoleum.
Twenty years ago, I had come to the islands after one year in a small college which I totally ignored and which eventually flunked me out. I came here because I was restless then. I had read Hemingway, Jack London, and the autobiography of Errol Flynn and was sure my future was adventure. I went looking for the unfamiliar, the distant, and the dangerous. I wanted to experience life not read about someone else’s life. And, not surprisingly, in the islands there was enough life to go around.
Originally, I spent my time on St. Croix, the biggest of the islands, as a bartender and a waiter for a restaurant and club. I made plenty of money off tourists but moved to St. John after Christina and I came together. We moved into the stone house and spent those three years in a semi-solitary, simple, domestic everydayness that was as true and quiet as our love for each other. Frequently, when the wind shifted, we sailed an old wooden boat named “WICKED” from island to island. We also anchored off the islets that dotted the crystal water and dived to spear our dinner. At that time, I was blinded in my content and merely happy to be living. I never had a thought or a doubt that it would end; that it would end in such a melancholy, sun burned, whimper of love and loss. I suppose that we were too young to realize that love was more than making love and less than starry dreams. She used to tell me that our relationship “was divined in the deep heavens of the starry skies”. I always loved when she talked that way. She was part human and part goddess. She collected shells, sea glass, and exotic plants to adorn the stone house—talismans against collected bad feelings and crooked thoughts. She showed me how to write down bad thoughts and feelings on small pieces of paper and light them on fire, forever riding myself of that bad karma. Christina was a deeply spiritual person, rooted in the earth, while I was simply oblivious to what the earth offered. So she taught me how to love the simple tasks of domesticity and the larger efforts to appreciate the earth and sea. I soon became an expert at diving and gained a deep respect for the Caribbean water and islands, so warm and womblike.
Christina was a young but wise girl. She was well ahead of her time. She campaigned for environmental causes and confronted tourists about their misuse of the island and schooled them on its history and the islands extraordinary beauty. It was beautiful then. Lime trees, Mangos, Passion fruit, coconut palms, sea grapes, red turpentine trees, and healthy mangroves covered the island. The closest settlement was down the steep hill to Folly bay where tourists clamored for local art and painted t-shirts and cheap Cruzan rum. The bars where plentiful and the drinks were cheap. During season, the small settlement was almost always crowded with day trippers, escapers, and wanderers like me. There were reggae concerts during the tourist season and the sound carried up the hill and across the water to St. Thomas.
Actually, I first met Christina on the flight to St. Thomas from Charleston, South Carolina and during the flight we spoke about nearly everything she could invent. Her seat was the window seat while I sat in the middle seat. We, or rather she, talked with passion for the islands and often she would interrupt her speech with longing stares out the window. I could sense her excitement during the entire flight. She told me that her family was from the Virgin Islands and I could see that from her permanently cinnamon, nut colored skin. Her eyes were pools of light brown water and she stood a little more than half my height. She wore her ever present khaki shorts which gave me a good look at her smooth brown legs. Even her feet, freed in sandals, were suntanned to a permanent and even, light, sugar brown.
There was nothing I could tell her about my own family since I was an orphan and had spent many years hopping from one foster family to the next. I told her very little of the relative doldrums of my own life and my hopes for adventure in the islands. She was a sexually charged, exotic princess filled with wonderment and backed with survival skills that were beyond my comprehension. I was a mere plain white American black Irish refugee with green eyes from Charleston, South Carolina where I had earned my passage to the islands on board a shrimp boat. Nothing special. But she spoke to me with such confidence and excitement that her beauty and voice rubbed me as if I were someone, someone with hope and strength.
“So, you are stopping in St. Croix? Your first time, huh?”
She quizzed me on my plans since I avoided my past.
“Well, yeah…I mean yes it’s my first time in the islands and yes, I am getting off in St. Croix.”
“What are you planning to do in St. Croix?”
I really didn’t have an answer to that question since my plans extended only to get to the islands so far.
“I really haven’t thought too far in advance. I suppose I mean to explore the island and move on to the next…that is unless I like it and find a job.”
She smiled at me through a beauty that nearly caused me to choke on my drink. That’s how it was. I had never met a woman like her and certainly wasn’t used to talking so much. I had learned that reticence was survival in a world of shifting foster homes and governmental control of my bare life.
“Well, you will love the island and this time of year—holidays—they are the best time to find a job.”
She fished in her small leather bag and wrote down an address on a small pad. She handed me the note.
“Go to this place, Club Comanche, and ask for Dick. They will hire you. It’s a wonderful place and the tips are good.”
I smiled, put the note in my wallet, and thanked her. Yet, I had no ideas about what a club in the islands would be like nor did I think I had the confidence to inquire for a job in such a strange and foreign environment.
“Where are you from and what did you do before your escape to the islands?”
After flunking out of college, the last job I had was hauling up nets aboard a leaky, rust stained shrimper and had no skills aside from sorting the catch or navigating the sound. Of course, I was a little ashamed of my past but something told me to be honest. Maybe, just maybe, she would find something there, where I had found nothing.
“I am from Charleston…South Carolina. I didn’t do much but work on shrimp boats since I can remember.”
“Shrimper, huh? Never met one before although I can imagine it must be rough work. You’re tall and gangly and strong looking enough. My ancestors were fishermen and basket weavers, generations ago.”
I let this sideways compliment soak in. And, the flight took on a sort of secret amazement as I let her talk about herself and kept my mouth shut.
“Well, you see, I am from St. Thomas originally and my family has an estate there as well as a place on Cape Cod. I shuffle back and forth. My mother is from Cuba and my father is a native of the Virgin Islands. She speaks mostly Spanish and my father prefers English.”
We hit it off so quickly, and I was so enamored with her that as she disembarked at the St Thomas airport, I missed her company immediately. I thought and said out loud, “no”, I will never get to see her again. I just never have that kind of luck. When she kissed me on both cheeks as a goodbye and said “Ciao”, I continued on to St. Croix with nothing but the warmth of Christina’s lips on my cheek and the scent of vanilla from her olive skin all over me. I can hardly remember disembarking in St. Croix and simply thinking that this was just the beginning of some great adventure and the end of another. I was young and full of myself.
Oh, I got a job bartending and waiting tables at the Club Comanche. The owner, Dick, was a strange but wise man. He was obviously rich and enjoyed the late dinners at the club. He reminded me of Buddha. Dick was a guide and father to me. I had never known what a father figure was like. He was patient with me as I learned the restaurant and club business. The other waiters and bartenders and cooks treated me like one of them although I was the only white person on the crew.
The Club Comanche was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was a genuine island restaurant and popular, looking over the bay with huge ceiling fans and giant palms poking out around the second floor. A glance out the back and an infinity pool drew you straight to the stars. The woven reed chairs were like thrones and the people were gregarious. Some of them were famous actors and writers. The champagne flowed and it reminded me of Hemingway’s life in the 1920’s. The women dressed in thin white cotton dresses, dotted with pearls of shiny complicated knitting. The men wore black or white dinner suits with perfect, white, stiff collared shirts. No matter how warm it got, the men sat stiff and sweaty with small silk and cotton handkerchiefs in their hands, wiping away the salty sweat. The Monsignor and his entourage dressed in starched white splendor with huge crucifixes hanging from their necks. He held court and I watched as the priests groveled and the diners came and paid their respects. Dick always had a good laugh with the Monsignor while gossiping at all the tables
Local women wore sarongs in earthy colors which showed off their shoulders and rich, dark, smooth skin. They wore locally made sandals of palm reed and hemp that emphasized their pink and coral colored toe nails. Their hair was usually put up to capture the breeze that came off the bay. The Comanche was a time capsule then, transporting me to the most glamorous and extraneous dot in the world. When compared to my dirty and mundane life aboard fishing boats, the Comanche was all magic. Time seemed to slow and then reverse. I loved working there so much that I forgot about my plans to move on to the next island.
I worked the bar on most evenings. And In the late evening, when the early guests had retired, the locals and some brave tourists off private yachts would sit at the bar and we would talk until three in the morning. The bar tabs piled up and I reaped the tips. It wasn’t just the money I made but the money all around me. How people lived in such lonely splendor escaped me and soon they all told the same stories. I listened and learned. And, I remember talking to a famous woman writer that I should have known but I didn’t. She was overdressed but elegant in the failing light of the club. She smoked and talked while I sat on a cushioned stool, arms crossed and eager.
She rambled on, over double Manhattans and stayed on until everyone had left. When I finished closing the bar, she just looked at me and sighed. She sat there mute and staring until the tears came and she dropped her head. She didn’t make a noise but the tears rolled heavy down her cheeks. She didn’t bother to move. I came from behind the bar and walked to her. I sat beside her and then she hugged me from behind. She was crying because she had to cry. And, I held her. When she finally left, I felt a little guilty as I cleared away the bar. But inside of me, I just knew that she wouldn’t want to wake up beside a twenty year old kid like me.
Most nights the club was a crescendo of activity. It was dynamic and the noise was so loud that I had to lean across the bar to let people scream their drink order into my ears. The noise and light was stultifying around eleven in the evening. I served more and more drinks and platters of local food as the holiday season progressed. I was tired but happy.
A man who was called Beacher and was a regular at the bar offered me a berth on a houseboat he owned down at Gallows Bay. I had been staying in a room at the club but the chance to widen my vision of the island was easy to accept. The houseboat was a floating wreck and listing until I pumped the bilge dry and plugged the holes. During strong winds the boat shook and yanked against the pilings and I could only hope that the old ropes would hold. I got used to it eventually although the other boat people would merely walked by and shake their heads.
The ominous sounding name of the bay shook me at first but it turned out to be a small fishing village filled with children running around chasing their dogs between the small canoe- shaped fishing boats. There were older locals who repaired nets and worked on their wooden boats. I walked back to the houseboat at around three every morning and there were no sounds except snoring and barking dogs coming from that village. Never once did anyone hassle me. Often, I would juxtapose the scene in the Club Comanche to these villages. I admit that I loved them both regardless of the unfortunate and stark differences between the two. The villagers lived and loved in some kind of abandonment and acceptance of others with the indifference of the sea.
After some time, I joined the club scene. It was the oddest collection of people, music and atmosphere that I had ever seen. Here, in this strange and distant collection of islands, rum was king. It was like a random selection of the rich and poor, sad and funny, silent and eccentric had landed right on top of me—each one of us passing over the counter every kind of currency there was for a drink, some dollars, some pot, some blow, or some anonymous sex. St. Croix during the early 80’s was a hedonistic colony of pure chance. It was ecstatic at times, moving to a crescendo of release while other times before the big boats came in the harbor it was a collective sigh of rum-soaked locals.
If I had an early evening and everyone had moved to the Egret, the only place for me was The No-Name Café. It was a meeting place for tourists, locals, natives and a little trouble. It was a hustler’s paradise. The tourists stayed at the long mahogany bar and we watched them. We sat in the back around the only twist in that bar and sat on black couches, watching and hunting. Often in one night we would spend every dollar we had earned in twelve hours in just three hours. It was a little dark and a little crowded and each group traded favors or coke or smoke. With the Rastas, we could smoke spliffs way in the back and we drank rum and snorted coke off a girl’s compact mirror out in the open. There were tourists who had saved for a year just to have a week on the island. There were the slumming rich looking shameful and desperate. And the Rastas hung outside, some with machetes looking tough and edgy. But we had the best seats. The working locals, black, brown, and white, sat on the edge looking for a partner, nightly if available and long term if she had enough money.
My life became a regular hustle between work and the clubs.
When off-season came, the carnival stopped or rather quieted some. Seasonal workers from the restaurant and hotel businesses left for Antigua, Nevis, St. Kitts and Grenada, bringing home their earnings to families left behind. The restaurants thinned and the rum sat on the shelves. My first off-season was a disconcerting disappearance of the club scene. Only locals came to my bar and I went to their bar, trading the few tips we had. I found myself as an invisible man.
The rains came and the wind blew from Africa. The storms laid off the islands working themselves in to hurricanes. We watched them slid on by and none had made a fuss. Yet, the sun would shine on most days. I remained at my post, poor and forgotten. Then the world gave me a flip and Christina showed up. She sat at the bar and asked for a mineral water and some red wine. I knew it was her right away. Her hair was longer, her tan was deeper, and her manner was ebullient. I stared at her straight in the face and counted my blessings.
“Ha! Jack, how are you?”
For a moment, I was catatonic looking at her looking at me. She was the last person I expected to hop up to my bar. And, hop she did. Her relative height made the hop inevitable. She had that indomitable smile. I felt rejuvenation in her spirit.
“Christina, what are you doing here? I thought you were in St. Thomas.”
“Oh that. Well, I went home for a few days but I have been staying at a house we have on St. John– not much more than a shack but above the bay and away from the village. I have always loved it there.”
“What are you doing here now? I mean are you here to party or conduct business or weep in your beer like the rest of us. Off season—but you know that.”
“No…No…and No. I am here to get you.”
What could I say to that? Let’s see, the tips were dead, the town was empty, and the usual suspects found an excuse to leave. I had stayed on at the Club out of sheer boredom and a kind of loyalty and usefulness. But, I wanted to leave now.
“Get me…? That’s a good one. As you can see I am working.”
She dismissed my words in order and I knew that I was the one. She had come back to see me. She had picked me.
“No really….season’s over. Nobody else is sitting at the bar unless you count that ghost, Beacher. Want to leave and go to St. John? I’ll show you some things. We have a place to stay.”
I was untying my apron and grabbing my tips before she could swallow her water. She spoke as I went to find Dick, my friend, the owner and the wisest man I had ever met. When I told him that I had to quit, Dick already knew.
I stood at his grand desk.
“You have been good to me, boss. But, I gotta see about a girl. Sorry to put you out.”
“No problem, Jack. I kind of wondered if you were planning on living at the bar. You know, it was depressing to see you every lunch. Go. Have a good time. The club will still be here when you come back.”
“But I don’t know, I mean, I can’t really say if I’ll be back. Christina…?
“Jack, you will be back. This I know. But take off and I’ll hold your next pay.”
And just like that I was strolling down No.1 Strand Street, Christiansted, St Croix with the most exotic and attractive woman on the island. I was enjoying this shit.
I remember thinking that if she came to get me, I was not…nothing. I could shake off that conventional, state side dullness and jump into the fire. I wanted adventure and I wanted her. We went straight to the Chalks plane.
“We will get off in St. Thomas and take the ferry to St. John. It’s the only way to the island except by private boat. You will just love it. I know it.”
After the short hop to St. Thomas, we took a cab from the Chalks planes, down the twisty coastline road to Red Hook. It was the ferry dock that sent curious tourists across the bay to St. John. It was longer than I thought and choppy. Christina stood at the bow watching the water while I dozed on my pack and made use of the Palm hat on my head. I was already tanned but the sun off the water will blind you and I covered my face. Christina woke me as we approach St. John.
Folly bay was empty of tourists except a few semi-permanent wanderers that couldn’t seem to leave behind the island life. We took one of the paths up the hill. I was humping my complete pack but Christina carried a small leather pouch and water container. She told me about the island, its history, and the dangers that overwhelming tourism brought. The path was steep and I stopped frequently to gain my breath. Christina practically pulled me up that hill the first time. She avoided the formal tourist road and climbed less worn paths.
Christina opened the stone house and sat me at the small kitchen table where she made me some herbal tea. Then, the house was solid and firm and filled with pictures, figurines, native art, and what seemed to my eyes as a very large bed made from washed up wood, cut nails, and an iron backing that was twisted into a sort of god like creature that I swore was Aztec. The back room was a neatly arranged dorm of wood and screens. The cots were lined side by side and each had a mosquito net draped across in a silky web. There were some slung hammocks tied with great big knots, wide enough for two. I lay on one of the cots with my tea and watched Christina come straight at me and plunk right beside me. For a twenty year old orphan with no developed sense of life’s appreciations, never even ever having a proper love affair or even a friendship like this, I was delighted and thankful. When I finished my tea, I really kissed Christina for the first time and she returned the favor. I made love to her in that hammock and eventually both of us fell asleep rocking gently port and starboard with the trade winds licking us. If one can remember sleeping, then I can recall that nap. I had never had such a refreshing sleep, one that relaxes your heart for sacred moments in ancient dreams.
The rainy season came to us and it was like a monsoon at times. On the sunny days, Christina went wind surfing to and fro and I learned to dive 50 feet to spear a giant grouper or snapper. We would take the sailboat to a reef and play with the turtles. We speared spiny lobster which was the best thing I have ever eaten. Our routine was not much. We woke up and had coffee and some bread and butter or cheese. Then whoever had the first idea for the day, we made it happen.
On every Friday night, there were gatherings at the old amphitheater to watch movies on sheets hung on a rope between trees and weighted down by tied on rocks and shells. The projector was a complaining old 35 millimeter behemoth that had to be stopped and reset often. We sat on the curving half-moon of the amphitheater. The brick seats were worn and pitted but we leaned on each other drinking cheap wine and playing grab ass. If you really wanted some privacy then you would walk up the steps near the top and lay on the cool bricks, the noise from the projector muffling the romance. The movies were from the 40’s and 50’s. Most of the time, the movies were romantic comedies or ancient looking war pictures. But, often, and because the projectionist was French Patois’, we enjoyed more modern French and Italian films by people named Godard or Bertolucci and Fellini. In the off-season, only the most localized inhabitants knew about the movies. The smell of pot permeated the area, creating a thin cloud between the screen and us. It was a meeting place for the few and the new to meet. The light flickered on the trees and bricks all around us. I felt like I was in Socrates’s cave. We were so covered and secure. There was never a moment of animosity between local and local or tourist and local. The only thing that mattered was that we were living and living well. We were a peaceful tribe and shared what we had with each other, even if it was nothing.
At the stone house, we sat out the rainy season with wood fires in the small stone hearth to cook some fish, drank wine and talked about endless dreams.
Christina would always start the conversations and I would follow.
“What if, say, we were the only people on this island, no, on this planet? What would we do?”
Her questions were always rooted in the stars and magical realism and I would give her a roll of my eyes to tease her.
“I suppose we would grow old here. We wouldn’t have the movies. We wouldn’t have the wine, uggh. We wouldn’t starve but we wouldn’t have toilet paper.”
“Ha, Jack! You are such a realist. No. We would build our own raft and float out across the string of islands and watch the shooting stars fall into the water. As for the wine, we could make our own drink out of the fruit here, silly. We would learn to swim with the dolphins. And, we would learn to breathe like they do. They would be our family.”
Seeing the dreamy look on Christina’s face, I probably went too far.
“What if we had our own family? Kids.”
I saw the serious look on her face and waited.
“Jack, darling, I don’t want to think about kids now. We should only have each other, you see. We don’t even need to think about marriage and all that crap.”
“Christina, look at me. That doesn’t matter at all. Like you said we would have each other and the stars and the water and the dolphins. We wouldn’t need anything else. And, well, I love it like it is. I love you and that’s all I would need. Who needs other people and kids running all around causing havoc?” We just stared at the shooting stars and said nothing.
And so the rainy season became the tourist season again. I took a part-time bar keeping job at Folly beach and Christina painted her t-shirts and sold them to tourists for what I thought were outrageous prices. I thought about Club Comanche on St. Croix and how he promised I would be back. Well, I wasn’t back and didn’t intend to return except to visit friends. I was content here on St. John. We stayed for two more yearly cycles on St. John.
Then, like a flash of lightning, Christina’s father and a strange looking, tall and serious man came to the stone house. We were sitting at the kitchen table holding hands and drinking tea when two shadows appeared in the doorway. I could hardly see them for the sun behind their backs. They were dressed in business clothes, their jackets still on despite the heat.
“Poppy! And, Juan” Christina said.
“What are you doing here? Is Ma-ma ok?”
I watched as the suits spoke in English and Spanish, which I gathered was to exclude me. I had learned some Spanish from Christina but they spoke to fast for me to follow. Poppy was her father and he was a creepy looking, but rich and connected—a politician. I noticed his hands were even manicured. The other man, Juan, just kept looking at me, his watch, and Christina. He smiled a lot and seemed to stare at Christina through his sunglasses. Then I noticed the 9mm pistol beneath his coat and knew he was a serious and dangerous man despite the smile.
“No, no, Baby. Your Ma Ma is fine. We are just here to check on the place and to see if you were getting along.”
I noticed that she hadn’t even introduced me. We had lived on St. John for over 2 1/2 years now in the sunshine, total peace and effortless love. And, I knew, just like the birds know, that it was about to rain on me…on us. The spell was broken.
“Why don’t you introduce me to…uh, Jack is it?”
So he already knew who I was and probably more.
“Nice to meet you, Jack…taking care of my baby?”
There was no right answer. There was nothing I could say to this man. He was going to be my executioner at some time and there wasn’t a fucking thing I could do about it at all.
“Yes sir…well, it’s more like she takes care of me or we take care of each other.”
After I said that to “poppy”, I knew that I had sharpened the sword for him. The sword he would use to cut me out—to cut me out of his daughter’s life and this stone house. He turned to Christina and kicked the table which shook our tea.
“Ok, I just came to see you and the house. It is getting so old now. How can you live here?”
“But Poppy, I love this place. We have everything we need. It’s not old.”
Poppy looked around the kitchen, slammed the cabinet doors shut, and sighed.
“Well, we have a prospective buyer and you know people will pay a lot just for the location. It’s the best on the island.”
“No. No. No way are you going to sell this stone house. It’s mine. Ma-ma said I could have it. I won’t leave.”
“Now Chris. Your home is with your mother on St. Thomas not this derelict old stone hut. We will talk with your Ma-Ma. You need to be at home in a few days. Nice to meet you…Jack, right?”
“Yes sir.” I said, like a goddamn servant.
So, the great man left with his dangerous looking flunky. I heard the car doors shut and then I knew how important and influential this person was in the Virgin Islands. Cars were not allowed on this island. It was too small and only had one road and one alleyway. Only the local party buses were allowed to travel the road up the island and back. I wondered where he kept a car on this tiny island.
Christina began to open and close the kitchen cabinets. I watched.
“Maybe I’ll bring back some of those red beans back for you…and some stronger tea for you.”
I sat down and looked out the window. I knew that was a lie.
“I can bring back some corn meal and greens and fish and some of your favorite wine”
Christina finally sat at the old, wobbly table in the kitchen and began to write a list of things we needed. But, I really needed none of it. All I needed was her, sitting right where she was, talking and moving and smirking.
When it became dusk we moved to the back, stripped and climbed into the large hammock that moaned under our weight. That night we clawed at each other, testing every pleasure point and before dawn fell asleep naked and sweaty.
The next morning I was alone in the hammock and I just lay there knowing she was gone. There was no need to search the Stone house. She probably made the first ferry. I was alone. But for how long?
In total, I waited sixteen days for her return. I had run out of food and wine. The heat became almost unbearable. It was the start of tourist season and I had no job. After recognizing that the sailboat was gone, I knew she was gone and so was I. I took one last bath in the waterfall, packed my backpack and caught the ferry to St. Thomas. During the hop to St. Croix aboard the Chalks plane I sat still and stared out the window as the Caribbean Sea rushed past. I thought about Christina and our years together. I lied to myself. She had really loved me, I thought, and would come find me. Never did I imagine what time had in store for me.
The Club Comanche had not changed in three years. When I walked up the teak railway the sounds from the bar were the same as I remembered. The ice tinkled and the blender whirred. It felt like home. I sat at the bar and Ernest, my replacement bartender from three years ago was slinging out Pina Coladas for the new seasonal tourist crowd. We embraced and laughed and he made me a Margarita on ice with spiced rum floating on top.
“Ernest, man. Do you know where Dick is right now?”
“Yeah, mon. He is in da office. You coming back?”
“Maybe, if there is a spot for me.”
I finished my drink and went to see Dick. I hadn’t seen him since the day I left for St. John.
Dick sat behind his enormous desk smiling behind a pile of paperwork. His hair was a little greyer than I remembered but he wore that perpetual grin made from tourist dollars and genuine goodness.
I stood in front of the desk but he didn’t look up at me.
“So, your back I see. I knew you would be back. They always come back.”
It was as if he knew every detail of my love life and what I had been doing all this time.
“So. I guess you want a job? Well, Ernest is the main bartender but I can throw you some days and nights. Whatcha say?”
“Absolutely Dick. I need it very badly.”
“I know, I know. She left you, huh?”
“Yep. There was nothing I could do to keep her. She left after her father came to visit.”
“Oh, her father. Well, what did you expect from a congressman’s daughter?”
“What?” I said, incredulous.
Dick looked at me and smirked.
“You mean you didn’t know her father is the representative to the US house for the USVIs? What the hell did you guys talk about? You dumbass. She probably left because her father didn’t like a mere bartender screwing his daughter. What the fuck is wrong with you.”
I let all this bite me. I knew this would happen all along and it still threw a dart to my chest. And, somehow I knew this politician or that gun holding dark man had taken her away for good. I slumped and sighed and felt sorry for myself.
The tourist season was rabid. I poured more drinks and served more food to strangers than ever before. The money I made went to the bank this time around although I spent many nights in the clubs just hoping that Christina would show. I got drunk and high and chatted up a few tourist women but my heart wasn’t in it. I spent most of my time at La Casa Loco which seemed oddly appropriate for my state of mind. The time flew by but my heart did not chill. It was still warm from Christina’s love.
After the season the island lost half its population. And, I knew it was time for me to go. There was nothing waiting for me in the states but, then again, there was an empty well in the pit of my life. I had to fill it with something. I gathered my pictures of Christina and some of us together. There was one photograph that showed her walking away and looking over her shoulder at me. She seemed to have a bit of sorrow in her eyes which I had never noticed before. I packed the few jeans, shorts and t-shirts. Dick was waiting on me at the Comanche after I left the bank and sat in his wobbly old black-brown chair. I could tell he knew what was up when he handed me a bundle of cash and stood.
“Thanks Dick. But I have enough money saved.”
He rose from his dark brown chair and stuffed the cash in my pants pocket and grabbed my neck.
“Look you. There is always a place for you here. Go get straight and come back. And, forget her. There are millions of women in this world and one of them is going to come to you. I know what you feel. I had a first love myself. Hard to believe, huh? She left years ago and I still feel it but another came along and filled that hole. Now, I am 52, twice divorced and never bitter about all that shit. It happens to all of us. So, go find the right one and come back. I’ll be waiting right here.”
He hugged me and pushed me down the alley. I looked back and he was just standing there, smiling and chewing on a cigar. I waved and he just stood there urging me along with his will.
The Stone House was warm to the touch. The sun sprayed an orange glow off the crystals in the stone walls. As I ate a Mango, I let the Caribbean sun trace my shadow on the ground. I looked at my legs and studied the pock marks that signified the war I had fought in Panama ten years ago. I was lucky. The round had been a through and through but the back injury left me temporarily unable to walk. The Medics sent me on a Blackhawk back to the rear and then back to the world on a hospital plane. I had recovered after months of rehabilitation. There was no chance to re-up after the injuries so I took the Army’s offer of a free education. The degree I garnered was four years of tedium. I went to class only when it was necessary. As Dick had pronounced to me that last day in the islands twenty years ago, there were more women. Some were serious but most were diversions from studying. I could hardly recall the classes and fellow students now. Twenty years had come and gone like the sunset and now I found myself back at the stone house. Did I think that Christina would be waiting on me? No. I had no purpose or reason to be here except a mild curiosity. I wanted to bathe in the waterfall, watch a movie at the amphitheater, visit Dick on St. Croix, sleep in the hammock, and swim in the bay. That’s all. Having no expectations is a certain freedom from loss and memories. But too much freedom is lonely and static. I was somewhere between the two.
Although I was 40 years old, I had never married. I had no kids. No family. My last girlfriend had left me after I refused to marry her. When she left, I felt nothing but a sense of relief and so did she. And, so, here I was back where the water was crystal and the wind was pure relief. I was free as the gulls that swarmed the waves, dipping and diving for a momentary meal or simply for the joy of flight.
Finally I climbed down to the waterfall and stripped bare letting the cool water soothe my heart and mind. The last of the sun reflected off the cataract of cool water and I lay down in the swirling pools of regeneration. How many times had Christina and I done this same thing? I saw my reflection in the water and wondered what she has seen in me then and now what did I see. I was obviously older and heavier now with a slight beard and a just a touch of grey at my temples—a lasting hereditary marker my biological parents left for me—all they left for me.
Some of the tourists came out of the palms and rocks and splashed about in the water. Man, they were young. They laughed and pushed each other under the water while keeping an eye on me—like I was some kind of threat or just simply an older man who had no right to be in their adventure or vacation. I finally got out and my nakedness brought whispers to their lips and stares to their eyes. They must have thought I was some wild, funky old man. I guess I was just that. And, that was enough for me then. I smiled at them while dressing and they lost interest.
I walked up the paths that Christina and I used to run back to the stone house. By the time I reached the stone house I was burning my lungs with mouthfuls of hot air. After I left the Army and went to University, I had given up trying to stay in shape. The injuries I had from the war were painful and never ending so I became sedentary and lazy. I blamed it on the Army and my studies but really I had enough of PT and worked my mind instead. The bed in the house was waiting for me and I stared at it with indecision. I just couldn’t crawl in that thing. It was never my bed. It was our bed—Christina and I. So, I chose a hammock that seemed to be able to hold my weight, took a bottle of wine out of my back pack, undressed and lay with one hand over my head watching the peak of the ceiling while chugging a decent bottle of cabernet. Sleep came to me like a woman—lying down beside me and settling into the wind driven rhythm of the swinging hammock. My last thought was of Dick and if he was still at the Comanche. I hoped so.
I climbed the stairs of Club Comanche and looked around. The bar had been expanded and you could see where the old bar began and the new attempt at matching the color of mahogany began. Still, not too bad. There were two bartenders behind the heavy wood slab and they both looked as young as I was when I stood behind the bar. The floor was the same old scrubbed oak, looking thinner than before. There were separations between the planks that dust could fall through. You could almost see the years of shuffling feet that wore that wood down to the bone. In the days I had spent here, the tables were wobbly junk supported by folded paper and slips of wood. Now the tables were all the same style of thin processed board. They looked as if they had cardboard feet. But, changing the Comanche’s ambiance was almost impossible since the club was wide open. I didn’t like the décor that much but it was still the Comanche all right.
“Sir, sir? Can I help you? Would you like a drink? Lunch doesn’t begin until eleven.”
I turned and looked at the kid. He was white and young and eager. Much like I used to be but I got a sense that he was somehow trained in the finer arts of mixology. I had simply stumbled onto this barkeep job twenty years ago when all the staff was from Nevis, Grenada, St. Kitts, and tiny islands all along the lesser Antilles.
“No, not really, man. Oh, I am looking for a couple of people that used to be here. Do you know Ernest? He used to barkeep here.”
The kids wore similar Hawaiian style shirts. They both turned to look at each other. They shook their heads and the older, blonder one responded.
“No sir. We have worked here for two seasons and I can’t remember anyone named Ernest.”
“I’ll take a Margarita on the rocks with some spiced rum floated.”
They looked puzzled.
“Ummm, can you tell us again? Floated?”
“Never mind.” I said and walked behind the bar to their astonishment. I made my own concoction and took it around to the stools which I noticed had no backs now. Dick had always said that was a no-no for a bar. Nobody sits at the bar for long without some way to prop themselves up. Those kids stood there watching and I could see the absolute indecision in their faces—who the hell did I think I was.
“Look Guys, I need to find Dick. Where would he be now? Its off-season so maybe he is not in the office.”
Again the twin kids looked puzzled and stared at each other, looking for an answer.
“Well, sir. I am not sure who you mean…oh yeah, you mean the “Old Man”. He sold the Comanche years ago but comes around here once in a while. He lives up on the hill outside of Christiansted in a white house with a gated entry. The place is nearly at the top of the hill and the road winds around until it almost ends at his place.”
The cab ride up the pitted and broken road wound around the old colonial neighborhood, past home after home of white, pastel pink and blue monstrosities. I had never lived in such a place and they all reminded me of the Danske hotel in Christiansted proper. The differences between the colonial section and the pitiful structures of the Rastafarians or the local workers were stark. I felt a shame come over me for no reason at all. I had no idea what my ancestors were like but I knew they were poor Irish, who never laid eyes on such wealth. I had certainly never lived in such splendor. But the divide between the moneyed class, the white expatriates, and the workers here embarrassed me.
The gate in front of Dick’s house was blue painted metal with dangerous looking spikes. A completely white washed wall surrounded the grounds and was topped with a line of embedded broken glass. This was stolen traditional island architecture which was originally meant to deter intruders but was more of a style or statement now. At the gate was a call box with one red button that I pushed. I let it ring for a few seconds but saw no one nor did anyone answer. Standing around and marveling at the houses was getting old. I tried the call box again and let it ring for some time. A monotone voice responded with a simple “yes”?
“Umm, I am looking for Dick Boehm. I was told he lived here.”
“Well, does he live here or not?”
The disembodied voice through the call box paused for what seemed an eternity and finally responded positively.
“Yes, I assume you are referring to Sir. Richard. At the moment he is napping. Can you present yourself later?”
I was impressed and embarrassed at the same time. Perhaps Dick had changed or couldn’t remember me after all this time. Present myself? And, what was this entire Sir. Richard crap?
“Look, whoever you are…I am an old friend of Dick’s…I mean Sir Richard. I walked up the entire hill to get here. Just tell him Jack Flynn is here to see him. He will know.”
The box said “Please hold”.
After what seemed a lifetime in this sun the blue gate popped open and I gratefully enter a pristine courtyard with manicured bushes, water spouting cupids, and a neatly raked white pebble garden with terraces of native hibiscus. I walked to the main house that had columns on the thin portico. Everything was so white it blinded me. When I went to knock on the double front door, it swung open and there was Dick. He gave me that wise grin of his and I was so relieved to see him that I grabbed him and hugged. I could feel the years in that hug. He was thinner, pale looking and I felt I would crush him.
“Jack Flynn in the flesh!” He said.
“Come in my boy. Anderson, get him a drink…a margarita if I remember correctly. What the fuck, Jack. I knew you would come back before I died. It’s been 20 years.”
I tried to ignore his decrepit appearance. When I worked for him years ago, he was a vibrant, rotund, wise and loving man who never said a cross word to me. I told him my fate over a drink and some cheese and bread while he drank a red wine.
“Well, Dick, I am back to see the old haunts again and to see old friends such as you. I have no other purpose. My life seems to have sent me back here. I guess I am looking for the past.”
“My boy, you need not look to the past. If I were your age I would stir things up a bit. Have some fun. Find a girl.”
This comment hit me pretty hard. “Find a girl”? I was looking for the girl but it was a useless quest and I knew it. She was long gone and probably married with one and a half kids. I was really mad at myself but Dick was a basket full of goodness and he made me comfortable.
“I know what you are thinking, Flynn. You’re thinking about Christina. But that was 20 years ago and you need to move on. Oh, I remember how in love you were. I remember everything. It’s a curse you know. I am a young man in an old man’s body. Don’t think that you are the only person with regrets.”
I couldn’t say anything because he was right. I was wasting my time and feeling sorry for myself. But he surprised me one more time. That was his way.
“Look, Jack, I am going to give you something. I shouldn’t do it but maybe you need what’s inside it. I have never opened it although I have been tempted many times.”
Dick ambled over to his desk, spun around and pulled a dusty and worn envelope from his immense collection of books. It was a manila envelope, sealed and crushed by the weight of the other books. He handed it to me gently all the while looking at my face, regretting his decision.
I took the envelope and immediately saw the postmark from Cape Cod. My hands were unsure of the envelope and I saw the date – around one year after I left the islands for the states. It would be a lie if I said that I wasn’t afraid of that envelope. I wasn’t sure I could open it. It was thin and seemed to hold nothing.
“Dick, if I open this envelope can you tell me it means nothing? Tell me it was a long time ago and it is useless now. Tell me it doesn’t matter. Tell me something that only you can tell me.”
He shook his head. No. He could not lie to me even if I needed it.
I tore the envelope open from the top with my finger sliding along the creases. It was dry and opened easily. And, from its emptiness fell a single picture. At first, I thought it was blank, just a shot in the darkness. I turned it over and there she was standing beside a tall, dark man, who wore a tie and a white shirt, expensive looking tie. It was the man strapped with the 9mm pistol that came to the stone house with Christina’s Poppy. It was an ancient instant Polaroid with yellowed edges and few white spots across the photograph. In the arms of the tall, dark man was an infant child dressed in a pink dress. She had a little brown hair put up with pink ribbons and she looked as she was being tickled. It was the same sideways smile Christina had shown me. I could tell she was Christina’s child. It was obvious. Same mouth, same skin color. Yet, her hair color was hard to make out since the picture had been taken indoors with less light. In the background was a long dark table. Around the table sat Papa and Ma-Ma waiting on them to sit and eat what looked like a holiday meal. Christina was holding onto the child’s arm, cradling her small elbow. Everyone was smiling so beautifully, basking in the glow of some candles from outside the picture. I looked at Christina’s likeness over and over and I could see that half smile and it looked like regret. I spoke to Dick in a whisper for no reason at all.
“Want to see it, Dick. It’s not exactly what I thought it would be but Christina is in the picture.”
“Sure.” Dick said and leaned in to see the photograph.
He took it from my hand and studied it carefully. He held his breath and looked at me. It took him some time to let go and speak to me.
“Well, there you have your answer, Jack. She moved on and wanted you to know how happy she was at the time. It’s a kind of pictorial farewell. I’m sorry.”
My heart dropped at to my feet. All these years and she was married with a child, maybe more now. But, why send me a picture that would only hurt me? That wasn’t like her. Not a letter explaining why. Not a picture of her only. She sent a family picture of her husband and child. Why?
I tore the envelope apart looking for anything else but there was nothing. I looked at Dick, who sat nursing his wine. I picked up my drink and downed it. I really didn’t know what to say. I put the picture in my side pouch pocket and buttoned it up.
“All this time and you kept this envelope. Why didn’t you open it and just go through it away?”
“Jack, look at me. Is that what you would have wanted me to do…I mean; I knew you would come back and I knew I had to save it for you. You have been a ghost all these years. So long you have been gone and only a couple of postcards from around the world.”
Dick grabbed my arm and gestured for another drink for me and some wine for himself. My friend held my hand and told me what I needed to hear.
“Jack Flynn, it’s time to let go. It has been twenty years and those days were important, sure. Now, you have to move on and build yourself a life apart from the past—apart from Christina. The past is over. There is nothing to say you can’t start a new life right here. I have contacts and you can work at the Comanche again in the meantime. I have no doubt, and I predict in my heart that you will meet another girl, a girl that you will love just as you did Christina.”
I was tired and my head hurt. It was getting late and I had missed the last Chalks plane to St. Thomas and across to St. John. Dick looked at me, saw my weariness and his generosity came through.
“You stay here tonight, Jack. Tomorrow, we start on your new life. We will have dinner and you can stay in whichever room you like.”
Dinner was a quiet affair and the servants brought out my favorite island foods and I thanked them. There was a massive and opulent room prepared for me. When I finally closed my eyes and just before I went to sleep, I knew that tomorrow I would go back to the Stone house once more and finally. I would retrieve my Army pack and come back to St. Croix and follow Dick’s advice. I would, finally, move on.
The walk up the waterfall paths was not as much of a struggle as before. I found new energy in what Dick had opined. I actually felt a little freedom from the past and started thinking about the future. What would it look like?
When I reached the stone house, I saw that my pack, neatly fastened, was resting against the kitchen door. Someone had been there. I felt the old fire in my heart again and breathed shallow. But then, I knew that it was someone else. Someone with the kindness to carefully fill my pack and my canteen and lay it on the doorstep as if they didn’t mind another stranger using the house for a night. Maybe someone had rented the house or the new owners had arrived.
I picked up my pack and opened the kitchen door. Inside, the house was immaculate and looked like a brand new place. Not a bit of sand was on the concrete and brick floor. The kitchen curtains were new and the bed was fresh with new covers. The louvers on the windows were wide open and the storm doors latched shut in the open position. A nice cool breeze flew through the house. One look at the screened in back and I thought I was somewhere else. The old jumbled dormitory that I knew was hospital orderly and all the hammocks hooked in the up position. I investigated the entire house and saw nothing else new except a red suitcase. The bag had no name on it. I really was intruding and I guess that told the whole story. My time was finished here and new people, perhaps new lovers had taken over. I lay my pack back besides the opening, resting on the stones and left for one last trip to the waterfall to wash away years of hurt and consider the future. I would come back, grab my pack and get on the last ferry to Red Hook.
I suppose since this would probably be the last time I was to see the waterfall and feel its power, I stayed too long. I lay in the water floating in among the rocks. When I got up to towel off, I saw a young girl leaving the waterfall alone and beginning the arduous climb up the trails. She was young and beautiful and it hurt a little knowing that those years were gone for me. She looked back at me with a little curiosity and I smiled.
When I reached the stone house my bag was still sitting outside against the stones but I heard someone in the kitchen. Pans were clanging and cabinets were slamming. I dared to look into the kitchen and there was the girl from the waterfall. I took her by surprise and she jumped a bit.
“Sorry, I am the owner of the back pack…just came back to retrieve it and get moving. Also, I didn’t know there was a new owner here. I apologize for trespassing. I just slept one night on a hammock”
The girl looked at me with a pan in her hand and waved it in the air. When she spoke to me I felt something strong in my back.
“Oh…no problem. Aren’t you the man I saw at the waterfall?”
I tried to explain. “Yes, that was me. I was just cooling off before making the trek to the ferry. You see, I used to know the owner of this place and thought I would come back by and see if by chance they were around.”
“There is no new owner of this place. I have owned it for many years. I am just now getting around to restoring it. It’s a wreck and I need to make it habitable for me during part of the year. By the way, what do you mean that you used to know the owner? This place was handed down to me by my mother, when I was just a kid.”
So she was Christina’s kid. I must have looked like I was going to faint because she brought me some cool water. I sat against the stones and a million thoughts ran through my head. I looked up at her as she stood with her hands on her hips.
“Come inside, it’s easy to get sunstroke here. Sit at this table until you feel better. Put your head in your lap”
I could not speak at all. Years ago, Christina told me that having children was unimportant and she wanted none of raising kids. The picture that Dick had given me showed a child. Is this the baby in the picture?
I looked at her back as she fiddled at the sink.
“What’s your name, stranger?”
She looked back at me with a perplexed face.
“I’m Jack. I just have one question. Are you Christina’s daughter? What’s your name? Well, that’s two questions.”
She turned at me with a cloth in her hand which she meant to place on my forehead and her mouth opened but said nothing. She finally talked after I stared at her for a few moments.
“I am Maria. How did you know that? Did you know my mother?”
“Yes. Christina and I were friends many years ago. She was the one who showed me the stone house.”
“Oh, I see. Well, she wouldn’t have cared if you stayed here a couple of days. She was generous like that.”
“Can I ask how she is doing now? It’s been 20 years since I have seen her.”
She waited a few moments and threw me the wet towel.
“You see, my mother died four years ago. It was cancer. She left me this stone house”
Sometimes a person is just never ready for some information. It hit me like a crystal bullet to the brain—a perfect shot of clarity. I ached all over and slumped like I was praying. I had been chasing a ghost.
“But she was always so healthy. She never smoked. She ate organic foods. I am so, so sorry Maria. Your mother was a rare person—a loving and giving person. She gave me so much.”
“I know that. She taught me to survive and to enjoy life. But, I miss her constantly.”
There were no tears in her eyes while a few dripped down my face. I wiped them away quickly. She saw them and she looked puzzled.
“Just how well did you know my mother? She lived here a long time on her own. That’s what she told me.”
“Well, like I said. We were friends, good friends. I saw her quite a bit.”
I had to change the subject. This was a bit too close to the truth. I couldn’t tell her we lived here together. I just couldn’t do it. Out the window, the orange sun was dipping into the horizon.
“Well, how is your father and how are your grandparents.”
“Umm. Do you know them also?”
“No.” I had only met her grandfather once and that was enough.
“My father is fine. He is always busy with work. He lets me do what I want to do. I don’t even have to start college until I’m ready. He is paying for me to go to Yale. I mean, I have everything I need and more. So I guess you could say he is a good father or step-father rather.”
Time and space warped for me. I looked at her face hard and long. Did I dare ask her more questions? Step-father? I took the picture Dick had given me and I handed it to her. She looked amused and then sad. I got up and pointed at the picture.
“Do you mean that this man is not your real father? Is he your step-father? Has he always worked for your grandfather?”
“Yes…yes, this is my stepfather. He was always there with my grandfather and he married my mother after I was born. And, that is me I assume. And look at Mom smiling. That’s grandpapa in there and my grandmamma. Why?”
“Just how old are you, Maria?”
“I am twenty now.”
Twenty. There’s your answer Jack Flynn. I looked at her again and saw her mother’s skin and her stance and her hair. But, her eyes were Irish green like mine. Her hair was lighter and her legs were long and she stood almost as tall as me. I felt a calm come over me which was unexpected as I realized she was my daughter. She didn’t know it but I sure did.
“Tell me something, Maria. Did your mother ever talk about your real father?”
“Yes. Once when she was sick and delirious and hospitalized near the end, she told me all kinds of things. And, she told me a kind of fairy tale that my real father was an Irish fisherman and that there would be no use in looking for him. She said he was always traveling back and forth, whatever that means.”
I fought the urge to tell her that I was that fisherman. I fought it so hard that I clamped my teeth down until it hurt. I had a dilemma like none ever before.
“Maria, are you happy? I mean do you lack for anything at all? Do you want to know who your real dad might be at this time in your life?”
Maria laughed a little and grabbed a bottle of wine. As I watched her I could see her mother doing this same ritual twenty years ago. It was getting darker and cooling down in the stone house. We sat across from each other and poured the wine. We drank a few swallows and she answered, finally.
“Truthfully, I don’t think I need to know that. My step-dad is wonderful and life is grand.”
I thought to myself that life is usually grand at twenty. Maria reached across the table and slapped my arm. She looked at me and didn’t have a clue. She jokingly asked me:
“Are you trying to tell me something, Jack? I mean…are you my father? You’re so funny and serious at the same time. I can see why my mother and you were friends.”
The wine made it easier to lie.
“Me? Your father? No way. I am just a bartender on St. Croix. That’s where you’re Mom and I met and became friends, just friends. She had a lot of friends and a lot of contacts because your grandfather. But you know that.”
She handed me back the picture and I laid it on the table between us.
“Where did you get this Polaroid anyway? This is so old. Did you take the picture?”
“No. Another friend of Christina who lives on St. Croix showed it to me since I had known your mother so well. He held on to the picture for many years. It’s almost faded away now. Guess I forgot to give it back to him.”
We opened another bottle and drank it quickly. The purplish glow of the night was on us and through the windows I could hear the rustling of the palm trees. It reminded me how I used to lie in the hammock and listen to Christina sleep while the trees stood as sentinels. Now, here I was face to face with my own daughter—the other girl that Dick had so rightfully and mysteriously warned me about. But I could not tell her the truth. She had a great life—carefree and comfortable. What the hell could I offer her but questions and pain?
Maria was a little drunk by now and she slurred her speech. I knew that she wouldn’t remember much of this conversation.
“Well, Jack…I don’t even know your last name…what’s it. You can stay in the back tonight if you like. I don’t care.”
“My last name is Flynn.”
She was out and I put her carefully in the driftwood bed. I covered her and felt the oddest thing. I felt like a father. Never did I think that would happen. It felt good.
Eventually, I retreated to the hammocks in the dorm part of the stone house and I lay awake listening to Maria’s fitful sleeping. No, I would never tell her. She was happy and I wanted her to stay that way.
When the morning sun peaked out from the east, I got up and dressed. The sky and the ocean were still there and I could still see some of the stars that Christina loved so much. Without waking Maria, I placed the picture on the kitchen table. I didn’t need it any longer. Christina was gone and now I would be gone from the stone house for the last time. I grabbed my pack and walked to the door to catch the first ferry but I turned and went back to the picture. I wrote on the white of the picture; Club Comanche, No. 1 Strand Street, Christiansted, St Croix…Jack. I don’t know why I did that. I just did. Then I slipped out the door into the morning light. I was returning to St. Croix for now
There are moments in life when you know that part of your life is ending and another unsure future is only a footstep away. At those times, when the first step concludes, the grass gets greener, the lights get brighter, and you remember those young and grand nights of wonder that you had and you stow them away. But that was all right. I would never forget the taste and sounds of those nights nor the people that filled them. But I was moving unhindered by the past now. I was going forward with the sweet taste of manana on my tongue and the clarity of pain and promise in my heart.
JP Miller is a disabled veteran, writer and journalist. He holds an M.A. in political science and has published works in The Greanville Post, Cyrano’s Journal, Pravda, Countercurrents, The Literary Yard, PIF, and The Southern Cross review among others. He lives in the Outer Banks of North Carolina beside the Atlantic Ocean.