About the Poem
Human beings, by our very nature, are territorial and possessive. We are always looking for something to call our own. This short story explores what it would be like to live our entire life without anything uniquely our own, to finally find something, only to have it taken from us.
And then, in an unexpected way, to have it returned.
|by Ron Carnell|
|I kneeled, staring, not daring yet to touch. It was a simple gold-plated bracelet, nothing fancy or expensive, a gift from an old boyfriend on my seventeenth birthday. The intense Hawaiian sun, already hanging well above the surrounding cliffs of volcanic rock, caused the sea water coating the jewelry to sparkle like diamonds. But the huge basalt rock beneath the bracelet glistened just as brightly and just as meaninglessly. Nothing unusual. Certainly nothing to be frightened of.
Except the bracelet shouldn't be there.
Instinctively, I turned and scanned the trees and rocks surrounding me. The cove was small, not much larger than an Olympic-size swimming pool. There were no more than ten or twelve widely-spaced palm trees to my right, bracketed by a small copse of dense evergreens, the local lehua with their fiery red flowers not yet blossoming. Nowhere for someone to hide. Directly in front of me, separated by a short expanse of ebony sand, the cliff face towered nearly thirty feet into the sky. I could see the path I always used to descend that monolith, really little more than a series of toe-holds. My skinned knees and lacerated hands were constant reminders of the precariousness of that route. But I had never minded the hardship or even the potential danger. I came here every day not because it was easy or convenient, but because it was secluded and secret. This place was mine. At least until now.
Assured I was alone, I sat Indian-fashion on the hard rock, a natural pier that jutted so conveniently into the Pacific Ocean, and tentatively picked up the bracelet. It had been placed near the edge, just inches from the sweet-smelling waters. I briefly considered the possibility it had been washed ashore by some benevolent wave. I would have liked to believe that, would have liked to believe the sanctity of my secret place hadn't been desecrated by another human being. But I couldn't fool myself. The bracelet had been lost since yesterday, its broken clasp evidence of what happened. I was swimming in these very waters, naked except for this single piece of jewelry, as free as any other creature of the sea. I felt the bracelet come loose some fifty yards from shore, but was too slow to react, and it sank into the murky depths below. Forever beyond my reach, I thought.
I felt the tears building behind my eyes. Violently, with all the strength I could find, I threw the offending bracelet far into the cold blue waters. I hadn't really cared when I thought it gone, and now it could only be a memento of what I had lost this day. I felt violated somehow. Is this what rape was like? Or was I over-reacting, as everyone always said I did? Nobody would understand. The girls at the dorm would call me silly if I tried to explain. They couldn't comprehend my loss any more than they could comprehend what this place had meant to me for the past year. Most had grown up with their own rooms, all in their own homes, with their own families. They would never know what it was like in a place like Saint Vincent's. They would never know what it meant to grow up with two hundred brothers and sisters, to live and sleep in rooms designed for dozens of children, to never have any thing or any place to call your very own. No one would ever understand that moving directly from the orphanage into a dormitory at college had felt like having my prison term extended for another four years.
This cove had been my salvation. I could be alone here, but more importantly I could feel like this place belonged to me and to no other. It was the one thing in all of my nineteen years that I never had to share with someone else. I would schedule my classes around my late morning trips to this secluded beach, laying in the black sands while I studied, or swimming in the cold Pacific waters. My sand. My water. My secret place.
But that was over. Ended. Whether I liked it or not, I realized I now shared my secret with another, with someone else who knew the beauty and aloneness of this small, hidden cove. Maybe they had silently watched me swimming yesterday, either from the heights of the cliff or from some far-away boat. Or maybe they came here all the time, just as I did, and we'd somehow missed each other for the past year. It didn't matter. I turned and laid on my stomach, leaning over the edge of the rock and running my hand through the cold waters for what would my last time. Tears ran freely down my checks, dripping into the ocean waves. They became my offering, my contribution to the saltwater tears of the Mother Earth.
Through blurred vision, I saw the bracelet again, slowly rising to the surface. A mirage, I thought, a silent taunt of life's endless cruelties. But then I felt it, the unyielding metal being gently nudged into my outstretched palm. Startled, I jerked my hand back and the bracelet once more disappeared beneath the water's surface. Was I losing my mind? Had my grief destroyed the small vestige of sanity I still maintained? I stared hard into the waters, afraid I would again see the metal trinket floating just beneath the waves and almost equally afraid that I wouldn't. I nearly felt a sense of relief when I saw the bracelet slowly rising to the surface. At least if I was crazy, I thought, it was going to be a consistent kind of crazy.
The bracelet broke the surface and I found myself staring into a pair of eyes, very round and very soft blue. It was a tiny bottle-nosed dolphin, weighing no more than fifty or sixty pounds. A baby. The bracelet was perched at the end of his snout, slowly rising above the waves as he carefully edged forward to set it on the brink of the rock.
"Excuse me," I could almost hear him say in a squeaky, high-pitched voice. "But did you happen to lose this again?" I think I giggled then, a giggle that quickly erupted into a throaty laugh. The dolphin slipped beneath the waves, only to instantly reappear again, standing atop the surface, holding himself aloft with the marvelous power of his flippered tail. He squealed at me, a combination of his own laughter and an obvious invitation to play. Hurriedly slipping from my clothes, I gently slid down the side of the rock and into the cold ocean waters. I felt soft skin brush my leg below the water, then he rose to within inches of my face and squealed at me again. I nodded, knowingly, assuring him he was absolutely right.
I hadn't lost a secret place today. Rather, I had found a secret friend.