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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 

Fiction



A Beating Heart


When I looked into her eyes on that late-winter afternoon, it revealed something I didnít expect and couldnít fully explain. Sheíd always seemed distant up to that point, a kind of ethereal figure gliding in the distance, only coming close when she needed or wanted to. When we finally connected on that level and I finally looked and saw into her magnificent violet eyes, it changed how I perceived her. See was more real to me, and my perceptions of what she represented in my mind changed completely. In that moment, I knew I was no longer alone, even when she wasnít around. The world seemed to have opened up in that instant for me. I felt like I was wandering around in the shadows by myself, traversing through town and going to our places largely alone. I was constantly afraid of being found out, discovered and ridiculed. These fears evaporated once our eyes met and she connected with me. It was indescribable they way it transformed how I thought about her. As we left the beach that day, I also knew without question that this wouldnít be our last visit. When I walked back home through the streets, I noticed how things had changed. The winter was receding and the snow was beginning to lose its grip on the world once again. When I went to visit our place on the hill, it didnít seem as hidden or intimidating as it had over the previous moths. I found myself cutting through our secret areas and returned once again to the mountainous cliff where we had shared our transient, yet significant moments a few months earlier. I was there because thatís where her presence was strongest. Occasionally, I would squint my eyes and almost feel her pacing alongside me, a silent shadowy companion encouraging and guiding my every step. The visions I saw in her eyes was something that compelled and inspired me to keep going despite the incessant winds relentlessly trying to blow me backwards. I knew it wouldnít be the easiest path to take but it was the correct one. As the days progressed, I held onto the moment and would keep it close when I needed it. There were some rough moments, as I knew there would be. Even though no one else could see her, or hear her voice, she stayed at my side, in my mind, never abandoning or undermining me.

I never knew precisely when, how, or, why she would show up next and this bothered me quite a bit at first. I tried to figure out patterns, or discover reasons or places but I couldnít really anticipate when sheíd appear next or where. It gradually receded as I spent less time worrying about how and why and focused on who she was. She looked into my eyes and gave me something I didnít really know I had inside of me. I was becoming aware of the world outside my constraints. There were things beyond school and the malicious people who surrounded me. Even when I was young, I remember feeling constantly undermined and disheartened by much of what I experienced. I felt like an outcast in many ways, things just didnít seem to fall into place. Things were better when I was alone and she didnít seem to judge me the way others did. For the longest time, I let things get to me. Sometimes, I felt like I was drowning, struggling to stay afloat in the shallowest of waters, and not succeeding. Iíd hear them talking about me, and Iíd try to wash them away. I found myself submerging their voices under the waves. In many ways, I was unable to fight the tides shifting under my feet and let the currents control and direct me.  This changed when we were together those few times. I could feel all of those pressures draining away with each step as we walked on the beach together, I felt completely different than I had in the past. Instead of fearing the changes and tides that were a constant battle, she showed me that these could be both anticipated and mitigated.

After our meeting near the end of winter, I would walk down to the waterís edge several times a week. This gave me a chance to be alone to think about these things. I didnít allow myself to let go of my dreams and perhaps that would be considered a problem in some ways. In my mind, this was a strength, which helped keep my mind from careening into the depths. She understood this, but I donít think many other people around me did. She was one of the few whoíd ever seemed to accept me the way I was. She didnít expect me to be someone else, she didnít want me to change. I could be who I wanted to be and didnít have to worry any longer. I still felt like I was walking through the world alone, but my journey didnít seem as lonely. It was a strange time and I was confused by the conflicting currents swirling around me. Winter had begun to rescind its hold on the world by this point and the first stirrings of green meant the world was changing once again. I walked down to the beach one afternoon and took a path to the right side which put me on the side where the boats came into dock for the winter. I usually took a look at them and walked right on by, but there was one day when they seemed to have a strange pull.

My curiosity got the better of me and I walked through the yard past the hibernating arcade. Most of the boats were covered in large heavy tarps and secured to the ground with large thing ropes, still as the cold winds blew through them. I walked in between these large boats and reached the end of the concrete, facing the ocean once again. I saw the rest of the beach at the end, with its creaky old piers and walkways jutting out into the ocean, curving along the coastline. I walked and felt the winds begin to pick up a little, blowing through the boats and their hangars. I felt really cold and decided to keep walking. There didnít seem to be anyone around and it was a surprisingly desolate place, as if all these summer dreams were abandoned, carelessly left behind. As I walked back towards the beach and its main walkways, I noticed something that I didnít on the way in. On the other side of the dock, sitting alone there was a small rowboat tied to the dock. Unlike most of the other boats, it wasnít covered up. It was open and sat there floating alone, completely open. It seemed to be there for a reason, like it was waiting for someone. I walked over to it and looked closer and saw it painted a deep shade of blue. As I examined it, it had a strange construction, much more elaborate then the others with strange markings painted on its railings. Its sides were pock-marked by small spots stretching from front to back, it looked regal, specially constructed for somebody and placed there for a specific reason. I didnít quite understand why, but it seemed like it could have been teleported from another world, yet it looked like it hadnít been used very often. It seemed much older than the other boats, yet also quite strong and sturdy, freshly constructed. As I looked closer, I saw something written on it. I saw the name on its side and knew immediately who it was waiting for.

I climbed down the ladder to get a closer look and stood on the dock right alongside the boat. I was hesitant to actually get inside so I stood there looking at it. I looked at the water churning beneath it and it seemed heavy and dark, green and black. I smelled its salty vapor and it felt cold, chilling me to my bones. It was a little intimidating, but I decided to look closer. It seemed smaller now that I was directly over it but it was sturdy enough to remain afloat. Looking inside, I saw two sails rolled up to one side and a small steering wheel towards the front. It matched the design of the gold rails with some of the same strange markings on it. There was a small gust of wind and when I turned my head, I noticed a piece of paper rolled up in between the boatís rafters. I looked at it, read what it said and I knew immediately why the boat was there. I undid the ropes from their moorings and rolled them up inside the boat. I walked towards the front of the boat nervously, trying to keep my balance without tipping it over and took control of the wheel. It seemed a little bit heavy at first and I had a difficult time trying to steer it around. It was made for an adult, but I could get the hang of it. I could sense the water underneath swirling under my feet, swinging me around gently and rippling upwards into my feet. Slowly, I began to turn the wheel and noticed a small beacon light up when I would put it in a certain spot. I figured that it would be a kind of navigator. I spun the wheel around a few times until I got proficient with it enough and began to look ahead and saw that it had drifted a foot or so from the dock. I pointed the boat towards the water and turned the key. The motor in the back began to rumble to life. It increased in speed and before I knew it, I was sailing the boat out towards the open waters. As I passed the sealed, silent boats in the docks, I regained my footing and began to steer the boat with more confidence. As I passed the last boat and reach the end of the docks, I felt that someone was waiting for me out there over the waters. I looked up at the crystal blue sky bereft of even a single cloud and watched the sun still ablaze yet it was slowly sinking in the west. I knew I couldnít hesitate forever.

There was no time to wait, I wouldnít succumb to my fears. It was for me time to get moving.

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