copyright (c) Fariel Shafee
accepted for publication by mississippi
crow magazine (Thanks to Editor Nadia Giordana for her great editing for the magazine version).
It was a bitterly
cold midnight when I found myself alone in the middle of Crane's island. I had a shawl wrapped around me, and the thin piece
of cloth was struggling very hard to stay affixed to my shoulders. I could see no structure or entities even half a mile away
as a dense layer of darkness covered the distant lights. I was standing by the sea with my bare bruised feet sunken into the
vast expanse of sand. The indigo water was deep, and every now and then a tide would force the blue mass right onto the shore
to inundate parts of my legs. The ice cold water would then breathe its frosty vapors on its way back to the ocean to remind
one of the harshness of the fallow island standing far away from civilization.
I touched the water with my
fingertip. A sharp sensation similar to that of being pricked by a needle traveled up my spine. I saw my face reflected in
the water as I looked down to the waves. There were wrinkles under my eyes. My hair was disheveled and uncombed. I was tired
and very anxious. Over a hundred miles I had crossed in search of my long lost love.
"Crane's Island is where
you want to go," the old woman with three missing teeth had told me at the crossroad. Her ancient straw hut housed a three-legged
cat and a rickety green parrot besides her own fragile bones. The parrot was circling about and the cat was purring snugly
next to her crooked walking stick as she pointed her second finger far away to the North.
"To the North?"
I had inquired briskly, "But how far away?"
The old woman with the three missing teeth and the long blue hat
had shaken her head in confusion. I was still gazing worriedly at the gray northern horizon when she had disappeared inside
her abode with her two faithful pets.
There were scarlet leaved trees on Crane's Island. They were redder
than condensed drops of blood. The first sight of the trees from the other side of the island would almost create the feeling
that the forest was ablaze. Every now and then, two or three leaves would detach themselves from the trees, and having finished
their tour under the auspices of the breeze, would start to float on the water like sparkling small lights moving about a
mirror. From a little further away, you would get the surreal idea that a huge dancing flame was rising from the crystalline
There was an old wooden house in the middle of the rugged island. I knew it was my lover's. The grass
around the house was tall, unplanned and spooky. The entangled green strands and the sinuous gray vines hanging from the logs
nodded quite ominously to narrate the unseen uncertainty hidden inside the cabin. Their grave and solemn appearance had not
deterred me from my odyssey. I had walked in very confidently through the discolored broken door with a tiny black spider
hanging from its web and anticipating my moves silently. The door screamed sharply as the old wooden sticks resisted my strange
feet from divulging the very secret they had been guarding quietly for so long.
The air inside the verandah
smelled of my lover's skin. I saw his marks of footsteps randomly on dirt. Particles of dust floated about the air, hissing
to a visitor how unwelcome she indeed was.
It was a house devoid of any life now. The shadow of the past lived
only in the midst of some very vague signs. No food was left in the kitchen or no furry black cat with sparkling green eyes
was seen waiting on the pillar for his master to return home. Whoever dwelled in the house had disappeared in a well-planned
manner. I walked about the rooms and displaced layers of dust. The wind blew in through the window carrying the sweet odor
of wild exotic flowers mixed with the call of the jungle.
On the kitchen counter stood a plant - half dead
and starving for light. There was a single orange bud peeking out of the discolored leaves. It was as bright as the molten
sunshine that had laved me and my lover as we had made love beside the river. I could hear the sound of the water - jingling
and then roaring - in the background of my mind. The sound from the past was superposed onto thunder's clamor as showers broke
off and relentlessly washed the leaves.
I touched the flower with my finger, and the texture felt
delicate. It had a touch of enticement in it - a provocation which, when pursued, would lead to a momentary bliss followed
by the demise of the evanescing period. It was as ardent as the last kiss my lover had imparted on my lips.
doormat had parted from the rustles of his shoes for over a month now; I was worried and I was anxious. I knocked on the door
of the lady with the three missing teeth and a lucid crystal ball, and inquired with utmost earnestness about the wellbeing
of my lover.
I was in his room now, and I craved for his touch. The house, however, was barren, and my lover's
message was nowhere. He had left no instructions for me on a white piece of paper pasted on the front door, or on the table
or even the fridge.
Disappointed, and disheartened, I inspected the entire room again. I now discovered a
small notebook on a table hidden in the shadows. It was a book with a brown stained leather cover with scattered golden pigments
showing on an edge. I recognized the object from a distant past. It was a present from me to him.
I stood still with the thin notebook held close to my bosom, snapshots from the past were screened inside my head. They were
multicolored feelings with various shapes and smells floating all about me rather than discreet events. I could feel them
like thick clouds. They were made of soft cotton and were melting into showers so that a clear sky could appear momentarily
before a new set took over the firmament. The clouds would then merge and break into newer pieces, as they would attempt to
shroud me from reality. The emotions that were shelved in the depth of my heart suddenly bubbled and consumed me.
I opened the notebook, expecting clues about his whereabouts. The first page was left snow white, and so was the second. As
I quickly turned the pages, my pulse quickened and my palms started to sweat. I coveted a note left for me in pitch-black
ink, I longed for a line or so mentioning my name. The third page smelled of newness that I detested deeply from within me.
It was I who probably was the first to open the fourth page. Soon I reached the very end of a notebook left untouched, with
no mark between the covers.
The sun had almost set and I sat on the bank quietly with a heavy heart and a
vacuum looming about me. As I dipped my toe slowly into the cold blue water, a breeze blew very gently with the smell of an
empty nest dispersing into the jungle. Time had moved forward, but I had traveled all the way in search of a lost past. The
past had molten into half erased footsteps and traces of his breath mingling with the jungle air. The house was falling apart.
The history written in the tiny scratch on the veneer was soon to be assimilated into a bigger laceration on the door.
submerged in the water, stood a sundial in front of me, and as the shadow of the post fell onto my clothes a wild boar cried
out in ecstasy from the jungle. It was time for me to move and leave the denizens of the wilderness to carry on their nocturnal
life in peace.