persi in mare

By: Gabriela Yareliz

Sometimes, the bright lights confuse us. We stare at them, hypnotized. They leave us disoriented. I understand the way an animal feels when it is caught in oncoming traffic. I think we spend half of our days like that.

The better light is the one that glows. We feel it deeply. We follow it like it is the sole firefly in the night. A glow crackles– a sound like an ongoing fire or sometimes rain on the stone streets. That particular night, there was no rain. So I followed the glow looking for the fire. There was no trace of rain. There was only a dying stream of soapy water on the stone streets, heading downhill toward the only other water, the sea. The sea was dark and feroce, stirring and stirring like unsettled emotions.

There are no lights reflected in the soapy stream of cleaning water headed toward the sea. There are no stars and no moon reflected in the rainbow tinted bubbles of the stream. The clouds muffle the night sky. I am walking. I turn my back on the sea. I turn my back on the darkness. I keep walking. I hear the crackle of light and a scratching sound at a distance. I hear shutters moving. I hear voices dancing inside the dimly lit houses. Murmurs.

I hear my shoes. My boots and their thick heel on the stone. I walk toward the glow, only to find myself in a dark street. The shutters are all closed. The stone walls don’t reveal any life at all. I reach out and brush the stone walls with the tips of my fingers as I continue to walk. I walk with authority to nowhere at all. The glow has hidden itself, and then suddenly, it reappears.

I walk to the rhythm I’ve created with my footsteps. I find swagger in my steps. I stop. I look up, and there is an open window, the shutters parted like a gasp. I now know what the scratching is. It’s your pen against the paper. A paper that invites. A paper that adjusts to its surroundings. It isn’t bright and blinding like a laptop’s white blank screen, cursor blinking, begging for more. Always more. No, the paper is quiet and loyal. It is empathetic. It is dark when it is dark. When it storms, it is left destroyed. It keeps our secrets. When a tear falls on ink, it can envelope a secret forever, leaving nothing decipherable. There you are, sitting in the window with all your secrets, spilling them like they are bubbles in soapy water. The papers gathering them all like the sea.

Your heavy eyelash curtain lifts, and you meet my gaze under the visor of your dark eyebrows. I see you clearly. I see you by the fire sparks on a grill beside you. Your fish, cooking. You stand up, unbothered, leaving the paper in the window like a bookmark. You take a metal spatula and start moving the fish and something else you have wrapped in foil. I stand there watching you. You look at me again and gesture with your spatula hand toward an empty chair by the window.

A rickety old chair against the blue stone wall. I see the concrete stairs that can take me there. Without hesitation, I reach the stairs. I unzip my boots, and peel my socks off. I place my bare feet on the concrete steps and climb. When I reach the top, I leave my boots and socks neatly by the entry. I sit on the chair and gather my skirt, tucking it under my thighs.

I stare at the empty balconies in front of me, all of them draped in drying rugs, sheets and clothes. Patterns barely recognizable, as the grill light dims. It grows quieter. It grows darker. And while everything may look like it is asleep, some of us are wide awake. We are looking to spill on paper. We are looking for that comforting embrace of the dark stillness. Away from the screens, from the lights, from the noise, from the brights. Being undistracted has a way of bringing our emotions to the top.

We search for the peace we dropped like a coin that rolls downhill, toward the sea. You eat quietly beside me, and push an open foil with a yam toward me. I feel its warmth through the foil, and start peeling the layers back. There, in the stillness of that night, with the cold clean stone beneath my feet and a warm yam in my stomach, life feels real again. It feels sweet. It feels bright in a different kind of way. All of my thoughts floating back toward the sea.

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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