Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Ship Captain's Wife

I met her many years ago - a young woman grieving over the loss of her husband.  A large wave had caused the cargo ship he was in to flip over and bodies of his shipmates had been recovered already.  We were called to help her find out if he had passed on or if he was lost somewhere, adrift at sea, stranded, waiting for rescue.

I remember the little crib that sat in her living room, her 3-month old son sleeping quietly in it, unaware that his mother was slowly shattering to pieces as each day without news went by.  Her daughter played with her dolls under the stairs, directing a make-believe play where the prince returns to his princess after having been given up for dead.

She had looked at us with such hope, and we had searched our souls for words to tell her that it was going to be alright.  The others who were with me said things that made her smile. I merely sipped my coffee and watched the baby sleep.

I could not feel him. Well, I did actually but only because he seemed to want to say something but I knew he was no longer here. I sipped my coffee slowly, I tried to find the words. They did not come.

Years later I received a text message from her. That she was still waiting, that she had not lost hope.  She told me about her daughter and her son and how they were growing up without their father.  She told me she still cries now and then but the moments between the crying fits have become longer and she feared that she was beginning to forget.  She said she could not stand seeing the ocean, but that she had taken many trips to its shores, listening to the waves for news.

That was many years ago.

She was who I had in mind when I finally finished this piece.

I had been working on it for some months now and for some strange reason I could never quite finish it.  I would start, then stop and start and stop and stash it away someplace and forget.  Then I would come across it and start working on it again.  But each time I would tear it up and put it away -- somehow it felt that it wasn't saying what I wanted to say.

And then the memory of her sitting across me from that dining room table, the glow of a small lamp hanging from overhead casting a shadow on her young, pained face, her voice eagerly asking us of news, returned.  I suddenly realized why I was making this piece and who it was for.

I wonder if she still sits and waits and hopes. And if she has found peace with the ocean and its turquoise and blue depths.   I ask myself if she still cries, her tears falling down her cheeks like pearls.  I also wonder if she will, forever, shroud herself in grief or if she has finally, after so long, learned to live again and be happy.

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