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lighthousea

On the rocky shores of a jagged sliver of land stands my home, a granite 44 foot lighthouse. Generations in my family have faithfully manned this post. It is our shared destiny.

Duty tethers me to this spot – but a mere eight miles away from here are the shores of my homeland. Eight desperate miles to her coarse sanded beaches, and four miles up along a winding mangrove dirt path which clears into the town’s outskirts. There my dark-eyed beloved quietly awaits. It may as well be a continent away.

In red and white my gas lit tower stands. It’s a reassuring beacon to every ship and sailor who passes by. Accessible only by boat, my mission is to record every occurrence on this islet. I take inventory of every supply ship entering and exiting our narrow harbor, I document the tide and the weather, I install buoys and reposition them as needed. But above all, I man the beacon. I clean the lens and lantern with a cotton cloth. Punctually I climb 200 steps to the top of the lighthouse to lite the beacon at sundown. I keep it bright until sunrise, when it is dimmed.  I then retrace those 200 thread bare steps, and walk out to a rocky path which winds down to my living quarters, 30 windswept steps away from the lighthouse.

I think of you as my body strains against the weight of the nets I cast earlier in the day. I think of your dark hair and the melody in your gait, and again I am lost and swept away to all but you. My hands chafe against the rocks when I check my traps, and I am certain it is your voice calling my name among the splashing waves. Alone I prepare my meal and I count and recount the ways and whys of my life here, eight miles from you, all I most hold dear.

Tonight I take comfort in knowing we gaze at the same stars swaying low and bright. Their flickering lights recall the night I first held your soft hand near the Flamboyan tree, and you told me the stars above were swaying lanterns held high by laughing giants. I believed you then when your alabaster hands pressed a seashell into my palm, your fingers tracing its smooth edges, your sad smile telling me it was time to leave.

I ran through the mangrove’s snarled path, reached the darkened shore, mounted its swelling waves, and rode my weathered skiff into the salted air. In the gray flutter of low flying seagulls I heard the beat of the son you so love. My heart and fist tightly clenched the seashell you’d given. That night, every wave wailed its eulogy against the lighthouse walls.

Eight miles. You may as well be a continent away.

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