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this lovely island
You and I lived on an island together. It was big and the sand was white and the palm trees were tall and shady.
Maybe the coconut milk was the best part, but not really. I think you were. I loved how you used to climb the trees and toss the coconuts down to me. You always thought it was funny when I couldn’t catch them and they fell to the ground and broke and the sweet milk spilled out.
I thought it was funny too, sort of. I remember when the plane crashed, after I wiped the blood off your head, your hair was chocolate colored. A week on the island, with the sun beating down, bathing you with ultraviolet rays, your hair slowly turned blond.
You didn’t like it, but secretly I liked it better. The scar on your forehead had turned purple by then. I worried about you… I thought maybe you might need to see a doctor. You said you’d be fine. That you didn’t hit it that hard-
And I remember the pain. After the plane crashed I woke up in the water, floating on my back.
Bits of wings and engine and personal belongings scattered around me, my mother somewhere at the bottom of the ocean with the pilot. I couldn’t see anything but the passenger’s bodies.
I was anxious about sharks. I remember how my voice was dry and raspy with salt water as I called out for someone. No one answered, and the water waved.
The plane had been small. There were only about twenty-four people. When we boarded it, a little baby kept kicking the back of my seat. I couldn’t find that little baby in the water.
That’s when I saw you, you weren’t moving, but you weren’t like the others, who had either sunk or drifted off with the current. I didn’t have any energy left, but I swam over to you and shook you. I couldn’t tell if it was the water or if you were crying, but your eyes were red and you hugged me and then we started sinking.
You liked to talk. Even though we were floating in the middle of the ocean, and there wasn’t anyone else, you talked. You told me you were scared. I knew that, I could see it in your pretty blue eyes.
It was then that we spotted the island. I mostly carried you to shore. You were so weak, and your head was bleeding.
And then we started to live. Your name was Kaelyn. Mine was Simon. You were twelve. I was too. You told me you didn’t see me get on the plane. I didn’t see you either, but I think I heard you when the pilot started talking over the intercom, when the masks fell from the ceiling-you said, “What’s gonna happen?”
Nobody answered you. The lights flickered on and off, there was a high-pitched beeping, and the ocean came swirling up to meet us. Down through the deep, murky water, something exploded. There was fire, hot, flame-red explosions licking at my face as I swam towards the surface.
Little flames danced along the top of the ocean. The sputtering of the dead plane and the lapping of water against metal was the only sound.
We reached the shore, and enfolded in hot, white sand sticking to our wet bodies, we watched the last remnants of the wreck slowly sink and fade into the setting sun.
After you had coughed up the water out of your lungs, when we hung our pants out to dry, you asked me what had happened. I said one of the turbines had exploded, but I didn’t know.
You believed me nevertheless. And I think maybe I liked you then, when you nodded your head seriously, and squatted down in the sand in your pink underwear to examine a tiny, pearly seashell.
The nights were never cold, but you liked to sleep close to me anyway. Huddled against my chest, I could smell the seaweed in your hair, the scent of the wild honey suckles that grew along the tree line on your breath.
You asked me to tell you stories, I didn’t know many, but I still tried. And I liked the feel of your slick skin against mine as we settled down under a pond tree fond held up by two sticks.
When we finally fell asleep I could hear you crying, even in my dreams. I think you missed your Daddy and your sister, who you couldn’t see anymore after the plane fell. Whose hands you couldn’t feel against yours as you struggled towards the surface. You missed your mama, who hadn’t been on the plane. And when you asked me if we were going to get rescued, I said we were to make you smile, but I didn’t think so. You always believed everything I said.
It was almost nine months we were on that island. Every morning we hunted along the shoreline for fish, trying to spear them with sharpened sticks. Our clothes were shredded down to nothing; you wore a wreath of flowers in your long, wavy hair, a skirt of leaves around your waist.
I didn’t like to wear anything, but old society still stirred within my conscious; you were a girl and I was boy. You said you didn’t care, but I insisted I still had shorts to wear, tatters of red that concealed almost nothing anyway.
We were so tan, all wrapped up in mocha-colored skin. We spent our afternoons drifting in the tropical pond beneath a garland of trees. The sun; through the swaying leaves, beat down on our backs, but we were young and we hadn’t even heard of skin cancer.
And in the nights I made a fire for us, where you knotted against me and we gazed at the stars. Your hands ventured over my back, marred by cuts from when I slid down the rock and blotchy bruises from where I jumped into too shallow water. I fell asleep to your touch, to your gentle voice pointing out shapes you saw in the inky- black sky.
On the top of the hill, we had a continuous fire going. The black smoke billowed up into the clouds for what seemed like miles and miles. I think you always thought you heard the beat of a helicopter’s wings, or the horn of a ship, but part of me wished you didn’t hope. I wanted you and I wanted our island forever.
You told me once that you loved me, your hair tied up with a vine; your scrappy, make-shift dress no longer hiding what was there. We were sitting on top of a boulder, our feet skimming the water below, leaving ripples where our toes touched.
I leaned over, stroked your cheeks, flushed from the hot sun, and I told you that you were beautiful. You laughed and we lay down on our stomachs, my fingers running up and down your spine. I wanted to tell you I loved you too, because I did. I did, Kaelyn. But the sky was getting darker and your gentle breath turned to silent snores, and your eyelashes fluttered against your cheeks, unknown dreams playing behind your eyelids.
And one day a shadow finally crossed over the white sand, the hammering blades of a helicopter breathing violent wind against our precious palm trees.
The feel of denim against my legs again, the soft cotton against my chest, was almost unreal. You didn’t look like you in that pretty little skirt and blouse, your hair chopped off to your shoulders. Your mama was running down the corridor, smiling and crying at the same time.
And in the middle of a crowded airport, you turned to me, your pink lips against my own, your voice whispering in my ear, ‘I’ll see you again one day.’
Then the last eight months meant nothing. Our time on the island meant nothing. I meant nothing. I came home and my father was so happy to see me. I came home and friends acted like they had seen a ghost. I came home and I was reminded of my mother. I came home and all I could see was the island. I came home and I missed you…
I missed you so much, Kaelyn. I didn’t even know your last name. I knew your face better then my own. I knew how tan and creamy your skin was, how sweet your voice was. I knew that mole right below your neck, that you never liked the rain, and that your fear was sharks and your love was tiger-lilies.
Last week I walked by the flower shop and saw some. I thought about you. It’s been years and I’m still waiting to see you again. I’m still waiting to hold you in my arms again, to peer up at the stars and lay beside you by the fire.
I’d like to think that you wonder about me, about the two of us together on our lovely island. I’m waiting to see those pretty blue eyes; I’m waiting to feel your body against my own, as we sprawl out under the sun, or float on top of the water, listening to the heartbeat of our island.
I could spend forever there with you.