Sunday, June 13, 2010
Out of Reach
The small, pale soles of Emma’s feet rising from the sand lead me to shade. Under the palm tree, we sink to the ground together. Our teeth chatter for half a minute, until I take her hands. “Were you going to drown out there, too?”
She’s gasping and exhausted. “I knew you’d come with me—give up Charlie for my sake.” She makes a sound that’s both a laugh and cry. “That was the question ever since he arrived, wasn’t it? Him or me.”
“Only because Charlie insisted it had to be a choice. We shouldn’t have let him do that to us.”
“You would have drowned, Scott, leaving me out. I didn’t come after you until the last second.”
“Emma, no. You were there with me.”
She puts a finger against my lips. “No more talking. No right or wrong.”
Under the palm tree, our arms around each other, we stare at the horizon long after the sun goes down. Eventually, there’s nothing to do but go back to the house and sleep with the ocean nearly in reach.
The next morning we return to the beach and watch the water for a bright burst or a swift shadow among the terrible, brilliant turquoise. Pedro arrives at some point—he never comes to the beach. “Come inside, Scottie. Emma. Eat some food. Call the police. Nothing you can do. You know that.”
He leads us to Kitty, who feeds us, changes our plane tickets and says she’ll hold a memorial tomorrow evening.
To start the memorial, Emma and I are playing, “Right to Be Wrong.” Emma sings it like Joss Stone, whom Charlie loved. I plug in my guitar and Emma taps the mike and we each look up and around and then at each other in bewilderment. Charlie, we’ll wait. We’ll wait as long as it takes for you to set up your keyboard.
This fleeting fantasy will pop in and out of my mind, and Emma’s, all our lives, because even though we witnessed him disappear—what happened and how remains a mystery. We presume the ocean swallowed him but it’s just as likely the searing rays of sunlight extinguished him. Sometimes in movies the man washes up on a distant shore, a beach in Australia after thousands of years have passed.
Emma and I forget what happened in intervals. Today I caught a glimpse of a guy in a trench coat that reminded me of him. When I came home, Emma recognized what I’d felt for a second. If she hears a song she and Charlie used to play, I see the music in her eyes. I notice her swaying in the doorway and the song as our band used to perform it sets me swaying too.
We still return to Costa Rica every year and spend three months in the house that except for the bathroom and studio is all floor and roof. The jungle and ocean are always in view. The howler monkeys howl; the insects sting; snakes bite; waves crash; the sun burns. Life teems in the hot, heavy air. Little changes.
After taking the puddle jumper, we call Pedro, who picks us up outside Trixie’s restaurant. Conchetta, who’s seven already, waits in the truck. Moira has moved back to Canada and Conchetta visits her there every summer.
Kitty and Sean and Logan run the yoga pavilion and Emma takes the morning classes and once a week runs an inversion workshop. Otherwise, we watch the water. The faintest hope still haunts the edges of our conscious minds, a chance that the impossible might be possible. Because Charlie’s voice resonates all through the jungle here. We hear him and dream of him and sometimes wake up as stunned as we were then—frantic with disbelief that Charlie is no longer downstairs drinking and taking drugs; acting stupid; acting like he’s always happy.
Charlie moved the air like nobody else. He buoyed us up.
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Goodbye, Charlie. I feel as if I know him.
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