step into the place where blue and green waters meet. I
wave to you and then wait patiently until your Pilar
takes me in. I clench your hand, which smells of salt.
are we sailing to, Papa?"† You know very well, but
youíre not saying anything.† For a while weíre going south,
and then west, and you're asking yourself why marlins swim
from east to west, against the hands of time.
Your Pilar is a magnificent boat.† She carries
herself on the waves like a queen in black satin.† Pilar
is your freedom, independence, reminding you of your true
love for Paulina.† She named your boat, but she is not with
friend Richard warned me not to sail out to sea alone with
a man.† I donít want to think that a big man would use me
as bait for his fishing passion.† Do you believe that a
woman on board is bad luck?† I raise my head fearlessly
and look you over.† Youíre whistling on the captain's bridge,
possessively holding the helm with your strong boxing hands,
which donít need any help to reel a big fish on to the deck.†
I understand why you canít get tired of the sea.† What if
you get tired of me?† What should I talk about with a big
fisherman?† I will be as quiet as a fish lying on your deck.†
I will wait for you to speak first.† What if you do the
same?† For a writer itís always wiser to listen.† Itís an
important quality.† What if you control my thoughts, but
think that Iím controlling yours?† Youíll sap my brain and
close yours, and then our words will be a conversation between
two distant people.† When that happens, Papa, I will shake
your hand and say, ďGoodbye, dear Hemingway.† It was a pleasure
meeting you, but weíre captains of different boats.Ē
should that happen?
canít we find common ground?† The sea?† Books?† Life?† Love?
share your talent with your readers.† You can share it with
me.† Many people have good ideas, but canít put them into
words.† You and I could have an interesting discussion.†
Many speakers, for whom words slide easily off the tongue,
donít want to deal with writing.
admire anyone who can write on a boat.† I can neither write
nor sleep.† But maybe I would fall asleep beneath the stars
on board a small fishing boat tied to a wharf in Key West,
as your painter friend Waldo did.† I would eat his nightly
portion of spinach with him, and then ask where he got such
fresh spinach in Key West.† The fishermen may say that Waldo
and I were counting the stars all night.
it fair game to die on the ocean?† As a captain on your
boat, I would die and be born again in a self-chosen life.
A medal for life, or a medal for death?† Like all people,
we die one day.† In the meantime, we go our different ways.
Some go peacefully, others adventurously and dangerously.†
We look for answers to our questions, but we donít always
get them, no matter how long we live.
will never lose sight of you, Papa.† You are the captain
with powerful wings.† The ocean is your lover, who permits
Pilar to sail on her warm waves.† She calms Pilarís
tears and washes away his wounds.† You invite me closer,
to the captainís bridge.† The warm wind caresses my face,
and at faster speeds the strong wind stings it.† I can almost
touch the clouds that reflect the blood of wounded marlins.†
The wind is messing up my hair.† Itís your foolish idea
to tie it with a dirty string that smells of fish, and to
put on a scruffy, sun visor, which you perhaps bought somewhere
on the way to Ketchum.† Where has your hat been, and how
many cats have slept in it?† You say that forget-me-nots
die quickly in the sun.† You have a weakness for forget-me-nots
and the hair of women.† You add, that if I were in Mombassa
on a boat with you, I would need a hat even in June.
you accept me into your fish family and hand the helm over
to me.† The moon and stars signal a good nightís sail.†
You go down to the kitchen to mix your favorite drink.†
Some people like to drink before dinner, others after.†
I donít know what your stomach is accustomed to, Papa, but
Iíll gladly have a drink with you to toast courage and our
friendship.† You make a good drink.† It smells of gin and
coconut milk.† Teach me how to break a coconut shell without
any tools, knocking off the hull from the stem until it
peels off like an orange.
drink fills my body with its delicious energy.† You bind
me with freedom.† I donít know how to use it.† I pour my
drink into a pink conch shell and drink like the Indian
woman in Florida who cleaned the shell out with sand and
cooled her lips in its shade.
press my ear to the wide opening†and hear a boy in the Bahamas
calling out, "Buy a conch!"† For three dollars
I bought a cup of the raw, slimy, chopped conch meat seasoned
with lemon and let the rare delicacy melt slowly in my mouth.†
I carried the empty shell of the pink conch as if it were
a piece of gold.
grasp the helm more firmly and dare to ask you again: ďWhere
are we sailing?Ē† Are we catching fish without knowing where
they swim?† The fish have tricks of nature.† The fishermen,
too, must have tricks to catch them.† There are hundreds
of fish.† If you canít catch any here, then forget about
fishing, you say.
Do you remember, Papa, how on your third birthday you received
a fishing rod?† To go fishing for the first time and to
catch the biggest fish out of all the fishermen on the lake
is a sign of great things.† And on your fourth birthday
your present was an all-day fishing trip with your father,
and you withstood the heavy rain that made your clothes
cling to your body.† What about your fifth birthday, when
you got a microscope from your grandpa and sat around for
hours looking at insects and stones?† Your family made sure
that you would like nature.† I think your father was a wise
man.† He opened your eyes.
the fishermen in Key West complained that you caught all
marlins.† Do you remember 1952?† Through the end of September,
you caught thirty-nine giant marlins.† Now all that's left
in the ocean are small dolphins jumping around the pier.†
I called out to two fishermen to come see the miracle I
saw.† They turned away without interest.† They were spoiled,
Papa.† All they wanted were big fish.† One fisherman from
Key West invited me over for steamed dolphin.† I couldnít
believe it was a delicacy.† He was right: it melted on my
tongue.† I wouldnít trade my plate for the special shellfish
dish that the two Asian girls at the neighboring table were
strange.† I feel at home on a boat.† I chase away all my
fears. I stroll from one end to the other and back again.†
I peek into one cabin big enough for six people to sleep
in and into another for two.† Empty beds, empty pages of
the boat's diary marked by time.
canít forget the night sky, when the stars are so bright
that they reflect off the surface.† Itís a strange feeling
to look into the dark and not see life in it.† I prefer
daylight's glittering water.† It has a peaceful attraction.†
You said that understanding the sea is like understanding
a book and staying in its waves.† When the waves rise, itís
time for battle.† Not for fame, but for life, for complete
the next morning, my eyes see a fisherman counting fish
scales and hiding them in a cup and another ritually casting
them in the sea.† Do fish scales matter?† Why do people
believe that they bring luck?† There must be a reason why
we care about fish scales when we flush them into the water.
I wish for you what every successful fisherman dreams of
Ė a big catch.
you say goodbye to me, Iíll step into the water where the
blue meets with green and wave to you until you vanish from
miss you, Papa, so much.† I return to your house.† As I
pass through the open door, I call, "Can I talk to
soft voice replies, "He passed away."
no.† I just sailed with him on his boat."
sorry," says the voice,†"I didnít know."