Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Reason I Decided to Stay

“I’m here now twenty-two years” the brown skinned, grey haired, shorts wearing old man told me while he moved me slowly onto the little boat that would bring me to one of the more exclusive snorkeling places in this area. “I bought a one-way ticket and never left” he continued with almost a smile on his leather face, while the little water waves hit the sides of the harbor wall and the soft wind made the palm tree leaves sing.

I sat myself on the small wooden seat and Joe started the black little motor in the back. With some very fluid movements he untied the Little Elizabeth and we were on our way. We rode the sea, which seemed more like a gigantic lake to me because of its flatness. We didn’t talk. The sound of the little motor snoring behind me, the sun on the water and my skin, it all gave me such a sense of peace. “This is a mediation” I realized. A little jealous I looked at Joe who takes his boat out every day. “What a blessing must it be”!

For fifteen minutes I enjoyed the quiet. Then I turned around and asked: “Joe, why did you decide to fly here twenty-two years ago?”

Joe started to tell me about his marriage that started when he was only eighteen years old. How fights and disagreements had broken the marriage in the two years after it started. Joe told me that he wasn’t a good boy at that time. He did drugs, drank and hung out with the wrong people. His wife was an angel, and she told him many times to become a man and quite the life he was living. He didn’t and one day she was gone when he got home. She had flown to Key West to start a new life as far away from him as possible.

Joes’ eyes drifted off, and I could see him repeat in his head the night he came home to an empty house.

When he started talking again he said the realization that she was gone came as a shock, but was not enough to change him. Instead he continued his lifestyle and ended up in jail years later for drugs trafficking. Only in jail he became clean and slowly started to change his life when he got out.

When Joe was 43, he got a letter from his first and only love Lizzy. It was a goodbye letter. She was very, very sick. She was diagnosed with intestinal cancer and the doctors gave her only another six months to life. She wrote him about the love she always felt for him and how she hoped it had helped him create a better life.

Four hours later he had left his hometown on a plane to Key West to see her. I saw some tears in his eyes and waited for him to continue.

“I felt so mixed, so confused” he said. “She was such an angel. She was the good one; the person I imagined had everything good come to her after she left. But what happened? She first married a jerk, and then her life got cut in half”.

“I didn’t know if she wanted to see me, I didn’t know what I could do to help her. There were so many things I didn’t know, outside of that I wanted to make good to her for all the pain I caused her. For all the love I promised to give her and then never did.”

Joe slowed down the boat. There was an orange buoy to which he tied the Little Elizabeth. Then he tenderly put his hand on the buoy and he seemed to say a prayer with his eyes closed while serenity filled the air.

He turned around to me, his blue eyes now empowered and with purpose.

“She had a beautiful little condo at Cudjoe Keys” he continued his story. The two-bedroom condo overlooked the Atlantic Ocean and when he arrived at her place she sat curled up in a chair on the porch. Their eyes met as soon as he climbed the stairs. He slowly walked up to her, while his heart bounced in his throat and he was not able to say a thing. She stretched out her arms and said “what took you so long”? He picked her up from the chair and held her in his arms until the sun had set and the temperature had dropped enough to make them both shiver.

With his constant care and love Lizzy found the strength to stay on earth for two more full years. She taught him love, she taught him compassion, she taught him persistence and helped him create a purpose for when she would no longer be with him.

He promised her that he would start a little charter company and visit everyday with his clients the snorkeling place her ashes were spread. He promised her to tell their story every day for as long as he was physically able to, to honor their love and to inspire others to go for love and tell them to not throw away love as he once did.

Then he looks me deep into my eyes and says: “Time has come to go and snorkel. While you are looking at the perfect universe through your goggles and follow the path of the balloon fish, the crabs and the harpoons I want you to also look into yourself and see if there is a place that is not as bright, lively and colorful as this sea. And if you find a place like that, I urge you to not hide the blackness any longer, but open it up and let it flow away with the water and fish. Free yourself like I did once when I received Lizzy’s goodbye letter.

With that last comment, I felt a little push in my back and slid into the water.

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